Are you thinking that your yard doesn’t have a space for another plant? Something about the promise of Spring makes us think that we can, and will, find room to plant absolutely everything. After all, there are worse things to collect than new plants. And gardens have always provided very fertile ground for dreaming.
The plant buyers at the Garden Center take many things into consideration when they evaluate what new varieties to introduce to our customers. We are gardeners ourselves and are as excited as anyone when the catalogs start arriving touting the best of what’s new. But innovation is just one consideration. Customer requests and plant hardiness are just a couple of the many factors that are taken into account. Of course, we try to make decisions after we’re over the initial flush of plant lust. So for your consideration, here are the new shrubs that are on order for spring 2021.
Hydrangeas still reign supreme as our most popular flowering shrub. It seems that we can’t get enough of them. And don’t think that hybridizers haven’t noticed as there seem to be a dozen new ones offered every spring. The hottest species is definitely Hydrangea paniculata, commonly referred to as PeeGee Hydrangea. PeeGees are easy to establish, adapt to varying site conditions and lately, are available in a wide range of sizes.
We’ll have plenty of PeeGee Hydrangeas this spring. The more recent breeding has concentrated on controlling size. Old fashioned paniculatas can get quite large, making them impractical for smaller suburban yards. At 3 to 5 feet high and wide, ‘Little Hottie’ is one of the most compact. The dense, sparkling white flower clusters don’t brown, no matter how hot August gets. They’d be perfect planted along a sunny walkway or next to a terrace.
We loved the contrasting pink and white of ‘Vanilla Strawberry’, but were not so happy with its floppiness. I often thought that it would be excellent in a tree form. A slightly weeping Hydrangea Tree? Perfection! But the much stiffer stems of ‘Berry White’ solves that problem. This slightly larger Hydrangea is a little more upright with a height of 6 to 7 feet high and a width of 4 to 5. The flowers are a gorgeous deep pink and white combination. And by the way, that hoped-for ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ tree form? On order this year in 2 sizes!
Another genus that the breeders can’t seem to leave untouched is Physocarpus, our native Ninebark. Newer varieties are more compact than their older cousins and boast even more colorful foliage. ‘Little Joker’ sports dark burgundy leaves on equally colorful stems and grows to a diminutive 3 to 4 feet high and wide. Really snazzy though, is the golden-leafed ‘Raspberry Lemonade’, named for the stunning contrast of the coral-colored seed heads against bright golden foliage. We haven’t been able to bring you a small yellow-leafed Ninebark yet and we’re really excited.
And finally, we’re anxious to see ‘Velveteeny’ Smokebush. The older varieties could get quite big and the red-purple foliage often faded to olive green by mid-summer. ‘Winecraft Black’ was introduced last year and we were impressed with its ability to maintain leaf color and more compact size. But at 3 to 4 feet high and wide, ‘Velveteeny’ is even smaller. Now you can tuck a Smokebush into a protected, sunny spot and have a fighting chance to enjoy its trademark flowers, as well as that great foliage color.
So start your landscape eval! We’re sure that you’ll be able to find a couple of spots for one of these new, more compact shrubs. And if you’re the type of gardener who likes share knowledge, consider keeping a gardening journal, observing and recording the performance of new varieties that you plant. The plant geeks at the Garden Center would love to have your feedback!