By: Kathy Cropp

Gardeners to the ready! Another gardening season is upon us and we have a lot of to do out there! If you haven’t already been in the garden, I’m sure you will be soon. We have so many things to look forward to with this new season, but there is nothing more dangerous to our pocketbooks than hitting the garden centers and looking at all of the new plant selections to choose from. For a gardener there is never enough space, but the growers continue to entice us.

While we were buying last year’s plants, breeders and growers were testing and trialing their new plant introductions for 2012. So before you shop, we want to tell you about some of the new and exciting plants to look for. While there are probably hundreds of new plants, vegetables, and even seeds being introduced this year, we can’t cover them all. However, here are just a few that we have fallen in love with already.

Who can live without red in their garden? Well, Proven Winners will give you some red choices this year including their Rosa Home Run, which is their answer to the ever popular Knock Out Rose. The Rosa Home Run is easy to care for, blooms from spring to fall, is very disease resistant, and maintains a compact four-foot-round shape. They grow in full sun and in zones 4-9.

Echinacea Sombrero ‘Salsa Red’ is a new introduction from Darwin Plants. The rich red color really makes this a standout in the garden even though it only grows to 16 inches in height and 12 inches wide. Of course this red beauty needs full sun. It can be grown in zones 5-9. You have to have Echinaceas somewhere in your garden and you will find so many choices to choose from. Many of them have great food names like ‘Coconut Lime,’ ‘Raspberry Truffle,’ ‘Tomato Soup,’ and ‘Hot Papaya.’

Proven Winners made a big hit with us last summer with their Superbena Verbena series. My favorite was the Royale Peachy Keen with its delicate flowers and strong and vigorous growth. It was perfect in containers for our area since it is a zone 8-11 grower. It loves full sun and needed little care. We also have to mention their Superbells Calibrachoa Cherry Star, Grape Punch, and Sweet Tart. Growing in hanging baskets, they were a colorful addition and bloomed well into fall and early winter with our warmer weather this year. They didn’t need deadheading or pinching back, plus they maintained their mounded habit and were about 10 inches in height.

Everyone seems to love Dianthus and Plant Haven has two new varieties they’ve introduced: ‘Silver Star’ and ‘Starburst.’ They are low mounding and bloom repeatedly from spring to fall and have semi-double fragrant flowers. The ‘Silver Star’ is white, while ‘Starburst’ is pink and red. A full sun plant, these specimens grow well in zones 5-8.

If you are looking for some new tree choices check out Prunus xs.‘Extrazam’ Weeping Extraordinaire from Lake County Nursery. Reaching 15-20 feet tall and wide, this weeping cherry will be a great specimen tree for your yard. Its leaves emerge copper, with large spring blooms and deep red fall foliage. It requires full sun and will grow in zones 5-7. Malus Royal Raindrops from J. Frank Schmidt is another great choice for year-round interest. This 20-foot crab apple will have magenta spring flowers, deep purple summer foliage, bright fall color and red fruit that lasts from fall to winter. This is also a full sun, zone 4-8 tree.

The breeders are continuing to multiply our Hydrangea macrophylla choices, and they give us yet another option this spring with You-Me Passion from Plant Haven. This Hydrangea will give you summer blooms that start out looking like lace-cap but mature into a full, thick moptop of yellow-green to deep pink blooms. It will grow in zones 5-9 in full to part sun.

All-American Selections recognized some new choices in vegetables with ‘Hijinks’ F1 Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo), ‘Orange Blaze’ F1 pepper (capsicum annuum), ‘Glamour Red’ F1 ornamental kale, ‘Lizzano’ F! tomato (solanum lycopersicum), which is the first late blight tolerant tomato on the market. It grows well in pots or hanging baskets and is available through seed or transplant.

It would be so easy to take up the whole magazine with all of the new plant introductions this spring, but we have written our limit. Have fun shopping at the garden centers this spring!

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