Three new plants are proven winners that gardeners should try

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerJune 5, 2011 

This year I am trying out three new plants introduced by PW (Proven Winners): “Broadway Lights,” a Shasta daisy with pale yellow blossoms that will take your breath away, “Royale Silverdust,” a hybrid verbena with lots of periwinkle blue blooms, and ‘Snow Princess’ alyssum with clusters of tiny white blossoms.

All of the plants that receive the designation as Proven Winners have been trialed and tested in various locations throughout the country, and you can pretty much depend on their success.

All of the PW varieties have been bred from disease-free culture stock and, instead of being raised from seed, they are propagated from cuttings, thus ensuring that the offspring will have the exact same traits as the parent plants. These plants can be found at large garden centers and box stores, and some of the ones you may recognize from past years are Supertunias, Surfinia petunias, and Tapien verbenas.

Another line of tested plants bears the name Novalis -- Plants That Work. These plants can only be found at independent nurseries and they are selected to flourish in the home garden. This company focuses on what’s easy to grow and they look for new strains of plants that offer something special to their customers. When you see a plant stand at your local nursery that advertises “Plants that Work in the Shade,” “Plants that Work in the Sun” or “Plants for the Kitchen Garden,” it will be one of the Novalis offerings. They try to make it easy for customers to find the type of plants they are looking for, so they group them by category.

I have learned to look for these plants that have been carefully tested and monitored for quality and chosen for their special traits. Other brands besides the Proven Winners and Plants that Work are out there, so when you are looking for new and different additions to your garden, don’t just pick up any old plant, look for those that have won out in the trials. A perfect example of this would be the “Snow Princess” alyssum. Any gardener who has ever grown this plant knows that it typically blooms beautifully in the spring but fades out rapidly when the temperatures begin to escalate. But, according to the hype, this new variety of alyssum will keep right on blooming in spite of the highest heat and humidity. Now that I have it, I can’t wait to see how this new alyssum performs.

All about Artemisias

Artemisia gets called by the worst common names -- wormwood and mugwort. Now who would go out of their way to purchase plants with horrible names like those? It’s unfair because this foliage perennial can be awesome in a garden setting. Actually, the list of species of artemisias contains over 200-400 members, but only a few are available in the nursery trade.

The majority of the artemisias that gardeners rely on have silver-gray foliage, but there are also varieties with pale green foliage. Most of these plants have tiny, insignificant blooms in creamy shades, but it’s the foliage that we love and depend on to hold our beds together through the entire growing season.

One of the most popular varieties, indeed my favorite, Artemisia “Powis Castle,” produces feathery, silver foliage and I always add a few to my beds each spring. In our zone, these plants could be perennial, but they get so huge that by the end of the fall I am ready to give them the pitch, knowing that I can start them again in the spring. I know where the name came from, for I have visited Powis Castle in Scotland and have seen the beautiful garden where this plant originated. Highly fragrant, this artemisia makes an excellent companion plant to many perennials and annuals, and it proves drought-tolerant, once established.

It’s gardenia time

Gardenias thrive in the heat of summer and they are coming on like gangbusters. The first to bloom, the “Kleim’s Hardy” ones, have been flowering for several weeks now, and the little creepers called “Radicans” were right behind them. Now the wonderful old-fashioned types called “August Beauty” have begun to open their buds. These various forms of gardenias share the incredible fragrance for which they are remembered by all southerners.

In the book “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants,” written by Michael Dirr, who reigns as the guru of trees and shrubs for the South, we are reminded of the many pests and diseases that plague gardenias, such as powdery mildew, aphids, scale, thrips, and, of course, whiteflies. But these evergreen shrubs spell summer in our neck of the woods, and most of us wouldn’t be without them for anything.

Barrie Bain is an independent correspondent who writes about gardening.

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