My road trip last spring with the National Garden Bureau was a hortiholics adventure of the first order. I was one of four garden writers invited to attend the 2018 California Spring Trials (CAST) as their guest on a week long, plant-peeping extravaganza.
CAST is the opportunity for plant breeders across the country to showcase their latest introductions, hoping that plant growers will select, grow and then sell these treasures onto the retail nurseries where you and I can finally get our hands on them!
Most of the plants shown here will be available for the first time this spring – this is your insider's peek into what's happening behind the scenes, focusing specifically on plants which had outstanding foliage. (Because you all know by now that the best designs have a strong foliage framework…) .
New Succulent Creations
Yes please!! I'll take half a dozen of these! LOVED the dual-tone, ruffled edges on this Coral Reef Aqua echeveria by Greenfuse Botanicals. Fabulous color blend. So easy to repeat these apricot tones with foliage and flowers too – or simply plant this solo in a terracotta vessel for easy elegance.
Succulent breeder Chris Hansen has teamed up with Proven Winners to come up with what is sure to be a HOT collection of succulents called Coral Creations. Their display at CAST showed some highly desirable planters brimming with these colorful treasures. Chris has even provided recipes for attractive, long-lasting combinations that production greenhouses can use to mimic these designs.
I for one would be hard-pressed to only pick up one of these! Thankfully the plants will also be sold individually I believe, so we can pick and choose our own selections.
A New Deer Resistant Perennial
I'm a huge fan of gaura for their drought tolerance, deer resistance, and long flowering display. Walberton's Silver Fountain is a new variegated form that promises cold hardiness down to zone 5 and a tidy habit. I know of at least one plant producer that has purchased this from the breeder so I for one will be knocking on their greenhouse door next spring!
So many Coleus!
There were extensive coleus displays throughout our tour – these were just two that stood out to me.
Coleus Pinkplosion had a fun twist to the end of each leaf, as well as a clean multi-colored variegation and a distinctive purple margin and purple stems. I found myself drawn to it time and again.
This one had serious SASSITUDE! Main Street Rodeo Drive was fun, flirty, crinkled, frilly, colorful in a "Look at ME!" kind of way…. you know what? Adjectives just aren't enough. Here's another photo:
See the incredible pattern of veins underneath the leaves? And the molded-tortilla shape?
The photo of Dib's Moonlight begonia really doesn't do it justice, check out this image on the breeder's website to get a better sense. Each leaf was almost the size of my hand, and the silver color shone as though polished. With burgundy undersides and stems, and a crinkled texture reminiscent of dinosaur kale it was far superior to any similarly colored begonias introduced to market so far in my opinion.
Here's a fun tidbit: The Dibley family are from Wales and have been working with the Greenfuse for many years, breeding this and other outstanding Rex begonias. Readers in the UK may enjoy visiting their nursery which specializes in begonias and streptocarpus.
Be jealous – I tested these Artemisia 'Makana Silver' in the landscape and containers last year and they were fabulous! This annual opens a pale seafoam green before maturing to a metallic silver that is nothing short of stunning.
Deer resistant, rabbit resistant, and drought tolerant – you knew I'd love this one didn't you?
Last but not Least
When I posted this photo of Trifolium 4luck Red Green on Facebook it drew a lot of interest. Really pretty, perennial groundcover for shady spots. (Note that the colors of my photo are accurate – those on this website link are not).
It's new relative Trifolium 4luck Red Stripes is equally beautiful – reminds me of a kaleidoscope.
Voted "Outstanding Plant of 2017", Alternanthera 'Choco Chili' was a very attractive annual foliage plant, at first glance reminiscent of a fringeflower (Loropetalum) but with softer leaves. Suitable for full or partial sun, the colors will be darker in full sun (greenhouse conditions had lessened the color during CAST). Noted for its heat tolerance.
This post was first published in 2018 in the (now archived) blog Fine Foliage. I have modified it and re-published it here as many of you won't have seen it at all and because THIS is the time you are likely to see these fabulous foliage plants in the nurseries!
Enjoy your treasure hunt!