Discovered a New Plant?

Discovering and introducing new plants is not just for professional plant breeders. There have been some really great plants introduced by amateur plants-people. Perhaps the most famous or most successful amateur was Kathleen Meserve of Long Island, New York that developed that Blue Holly by crossing the hardy, low growing Ilex rugosa with the Ilex aquifolium the English Holly.

More recent examples of good new plants introduced by amateurs include Ruby Anniversary Abelia (A. chinensis 'Keiser'). This is a plant that was selected by Susan Keiser of Ossining, New York. Ms Keiser, while not a regular plant breeder, does know a thing or two about plants. She owns and operated Greystone Gardens, a design company that creates high end specialty gardens. One her most famous designs is a terrace garden on third floor of the 10 Rockefeller Plaza. Building rooftop gardens requires an in depth knowledge of plants, so Ms. Keiser is continually testing and evaluating new plants. She selected Ruby Anniversary out a group of seed propagated Chinese Abelia plants in her garden. She noticed that one plant was very different from the rest, as it was fuller in habit and the foliage was much darker than was typical of the species. The new growth also had attractive burgundy coloration. She know she had found a very special plant. Ruby Anniversary Abelia has some other advantages too as it is hardier than Abelia x grandiflora and the flowers are fragrant. It is adored by butterflies!

Bronze Anniversary Abelia is another plant introduced by an amateur. This plant was the the result of a discovered sport mutation on Abelia x grandiflora by Rika Bronsther of Hempstead, Long Island. Ms Bronsther also know a bit about plants. While she is currently employed as a graphic designer, she previously owned and operated a landscape design and build company. She has a great eye for plants and especially sports, or mutations. She is alway on the look out for sports and variegations, or unique seedlings. Ms. Bronsther has introduced a number of outstanding plants including Anemone 'Party Dress' and the Autumn Crescendo Series of Dendrathema (hardy mum).

Bronze Anniversary was selected from a number of yellow leafed sports found by Bronsther. After comparing it her other sports, as well as, the other yellow leafed Abelia cultivar the plant was selected because it had attractive orange coloration on the new growth. It was also the strongest grower, the most floriferous and did not revert as did the other selections. The plant also has a good strong root system compared to many cultivars that do not and thus cause production problems.

Sugar Tip Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus 'America Irene Scott') was discovered by Sharon Gerlt of Independence, Missouri as sport mutation on a plant growing in her yard. While I get about 4-5 people a year offering me variegated forms of Rose of Sharon, none have been as nice as this plant. Sugar Tip Hibiscus has very attractive, stable variegation. Unlike Hibiscus syriacus 'Pupureus Variegatus' the flower actually open. And unlike other selections I've seen, this plants is easy to grow and has very consistent variegation that's very pleasing to the eye. The soft pink flowers go well with the foliage. This variety is seedless so there is no issue with unwanted seedlings in the garden. In addition, the growth habit is compact and refined.    

Have you discovered a new plant that you think has commercial value. Send me an email at tim@springmeadownursery and I will let you know if your plant is worthy of introduction, how new plants are launched and if the plant is good, earn royalty income on each plant sold. 

Pearl bush Snow Day Blizzard

Tom Ranney sent me some images of his new Snow Day Blizzard Exochorda. It is a new variety we are offering for the first time this spring. It has extra-large flowers as it is a tetraploid variety. Essentially this means the plant has them twice the amount of genetic material as the normal species and in this instance results in larger flowers. Good looking plant. I thought you might enjoy seeing these. You can learn more at the Spring Meadow website. 

Help for aspiring Horticulturists

Bright, well trained, and qualified people are essential to the nursery industry, that's why Dale and Liz Deppe created the Spring Meadow Scholarship Fund in 1999. This fund is dedicated to helping aspiring students from across the country obtain a degree in horticulture. 

The Spring Meadow team has been blessed by this industry and the mentors who've helped them along the way. This scholarship fund is their way of giving back, and sharing the excitement for plants and the nursery industry with others. Spring Meadow Nursery's goal is to grant scholarships to students with an interest in woody plant production, woody plant propagation, woody plant breeding, horticultural sales and marketing.
Eligibility Requirements

1. Applicant must be enrolled in an accredited undergraduate or graduate: landscape, horticulture or related discipline at a two or four-year institution. Students in vocational agriculture programs will also be considered.

Undergraduate: Applicant must have at least a sophomore standing in a four-year curriculum or senior standing in a two-year curriculum as of the fall semester of scholarship application year.

Graduate: All applicants in graduate school regardless of year in school may apply.

2. Applicant must be interested in woody plant production, wood plant propagation, woody plant breeding, and/or horticultural sales and marketing.

3. Applicant must be currently enrolled in good standing and carry a full-time course load at the time of application and during the semesters for which the scholarship is granted.

4. Applicant must have a minimum grade point average overall of 2.25 based on a scale of 4.0, and a minimum GPA of 2.7 on a scale of 4.0 in their major.

5. Previous Spring Meadow Nursery Scholarship award winners are eligible for additional funding and may reapply.
Submitting an Application

The application deadline is May 31st of each year including letters of recommendation. The online application and letters of recommendation must be received no later than May 31 at 11:59 p.m.

There are 6 components to the scholarship application: the application document, cover letter, resume, 2 letters of recommendation, and the transcript.

All applications must be completed using the HRI online scholarship application. No other form of application will be accepted. The general application, cover letter, resume and copies of transcripts must be uploaded by the student using the online form.

Each student must have 2 letters of recommendation submitted to HRI by the May 31st deadline. Letters of recommendation may come from a student's advisor, instructor, business associate or a combination.

Letters should include information on the student's potential to make significant contributions to the nursery and landscape industry, academic qualifications, and financial need if known.

Important: Letters of recommendation are the only items that may be excluded from the online submission-application process by the student. Letters of recommendation must be either faxed or emailed to HRI by the recommender. Mailed copies will no longer be accepted.

Email: Subject line: Scholarship name and student name 

More Cool Foliage

A few posts back I spoke about how interesting foliage makes for an interesting garden even when the plants are not in flower. I dug into my perennial file and pulled up some plants with interesting foliage. Note that green leaves can be as interesting as colorful foliage. Note the different shapes and textures of these plants.

Some of these varieties are common while others are new. I'm not going to label them right away. I'm going to see if you can identify them. Don't email with your responses but rather be brave and post a comment so we can all see your answers. 

Imperata cylindrica 'Red Baron' (Japanese Blood Grass)

(Lungwort) Pulmonaria ‘Spot On’ 

                                                              Japanese Hakone Grass

Euphorbia marginata

Dolce® ‘Silver Gumdrop’ coral bells (Heuchera

Liriope muscari Peedee Ingot 

Pachysandra terminalis 'Green Sheen' (Japanese Spurge) 

Queen of Hearts’ Siberian Bugloss 

Blue blue fescue (Festuca glauca

Asarum europaeum (European Wild Ginger

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens,'  black mondo grass

A Whole Bunch of Gardening Gurus

I am thrilled to have been invited back to speak at one of the Outdoor Living Extravaganza events hosted by Proven Winners. This year I will be giving a talk called 'The Hunt for New Plants" on April 8th at the Milwaukee Event. Other venues this year include Atlanta on March 4th, Seattle on March 18th and Toronto on April 15th. If you have a chance to go to one of these, do so. They're good fun for those that love plants and gardens. 

Perhaps you recognize some of the OLE speakers shown above. I'm thrilled that the Milwaukee event will include gardening expert and TV host Melinda Myers. She will  be speaking on Small Space Gardens. Stunning Solutions for Every Garden is the title of P. Allen Smith's presentation. And everyone loves the enthusiasm and passion that Kerry Meyer bring to the stage. I only wish I had the time to go to each event because each venue has great speakers; Walter Reeves, Marianne Binetti, Mark Cullen and more. I can't mention them all by name so check it out yourself and make plans for a really fun day that will get you pumped up for spring. 

Now you can access The Plant Hunter on your Smart Phone

For those of you that use a Blackberry, IPhone or an Android, I’ve created simple mobile blog. It’s a lot easier to read.  The easiest way to access it is to use your QR reader to snap a picture of the QR Code above. If you don't have a QR reader search your apps for a reader and download it. These little codes are real handy for Smart Phone users. We're even going to add them to our Proven Winners ColorChoice tags to give shoppers even more information. Let me know how it works for you.

Good Gardens start with Foliage, not Flowers

It’s easy to find new plants. What’s hard is finding better plants. When I hunt for new plants it’s easy to get overly excited. I have to show some discipline, otherwise, I’ll end up with lots of plants that are interesting for collectors, but useless for gardeners.

Good gardens should based on form and foliage, and not just flowers.

Some years back I heard J. C. Raulston lamenting that no one wanted to grow all the cool plants he collected and distributed. He examined the problem and then developed a list attributes that he felt made a plant a successful.  This prompted me to develop my own list. My list gives me the discipline I spoke of earlier. I also use it shape and guide our Proven Winners shrub program. The vision I have for this program goes beyond novelty or new.  My goal is to reinvent flowering shrubs; to change the way people perceive and use flowering shrubs; to make them more useful. My plant selection criterion helps to keep this vision on track. So my next few posts will examine some of the attributes I consider important when hunting out new selections. Today we’ll examine the importance of foliage.

Plants with Attractive Foliage

 Spilled Wine Weigela has black leaves with ruffled margins

Shrubs and perennials typically flower for three to six weeks. Sure there are exceptions, but flowers are fleeting and foliage is not. A lesson I learned when grew and sold perennials is that they sell great when they’re in bloom. But after they’ve finished flowering - no one wants to buy them. This was not the case for perennials with interesting foliage.  I could sell Hosta, Heuchera, Artemesia, Festuca, Japanese Ferms (Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum) and Variegated Iris (Iris pallida 'Variegata') all season long.  

As a landscape designer I learned that the most interesting gardens were those based on form and foliage, and not the flowers. Flowers should be considered as icing on the cake, not the cake itself.  Attractive foliage, be it colorful, variegated, textured, fall color, or glossy can make a garden attractive even when it’s not in bloom. These plants are good for the garden centers because they extend the selling season. And they’re good for gardeners and landscapers because they make for interesting gardens.

This is a powerful, yet largely untapped, goal for plant breeders. Consider daylilies (Hemerocallis), which has more plant breeding activity than any other species. Sure it’s a glorious plant in bloom, but when the flowers are spent it is one of the saddest of all plants.  At one point in my life I managed a daylily collection that contained over 500 cultivars; many of them award winners. Once the flowers were gone the collection was an ugly mess. But if you looked closely, you would discover that, while most of the plants turned yellow and collapsed to the ground, a few stood tall and remained deep green. Look even closer and you would find a few plants with bluish leaves or glossy foliage.  So why can’t these plants have better foliage?

 Lil' Miss Sunshine Caryopteris is colorful all season long

Clearly, foliage alone will never be as sexy as a flower, but can’t we have both?   I think we can. Here is just a small sampling of shrubs that give you both the icing and the cake. 

Black Lace Elderberry has black, lacy leaves and big flowers.

Variegated Plants like My Monet Weigela provide long lasting color.

Glossy foliage was a selection criteria for Oso Easy Roses.  

Fall Foliage is a bonus. Arctic Sun dogwood has peach autumn hues.

Spring color can be as good as fall color, as on Spirea Double Play Big Bang