On a recent trip to the Ohio Florists Association tradeshow in Columbus, Ohio, I got a sneak peek at the amazing plants growers have been busily, patiently creating, some new to garden centers this year, and some not yet released. Below are just a few of my top picks — so be watching for them!
- Browsing through the Ball Horticultural display my appreciation for petunias was reborn. I literally gasped when I saw the black-as-night Petunia ‘Black Velvet’ (perfect name) and its stunning companion, the black-and-chartreuse-striped ‘Phantom’ (pictured). Put either or both of these in a container for some jaw-dropping drama.
- Also in the Ball booth was Begonia ‘Gryphon’, from PanAmerican Seed. This one I know up close and personal since I was given a sample plant a few months ago and it’s looking quite spectacular on my front porch, with its handsome dome of big silvery leaves.
- I was glad to see my friend Ty Strode, co-owner of Agri-Starts, and almost as happy to see the company’s new line of Thai caladiums. I’ve been intrigued by these plants for a couple of years, but have had few opportunities to get a firsthand look. Their unusual colors (very un-caladium-like) and thick leaves make them seem like glittering jewels. In the booth that day: Caladium ‘Dark Chocolate’, ‘Cerise’ and ‘Yellow Blossom’.
- At ItSaul Plants, my cool-plant alert kicked in when I saw Brassica oleracea ‘Kaleidoscope’, a frilly lavender-edged ornamental kale that everyone was asking about. It might take awhile to get on the market, but it will be worth the wait. And I predict their new weeping Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Ryusen’, will become one of those plants that gives gardeners bragging rights — “Have you seen my new ‘Ryusen’?”
- The one plant I carefully coddled on the plane back home (no small feat since the flight was delayed and the plant and I had to get off and on the plane several times) was Eucomis ‘Leia’, graciously shared by the rep for White’s Nursery & Greenhouse. I’ve grown the larger pineapple lilies like Eucomis comosa ‘ Sparkling Burgundy’, but ‘Leia’ is a cutie, with 6-inch spikes of mauve-lavender flowers and a tight tuft of bright green leaves.
- The showstopper at the Benary booth was Zinnia elegans ‘Queen Red Lime’, a tall zinnia with close-packed domes of petals in shades of chartreuse and rose. Old-fashioned and modern at the same time.
- Syngenta’s display was awash in vibrant color, but the plant I really want to try for myself is a flossflower called Ageratum ‘Patina Delft’, a bicolor with a soft froth of blue covering its little white button flowers.
- I’ve always loved Brazilian verbena, with its tall stems of purple flowers nodding in the breeze. Its penchant for reseeding itself into front-and-center spots in the garden could put in the way, even though it’s often called see-through verbena. But in the Aris booth I was excited to see a dwarf form called Verbena bonariensis ‘Lollipop’ that is 2 feet tall or less.
- I’ve had great luck with a Kalanchoe I’ve affectionately come to know as flapjacks. Its seafoam-green paddles edged in red are like sculpture. But the coloring of Kalanchoe thyrsiflora ‘Fantastic’, seen in the display of Hawaiian Sunshine Nursery, takes it up a notch, with lots more red, plus a few hints of creamy yellow. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one — even if I have to go to Hawaii!