MAY 17, 2006
BLACK LACE AND GOLDEN LANTERNS
New plants, oh how we love new plants. Every year breeders and growers bring to market new introductions of shrubs, trees, perennials and annuals that all of us gardeners race around looking for from whatever source we can find. Often these new plants are completely new varieties that have never been available before but most of the time new plants are simply variations of good old tried and true flavors.
As a nursery owner one of the more enjoyable jobs I get to do is to be on the lookout for new plants that I think will be a hit for northwest gardeners. It’s always exciting to find something that will turn heads and cause someone to say “What’s that plant and where did you get it”. This year is turning out to be one of the better ones for finding new plants for our gardens. Here are some of my top picks. There will be more next week.
BLACK LACE ELDERBERRY—Like many of the new introductions, this plant has a lot of marketing money behind it and you have probably already read about it in Better Homes and Gardens or a similar magazine. Elderberries are not new by any means and in fact we have a few native varieties here in Washington. They are generally very rank growers that need seasonal taming to keep them in check. Adaptable to full sun or part shade, they will grow 10-15 feet tall. But Black Lace is a new breed that is well suited for today’s smaller yards and container gardens. It is being marketed as a substitute for Lace Leaf Maples which may be a bit of a stretch but it has delicate dark reddish-purple foliage and grows in a mound much like our beloved lace leafs. Unlike lace leaf maples, in the spring Black Lace can be covered with pink lacey flowers that turn white as they mature. This is looking like a very attractive plant for our gardens.
TIGER EYES SUMAC—This is the second year out for this gem. A golden cut-leaf stag horn Sumac, Tiger Eyes grows to about six by six and boasts bright golden foliage. In the fall it turns all sorts of wonderful colors and is probably one of the best if not the best fall color shrub for the northwest. In the winter the new twigs are covered with a hairy like material that makes them look like antlers, hence the name Stag Horn. While many sumacs have the undesirable trait of spreading throughout the garden, Tiger Eyes appears to be well behaved.
SUMMER WINE NINEBARK—Several years ago we were blessed with the introduction of Diablo Ninebark, a deliciously dark leaved version of our native Ninebark. Ninebarks are deciduous shrubs that have beautiful clusters of white flowers in spring, excellent fall color and attractive exfoliating bark in the winter and they are tough as nails. In recent years breeders have introduced several golden versions, a few dwarf types and even a copper colored one. This year’s model is essentially a dwarf version of Diablo which makes it a perfect fit for small yards or large containers. It has the same dark foliage as Diablo only finer. It will be a real keeper.
WEIGELA MIDNIGHT WINE—There seems to be no end in sight for the new variations of Weigela coming on the market. This is a very old shrub that everybody’s grandma had planted in their yard. In the spring it would be covered with tubular flowers that could be white to pink to red. After blooming it was just another homely deciduous shrub that grew too large for where it was planted and offered only acceptable fall color and no winter interest. So several years ago along came Weigela Wine and Roses which was a vast improvement. It has dark wine red foliage and rose colored flowers with some occasional re-blooming in the fall and grows 6-8 feet tall, a moderate grower shall we say. Now we have Midnight Wine, a shrunk down version of Wine and Roses and I believe there is even a shorter version called Fine Wine that is on its way as we speak and will be marketed as a ground cover.
GOLDEN LANTERNS LEYCESTERIA—Leycesteria or as it is commonly known as Himalayan Honeysuckle is a fast growing shrub with green hollow stems that look similar to bamboo. Starting in summer it blooms with exotic looking reddish-purple flowers followed by metallic blue-black berries that my chickens just love. Golden Lanterns is of course the golden version of this excellent plant. New growth is tinted red maturing to gold which offers a great foil to the dark red flowers and black berries. It is partially evergreen but even out of leaf, the green segmented stems provide good winter interest. It is one of my favorite plants. More next week.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at the nursery at 425-334-2002 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org