Every Plant Tells a Story

They say that every picture tells a story, but it's also true that every new plant has a story. They have a birthday, one or two parents (depending if the plant is a sport mutation or a seedling). Every plant has a journey to market (or not) that is often filled with trials and tribulations. And some have happy endings and make it to a consumers yard. Here are a few happy stories.

Sunjoy® Mini Salsa Barberry

This barberry was born at Spring Meadow Nursery about 13 years ago. The goal was to create a replacement for 'Crimson Pygmy' barberry, which often reverts to a larger plant. It's common in the nursery business to blame a nursery for mixing up their 'Crimson Pygmy' with a larger form, but it's not a mix-up: it's a whole plant mutation that I have been told may result from a jumping gene. For some reason the switch gets flipped and you get a big 'Crimson Pygmy.'  After a long selection process, propagation, field testing, wheat rust testing and getting the results published in the congressional record as a wheat rust resistant variety, the first Sunjoy® Mini Salsa was sold in spring of 2012 and is now common in the garden trade.

Lo & Behold® Purple Haze butterfly bush

Lo & Behold®  'Purple Haze' is a different duck than all the other Lo & Behold Buddleia. Developed by Denny Werner of NCSU, this hybrid selection is a low, wide-spreading variety that makes it a great selection for use as a ground cover or in a decorative container. Like all of the Lo & Behold® series, we had to test it for sterility. It passed the test and can now be sold in Oregon where other Buddleia are banned. 

Clematis 'Sweet Summer Love'

When the world-renown clematis breeder Szczepan Marczynski told me he had what amounts to a sweet autumn clematis with red flowers that change to purple and that blooms months earlier, I was all in. The fragrance of sweet autumn clematis is as good as any plant in existence, and the same goes this beauty. Most Clematis can be tricky to grow, with brittle stems that break if you so much as look at them, but this plant is super sturdy and grows like a dream. Anyone can be successful growing this variety. It's as close to perfection as a plant can be.    

Clematis 'Sweet Summer Love'

The plant in this picture is a three year old plant in our test garden. The first year you plant it, it does not do much besides grow roots. The next year it takes off, however, it is much more restrained than sweet autumn clematis and does not litter the garden with unwanted seedlings. This plant has what it takes to be the best-selling clematis of all time, you can mark my words. It won a DGA Green Thumb award for the best new plant of 2014 and I expect it to earn many more awards and accolades as people get to know it.  

Dr. Roderick Woods

If you read my blog, then you already know Dr. Roderick Woods. The plant he is holding is Blue Chiffon™. This plant just blows me away. All his plants in the Chiffon™ series blow me away. Just look at the picture below, which I took at the nursery this summer: 

Blue Chiffon™ rose of Sharon

The Chiffon™ Hibiscus are the heaviest blooming rose of Sharon you will find, and Blue Chiffon is the clearest blue color ever. I was never a big rose of Sharon fan until I started growing the Chiffon series and now I'm a believer. This series comes in blue, white, lavender and pink. If you want to read the full story behind these plants and the fascinating man that created them follow this link.

Paraplu® Hydrangea macrophylla

I'm a bit biased when it comes to Paraplu® Hydrangea because it is a plant that I developed. It was a total accident that came out of a breeding project to develop variegated flowered hydrangeas. All of the plants in this particular cross had doubled florets and thick plastic-like leaves, but none of the seedlings had variegated flowers. This plant was the best of the lot so we introduced it. Paraplu is typically a bright pink but can be easily turned to a rich purple by treating it with aluminum sulfate. Sometimes, mistakes can make for great plants.

Tiny Tuff Stuff™ Hydrangea serrata

Tiny Tuff Stuff™ is another plant out of our breeding program here at Spring Meadow. I love Hydrangea serrata because they are so bud hardy and bloom reliably. Again, I got lucky when I discovered that this plant is a rebloomer. It has smaller, narrower leaves and an abundance of dainty flowers that cover the plant every summer. It has never failed to bloom here in our Michigan trial gardens. 

Bobo® Hydrangea paniculata

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes, and that's how I feel about Bobo hydrangea. I had no idea how good this plant was until it spent a few years in our trialing program. I knew it was a good container plant, but I soon discovered it was an even more remarkable garden plant that simply glows in the landscape. It is compact and dwarf in habit, and the flowers cover every inch of the plant right down to the ground. I have no doubt this will be a very popular landscape plant. This plant comes from Johan Van Huylenbroeck, the same breeder that developed Pinky Winky® hydrangea

Invincibelle® Spirit Hydrangea arborescens

I have already told the story of Invincibelle® Spirit Hydrangea, but the longer you grow a plant, the more you learn. What I've learned is that this plant is simply incredible once it has reached full maturity. This takes about 3 years, so be patient and you will be well rewarded. I've also learned that it needs to be grown in full sun to look its best. People think that hydrangeas are shade plants, and some are, but Hydrangea arborescens develops stronger stems and bigger, brighter flowers when grown in full sun.

Last year we introduced Invincibelle® Spirit II (Two) which will replace the original. This new improved "2.0" version has stronger stems, richer flower color and healthier foliage. We are all used to cell phones and computer software getting updates, but plants can get updated as well.  

Oso Easy® Double Red Rose

We work with about six different roses breeders, and we put all their roses through the gauntlet to find the very best varieties. In our trials, we spray no fungicides at all, and we overhead irrigate to actually encourage black spot and mildew. We test these roses in the greenhouse and in the garden and after three or four years, most of our test plants end up on the trash heap. Oso Easy® Double Red rose was one of the few varieties that passed the test and it came through with flying colors. Developed by noted rose breeder Alain Meilland of France, this rose is not only highly disease resistant, it is also prized for its perpetual blooming. Visitors to our test garden confirmed our opinions of this rose by picking it as one of their favorites. It has only been on the market for less than a year so be patient, it will be coming to a garden center near you very soon.    

Oso Easy® Double red is the perfect flowering shrub for landscapes. Here a mass planting is providing a big splash of color in a park in Switzerland. 

Oso Happy® Candy Oh! Rose

Year after year Oso Happy® Candy Oh! continues to amaze me. No diseases, an abundance of blooms and it always looks happy. No, it does not have massive, highly doubled flowers, but that should not matter. It is a great shrub that offers lots of color with little to no effort. You can read the back story on this rose here.

Blue Diddley® dwarf Vitex

Commonly known as the chastetree, Vitex agnus-castus was in ancient times thought to be an anaphrodisiac. According to Wikipedia, the leaves and stems were once used in ladies' bedding to "cool the heat of lust" when the men were off to war, thus the name chastetree. I'm not so sure if this works or not, but I do know that it makes a wonderful landscape plant that is highly deer and drought resistant. Blue Diddley® Vitex makes the plant even better with its dwarf stature that is about half the size of typical vitex. In the north, zones 5-6, this plant acts like a perennial and dies back to the ground, but regrows and flowers much like a butterfly bush. It is slow to break bud in the spring, so do not panic if the plant looks dead, it will sprout new shoots and make a fine specimen in due time.