When six plant-crazy women (collectively known as #NGBplantnerds), six overstuffed suitcases, numerous bulging camera bags, a LARGE bag of yummy snacks, and rather a lot of plants squeeze into a minivan for a Californian road trip, you can bet there’s going to be some laughs, plenty of wine, and lots of fun. You can also expect a few funny stories along the way: let’s just say that one unfortunate lavender plant got squished so many times it earned the nickname “Chernobyl” for it’s somewhat mutated shape….
Chernobyl sacrificed her good looks for a worthy cause, however. This was the annual road trip, hosted by the National Garden Bureau and All America Selections (AAS) to the California Spring Trials (CAST) This week long event is an opportunity for 59 plant breeders with displays at 16 different locations, to showcase their latest seed and vegetatively propagated annuals, perennials, edibles, and shrubs, hoping to tempt plant distributors, growers, and retail buyers into selecting their treasures for their customers. How many of the plants displayed actually make it to the retail nurseries and box stores? About 12%. Yikes – I had no idea, had you? Think of all the years that have gone into selectively breeding the latest speckled petunia – and it may never make it beyond CAST.
My role in this adventure
I was one of four garden writers selected to accompany Diane Blazek and Gail Pabst, both from the National Garden Bureau and AAS. As garden writers we are the link between these plant breeders and you, sharing the plants we were most excited about and giving you an insight into what we hope will be coming to retail nurseries near you either later this year or in spring 2019.
My two primary areas of interest were plants with great foliage (if they had flowers that was a bonus but not essential) and anything new that was deer resistant. I was not disappointed as my 1000 or so photos will attest! To narrow it down I’m focusing this post on new deer resistant annuals. Some are new colors, a few have improved breeding, and one isn’t really new to the market, but it was new to me and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you.
You don’t have deer? Lucky you – enjoy these beauties anyhow!
Cool Shades of Violet, Blue and Aqua
Senetti® Magic Salmon
You’ll probably recognize this flowering pot plant although this colorway is quite remarkable. The plant itself has a bewildering number of names. In the UK I knew it as Cineraria, but I see that today it is also referred to as a Senecio and a Pericallis hybrid. Regardless – did you know it is also deer resistant? That makes it a worthy container candidate in my view and this color was blow-your-socks-off amazing. Almost luminous, the violet-blue daisies have a distinctive salmon-pink eye.
Expect this to bloom late spring-early summer, so possibly a useful transitional plant for the container shoulder season? Unlike earlier introductions, the Senetti® series is unique in that it re-blooms. Introduced by Suntory.
Hot® lobelia series
I had pretty much dismissed lobelia from my radar until I discovered a few newer varieties that had been bred for improved heat resistance. That means they don’t peter out in August -my main complaint. Once I also realized they are deer resistant I got really excited and now look to include them in my designs!
This Hot series is said to be the most durable and heat tolerant lobelia on the market today. Bred by Westhoff these annuals are an upright form but as you can see from the photograph will gently mound over and soften container edges. I especially loved this color mix offered as a pre-planted combination called Snow Flurries, a blend of Hot Snow White and Hot Waterblue.
Surdiva® fan flower series
I’ve always been a fan of fan flower (pun intended) (Scaevola sp.). They do well in full sun -part shade and are great minglers in mixed container designs, blooming non-stop for the entire summer planting season. They do tend to throw out long “arms” which can be a problem in smaller containers or more “disciplined” designs, however. Surdiva changes all that with more compact yet equally floriferous plants. Suntory is the breeder behind these award winning annuals. Shown here are three colors from that series that play especially well together: Blue Violet, Sky Blue, and White Improved.
No deadheading is necessary – and they will still have flowers when you get the first frost in fall.
Salvia Cathedral® Blue Bicolor
Salvias were one of the most popular new introductions – both annual and perennial varieties. All of which is good news if you share your garden with deer as they are typically ignored by those four-legged pests. I am always drawn to the two-tone varieties of Salvia farinacea such as this one called Cathedral Blue bicolor from Greenfuse, which is scheduled to reach nurseries next year and as yet is not listed on the breeder website (which goes to show how new it is!). This series performs well in hot and humid conditions as well as more temperate areas such as the PNW and starts blooming early in the season. At 12-16″ tall it is ideal for the border or pots.
Shimmering Silver and White
Makana Silver artemisia
This one had me so excited I was positively giddy! Feathery, finely dissected, aromatic foliage that opens sea-green before maturing to a beautiful silver – just imagine what I could do with this!! Well imagine no more as I have purchased FOUR of these samples from my local wholesale grower to experiment with – stay tuned! A new introduction from Terra Nova Nurseries Inc., this annual is set to become a favorite of foliage lovers everywhere.
Drought tolerant, deer resistant and a delicious, fluffy mound of loveliness.
White Delight bidens
A few years ago, bidens were the last annuals standing on the nursery shelves. No-one wnate dthem or knew what to do with the overly-vigouros rather straggly things. Today, with improved breeding that has changed and bidens have become popular trailing annuals for baskets and container. Colors are typically in fiery shades of orange or yellow – white is much harder to come by so I was pleased to see White Delight being offered by Danziger – one of their Timeless collection. Unlike those earlier introductions, White Delight appears less gangly, yet as cheerful, and floriferous as you’d hope. What do you think?
Tattoo™ Papaya Vinca
I’m not a fan of tattoos. Sorry. They make me squeamish just thinking about the needles involved. But this annual flowering Vinca Tattoo had me smitten to the point that I have begged one of our local production greenhouses to grow them! Unlike the trailing vinca (commonly called periwinkle) which is a shade loving, evergreen, trailing groundcover (Vinca spp.), this flowering annual is literally another genus (Catharanthus roseus) and prefers full sun.
We don’t usually see them in the Seattle area, but are very popular in states such as Florida and Texas. I’d love to see that changed because this deer resistant annual is a powerhouse of color. I especially loved the Papaya colorway shown here – and it is available this year from several sources including Burpee Seeds! Introduced by PanAmerican Seeds it is sure to become a firm favorite. Just look at the color blending in those blooms…. Like ink blots diffusing on a wet background.
(Also check out this page which lists mail order companies that sell a range of the PanAmerican seeds)
Joey lamb’s tails
As cute as a fuzzy pair of slippers – I was totally entranced by these when I saw them on display at Benary. Granted they are not new to the market but it was the first time I had seen them and loved this container combination using them.
Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Joey’ is a bit of a mouthful to remember. But it’s worth the effort to make a note of this Australian beauty that is drought tolerant, heat loving and deer resistant. And pettable. Just ask for Joey.
Hot and Spicy
Margarita African daisies
That’s one sizzling combo right there. Pour the tequila – it’s time for a FIESTA!! African daisies (Osteospernum) are drought tolerant, deer resistant annuals (or perennials depending on where you live). This duo comprises Margarita Solar Flare and Margarita Rioja Red from Dummen Orange. A squeeze of lime and I’m yours.
Golden Empire & Blazing Glory bidens
Also from Danziger, these two varieties made an eye catching display. Golden Empire was noticeably upright and compact while Blazing Glory had a spreading/trailing habit. Quite remarkable. I like to use bidens in my deer resistant container designs and have two large glossy orange pots where these would be great summer additions.
And in closing…
Yes we had lots of laughs along the way. I mean who doesn’t need a feather boa or two?
Diane Blazek – Executive Director, National Garden Bureau
Gail Pabst – National Garden Bureau
Erin Schanen – The Impatient Gardener
Marianne Willburn – The Small Town Gardener
Tracy Blevins – Plants Map
You might also be interested in this post featuring new FOLIAGE plants at CAST