Karen Chapman | , , , , , , , , , , , || By
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 CreationsYes 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 PerennialI’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?
Silver StandoutsThe 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 LeastWhen 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.
Look familiar?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!
I’ve know author and acclaimed landscape designer Jan Johnsen for a number of years now, so when I saw that she was speaking at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show recently, I was excited to stop by and say hello. After catching up on hugs and news I stayed to hear her talk on Gardentopia: …Read More →
After being buried under snow for weeks, my Seattle garden is finally green again – with splashes of yellow, blue, pink, and white as spring-blooming perennials and shrubs wake up. It’s so exciting to see color! Inevitably a few things look worse for wear after the winter – especially some of my containers, but rather…Read More →
What was I thinking?! Back on a cozy winters evening, glass of wine in hand, it seemed such a good idea. “Let’s film a short online workshop to help people get creative with their spring containers,” I said. My long suffering husband (aka roadie, book sales assistant, pot mover, and videographer) readily agreed. After all,…Read More →
It’s still a bit early to start sowing seeds here in Seattle – but it’s not too early to order them! Looking out of my office at the still snow-covered garden, I need a promise of spring, and poring over seed catalogs with tempting images of juicy vegetables and a rainbow of flowers gives me…Read More →
It’s all very well knowing that for a garden to look good in winter it has to have “good bones“. But what do you do when a foot or more of snow turns those bones into a lumpy graveyard? Seriously – since when do white lumps look like anything other than just white lumps? When…Read More →
It’s that time of year when Seattle-ites go into season-denial. Sure it may be snowing or raining outside, but within the walls of the Washington State Convention Center the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the air is perfumed with the heady spring time mix of hyacinths, daphne and sweetbox (Sarcococca). It’s Show…Read More →
Born in Ballymena, 30 miles north of Belfast, my Nana never lost her Irish brogue, even after moving to England as a young woman. By today’s standards she didn’t have much. She left school at 11 to look after her siblings “just as we were starting to learn long-division”, married the boy next door, lived…Read More →
If your list is long but your time is short, these ideas are for YOU! All these gift recommendations are based on my own experience and use. For the Homesteaders We all know someone who keeps chickens, has bees, or grows vegetables – check out the many useful and fun gifts that Stumpdust has to…Read More →
For several years I taught this workshop at my home, teaching guests how to design festive indoor containers. They were always a hit – and sold out quickly, as we could only get a limited number of folks around the table. But the bigger problem was that only those who lived within an easy…Read More →
I’m not sure if it was a wild game of Touch Rugby or Tag, but either way, the five deer that were playing in my front garden yesterday left it looking as though a stampede of elephants had been having a party. Forget a rake- I need a brush hog to smooth out the beds…Read More →
Welcome to My Garden Adventures
I'm a serious plant-aholic. In other words I'm usually covered in a layer or two of soil, I drive everywhere with a large tarp for impromptu plant purchases and I'm truly passionate about sharing the joys of gardening.