It’s the time of year when new plants are being introduced in catalogs and online. While I don’t get as many paper catalogs as I used to, I receive a regular stream of email newsletters from many online sellers. For me, this is a great way of keeping up-to-date on what’s new and hot.
Here are some plants that jumped out at me in recent weeks: some because they’re beautiful or intriguing, others because they’re…interesting.
Agave gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’
Agave gypsophila is one agave I’ve wanted in my collection for a long time. It’s uncommon in cultivation and difficult to find. Xeric Growers has now introduced a selection with creamy margins which is even more spectacular than the species. At $39.99 it’s expensive, but it will go on my wish list nonetheless.
If you like agaves, click here to check out the other goodies Xeric Growers sells.
Agave gypsophila 'Ivory Curls'
Agave potatorum 'Cameron Blue'
Introduced by Rancho Tissue Technologies, this tissue-cultured selection offers beautiful scalloped leaves and bud imprints. This is one agave I would love to have. Rancho Tissue has many offer drool-worthy agaves in their catalog.
|Agave potatorum 'Cameron Blue'|
Photo: Rancho Tissue Technologies
Colocasia esculenta 'Black Coral'
I’m a sucker for “black” plants even though it’s often difficult to use them effectively in the landscape (they tend to get lost against a dark background). With its dark color, shiny surface and impressive corrugation, this looks to be a showstopper of an elephant ear. Introduced and offered by Plant Delights Nursery. If you’ve never visited their web site, you’ve got to check it out. Their selection of plants is quirky, idiosyncratic and one of a kind.
|Colocasia esculenta 'Black Coral'|
Photo: Plant Delights Nursery, Inc.
Echinacea ‘Guava Ice’
I truly love echinaceas. Together with salvias, they’re probably my favorite flowering perennial. And I’m not alone, considering the veritable tidal wave of new cultivars in recent years. I still remember seeing ‘Tiki Torch’ in Sunset Magazine about five years ago. I was so obsessed, I actually spent $15 on a small plant!
The stream of new introductions is never-ending, and while I don’t love every single one, I typically don’t hate them either. But ‘Guava Ice’, developed by AB-Cultivars in the Netherlands and now sold by Plants Nouveau and other sources, is pushing my tolerance a bit. The color looks oddly faded, and the fluffy bits and pieces look like my hair when I first get up in the morning. If I wanted this look, I wouldn’t have to buy ‘Guava Ice’. All I’d have to do is look in the mirror.
|Echinacea ‘Guava Ice’|
Photo: Plants Nouveau
Kalmia latifolia ‘Starburst’
I must admit I’ve never seen a kalmia (mountain laurel) in my life before. They’re native to the eastern half of the country, and I’m not sure people even grow them here in California. Based on looks, they should be much more popular. Maybe they’re heat-intolerant? That’s the only explanation I have. This introduction from Briggs Plant Propagators in Elma, Washington looks to be particularly stunning. Hardy to zone 5, it would be perfect at my in-laws’ in the mountains of Northern California.
Kalmia latifolia 'Starburst'
Kniphofia 'Echo Rojo'
Finally a reblooming red hot poker! Not only does this selection by Itsaul Plants claim to be especially free-flowering, it also looks to have narrower and hence more attractive leaves than the species. Still 4-5 ft. tall x 2 ft. wide. If I ever see ‘Echo Rojo’ for sale locally, I’ll pick one up to replace the overgrown clump of Kniphofia uvaria I dug out last month.
|Photo: Itsaul Plants|
Lantana ‘Sunny Side Up’
I used to love lantanas. In our previous house, we had always had lantanas, and I didn’t care that in our climate they can get invasive if you don’t trim them occasionally. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I haven’t looked at lantanas in over 10 years. However, when I saw this introduction from Plant Introductions, Inc., I looked twice. I’ve never seen this color combination in a lantana before, and it’s fantastic (yellow and white happen to me among my favorite flower colors). Based on Plant Introductions’ Chapel Hill Yellow, ‘Sunny Side Up’ is supposed to flower prolifically from spring to frost and offer better cold-hardiness than annual cultivars.
|Lantana ‘Sunny Side Up’|
Photo: Plant Introductions, Inc.
Musa xishuangbannaensis ‘Mekong Giant’
Who doesn’t get excited about a newly discovered species of cold-hardy and giant banana from China? This is how Plants Nouveau describes it:
Mekong Giant grows much taller than other hardy bananas, reaching 15 feet in zone 6. In more southern climes, it can reach 40’ tall with trunks up to 20 inches in diameter.
This new selection gets its hardiness honestly, for it was selected from seedlings whose native range goes from the northern most point of the Tibetan Plateau, to southern, tropical regions along the Mekong Delta into Vietnam and Cambodia. The fruits are purple and the trunk is streaked red to purple, creating a perfect accent to the lush, deep olive green tropical foliage.
|Musa intinerans var. xishuangbannaensis |
Photo: Plants Nouveau
Pennisetum 'Cherry Sparkler' and ‘Skyrocket’
I love regular purple fountain grass (Pennisetum × advena ‘Rubrum’) as much as the next guy. I have two in containers and one in the ground and I look forward to its cheery plumes every summer. Now Itsaul Plants has introduced two sports, and I’m not sure what to think.
‘Cherry Sparkler’ has leaves that start out green and white and assume an increasingly purple blush as the light intensity increases. Beautiful or just odd? I can’t make up my mind.
|Pennisetum 'Cherry Sparkler' |
Photo: Itsaul Plants
‘Skyrocket’ has green and white leaves and whitish plumes. Much more to my liking!
Photo: Itsaul Plants
Sedum telephium ‘Autumn Charm’
How many of you have sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ in your garden? Probably many, myself included. It comes back every year and it blooms reliably in the fall. However, it’s just a tad boring. Intrinsic Perennial Gardens to the rescue! Their 2006 introduction of a variegated sport, called ‘Autumn Charm’, is finally becoming more widely available. Bluestone Perennials has it in their 2012 spring catalog.
|Sedum telephium ‘Autumn Charm’|
Photo: Bluestone Perennials
Many more plants are being introduced this spring. To see a sampling, check out American Nurseryman Magazine.