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Into the Garden: Spring trials give glimpse of plants to come

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last week, I wrote about the 2012 California Spring Trials, where growers showed off their new varieties at multiple locations along the Pacific Coast in March.

Looking through the website from the trials, there are lots of bright colors and prolific bloomers among the top annuals at the event.

New begonias abound. There's Benary's 'Santa Cruz Sunset' with bright orange bell-shaped flowers, and the Crackling Fire series from Suntory has four new colors including pink, creamy yellow, orange and white with a striking flower shape. There's an apricot bicolor and six other new colors from the Arcada series. The 'Gumdrops' cocoa-red begonia has chocolate leaves with rich red flowers.

Burpee is introducing 'Sparks Will Fly,' a bronze and orange begonia that is easy to grow and can be used in patio planters or at the front of a border.

There's a new lobularia (sweet alyssum), a "sister" to the popular 'Snow Princess,' from Proven Winners. It's a lavender and white variety, 'Blushing Princess.' There are a lot of purples in the mixes this year, with sweet scents and all-summer blooms.

Many new impatiens from Ball FloraPlant will hit the market next summer. Two popular ones from the Patchwork Series, 'Cosmic Orange' with a white center that resembles a gingerbread man, and 'Cosmic Burgundy.' These will be trendy in premium hanging baskets, and they thrive in deep shade locations.

Ecke Ranch has some new impatiens as well. These plants have been produced to help combat the downy mildew epidemic that has struck in Europe.

SunPatiens 'Compact Electric Orange' works in full sun and shade, and they are vigorous so you don't have to buy as many plants to fill your pots or beds. They're called a "vacation plant" because they are drought tolerant.

I hope retailers in our area get the new Primula acaulis 'Blue Zebra,' a light blue flower with dark blue veins and a bright yellow center that has a long blooming period. It will be available in 2013.

Another favorite of mine is the Geranium Great Balls of Fire series from Dummen. These are drought- and heat-tolerant double-flowered ivy geraniums with eight color choices. My mom loved geraniums, and I try to plant a few each year. These will be a great addition to the hanging baskets by the porch.

Two growers have new chrysanthemums. Fides Oro is introducing the Chrysanthemum Mystic Mums series, bred to have larger decorative flowers and a flexible, mounding plant habit. Unique color options include a fabulous hot pink that I'll be looking for next spring.

GroLink's new for 2012 'Staviski Yellow' is a bright yellow chrysanthemum that's a prime choice for mixed-color planters. The late-season plant works well in shady spots for summer.

Perennials for next spring

Here are some of the new perennials to look for in the spring of 2013:

The Dianthus EverLast series are low-maintenance, longer-blooming plants that bloom early and stay in bloom, and then flower again in late summer when nighttime temperatures drop. They combine double flowers and perennial hardiness into compact 8- to 12-inch plants.

My shade garden surely will benefit from the new Heuchera Carnival series, with plants in light green, bronze- and silver-streaked burgundy and dark green. This series is heat tolerant and has a tidy mounding habit.

Sunblaze roses offer bright colors and will do well in small gardens or containers. They come in salmon, yellow, red, pink, white and bicolor.

Recycling plant pots

I recently asked for places where gardeners can take plastic pots and six-packs for recycling. Charles and Anne Ferguson sent an email suggesting I contact Lowe's.

A spokesman at the Kanawha City Lowe's garden center said they accept the containers at the garden center registers and at the customer service desk. He said they send them back to the plant producers for reuse.

Betsy Keene, of South Charleston, wrote that she's seen the six-pack containers used as fillers for the bottom of really big pots.

'Good' invasive plants

Keene also responded to my column about plants that are planted as "good" plants but then take over the garden.

"I too have invasive good plants. One, I don't know the name, but it has a little heart-shaped leaf, green with a little color to it, and a citruslike smell. My neighbors call it 'the curse'!" she wrote.

Keene asked a question about her daughter's yard:

"My daughter recently bought a house with a nice deck on the back. The view is a fairly steep bank covered in clay shale with some sparse weeds here and there. Any ideas what would grow there?"

Any suggestions?

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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