By Doug Schuster
It’s an exciting time of the year for me. I just got back from one of the largest horticulture tradeshows in the world, ‘Cultivate’18’, where many new plant introductions are made for the spring of 2019. New plants are exciting; it’s when my imagination can run wild of the possibilities. I’ve have found that it is important to keep perspective on new plants though, the plant race is turning in to an “arms race” of sorts.
Trying to get new plants to market as soon as possible, in any industry beating the competition key. Not that long ago it would take about seven years to get a plant to market from discovery. It is now sometimes happening in less than four years. It amazing that a plant can be discovered or developed, then tested that ensuring that it can perform, and then produce enough to have hundreds of thousands of plants available for sale in less than four years. The rush to be the first has resulted in plants that don’t perform and are off the market in less than a year or two because they were dogs from the beginning.
Kingwood’s approach to new plants is to test them ourselves to make sure it performs as it is sold before using them in one of our gardens. We have had many plants over the years that don’t achieve but now and then there is a plant that outperforms itself. One of these outperformers is Ipomoea SolarTower™ Lime and Black. It was introduced last year as the first self-climbing sweet potato vine, I ordered some in to try, and I am thrilled with how they are doing. The picture below was taken on July 29th of plants that were planted in the 3rd week of May; I’m amazed by them. Keep an eye out for Ipomoea SolarTower™ in the gardens next year.
Here are 5 new introductions that I am cautiously optimistic about.
1.Canna F1 South Pacific Ivory
They are promoting this canna to be a robust and fast-growing variety that will get about 26” to 32” tall. Great for containers. This canna is propagated from seed. Cannas that can be produced from seed tend to be more consistent in growth and are more cost effective. We have grown Canna South Pacific Scarlet for several years, and it has performed well. I’m hoping this one does just as well.
2. Begonia Canary Wings
This one hits close to home, an introduction from Jared Huges, the owner of Groovy Plants Ranch in Marengo, Ohio. This Begonia is the first golden dragon wing begonia of it’s kind. The chartreuse color provides a great contrast to many plants and it has performed well. You can really notice the difference in color when next to the original Dragon Wing Begonia (as seen below). Jared has provided several plants to Kingwood for us to test this season, so far so good. Be on the lookout to see it used a larger scale at Kingwood next year.
3. Salvia Skyscraper™
This new series has a medium growth vigor. It features large blooms that last longer than most salvia. It’s also promoted to have a better branching, sturdy stems, rounded habit, and dark green foliage. Available in Pink, Dark Purple, and Orange.
4. Achillea ptarmica ‘Peter Cottontail’
If you’re not familiar with Achillea ptarmica, this species is unique from what you’d expect from the classic A. millefolium types(typical Yarrow). ‘Peter Cottontail’ has a look that’s similar to Baby’s Breath, with large, ivory white flowers that are produced over a low, mounding habit of green foliage. Compared to A. millefolium types, the flower clusters on this perennial are more singular and well-spaced-great for adding texture to the garden! Compared to other A. ptarmica types on the market, this perennial has larger individual flowers and a more polished habit. It is mostly unbothered by both deer and rabbits.
5. Hibiscus Summerific® Holy Grail
This long-blooming hardy hibiscus is prompted to have incredibly dark, near-black foliage that holds 8-9” deep red flowers. It reaches about 48” to 54” and will spread 54” to 60”. Will work well in Part Sun to Sun locations with moist, well-drained soil.