Just because a plant is new doesn’t make it special

Erin Schanen

What is it about new plant introductions that get gardeners so excited? There’s something about growing a plant as soon as it’s available that feels special. Sometimes that feeling endures as the plant continues to wow throughout the season and sometimes, after not too long, you realize that maybe it’s not so great after all.

I remember when a petunia with an artsy name was introduced with fuchsia flowers and a green picotee edge. There were literal gasps when a photo of it showed up on a screen at an event I was at. Gardeners stormed garden centers like Black Friday shoppers at Walmart making a beeline to the petunias to get their hands on this exciting plant.

And then we grew it, and very quickly realized that a green edge on a flower just sort of looks like leaves, which tricked your eye into thinking that the flowers were smaller. By the end of summer, I was among the many who wondered why we thought this plant was so special in the first place.

I learned a good lesson from that disappointing petunia — temper your expectations about new plants because they aren’t all fantastic. I now look at new plants with a more critical eye and I’m less likely to beat down the doors of garden centers to make sure I have them the first year they are out. (I’m also a normal person who absolutely will drive to every garden center within a 100-mile radius if I really get my heart set on a plant, new or old.)

A recent trip to Ball Horticultural, one of the largest independent plant developers in the world, in West Chicago, Ill., offered a chance to catch a glimpse of some new plants that will be sold next year in garden centers.

I predict that Glimmer double impatiens, which have the same downy mildew resistance as Ball’s Beacons line of impatiens that made impatiens (relatively) safe to plant again without fear that they’d all die in a matter of days when mildew attacked, will be a big hit.

The flowers look like mini roses in colors from soft pink (called Appleblossom) to bright and bold. I suspect the look will fool more than one person into thinking that somehow mini roses are miraculously growing in the shade.

Sedum Little Shine caught my eye immediately. It is a small-leafed, densely growing groundcover sedum that was covered in tiny white, star-shaped flowers. It was growing in a container in Ball’s display gardens, overflowing the top of a pot like a giant muffin. Unfortunately it’s not hardy here, but it has merit as a container plant or an annual groundcover.

Speaking of eye-catching, there was also a new petunia that demanded attention. Sureshot Blueberries and Cream petunia has dark blueish purple flowers, all with a creamy white picotee edge.

Of course, I immediately flashed back to the great petunia disappointment, but I really think petunia lovers will go a bit gaga over this one simply because it’s wildly different.

As for that petunia with the green edges, I haven’t seen in used in years, but a purple version of it is apparently still sold. I guess it’s special to someone.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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