New plant preview for 2012
Story and photos by Nancy Chennault
Our homes are warm with family and friends rejoicing in time-honored traditions this time of year. The celebrations continue with festivities surrounding the beginning of a New Year. Welcome, 2012! As the winter calendar changes from the old year to the new, gardeners throughout the Pacific Northwest will share a universal experience. With encouragement from “Old Man Winter,” gardeners find a cozy spot by the fire to scrutinize seed catalogs and garden magazines. They dream of summer flowers as blustery winds rattle windows and all too familiar winter rains pour down. (Photo left is the sweetly scented “Scentiment Blush”(Begonia Scentsational.)
Colorful catalog and online photos are adequate for showing some color tones, but there is nothing like viewing the flowers in person to know the true characteristics of plants. We developed The Gardens @ Sandy Bend to display new and familiar plants in a garden setting. Flowering and foliage perennials, trees and shrubs, ground covers and grasses are grown and evaluated for a minimum of three years. These ornamentals form the backdrop for the summer display of annual flowers. Each spring, national and international plant breeders and propagators ship samples of new introductions to the gardens. These become available to nurseries and garden centers the following spring. The summer of 2011 showcased the new plants for 2012.
The gardens are open to visitors by appointment in August and September. Home gardeners, nursery and greenhouse owners, Master Gardeners and garden clubs, growers, plant breeders, suppliers and propagators walk through the gardens and vote for their favorite plant with a colorful flag that represents each entity. The votes are tallied and the information tabulated to help greenhouse growers and nurseries decide what plants to grow and offer for sale in the spring. The favorite plant can often become one of the top sellers.
Proven Winner introductions, Calibrachoa Superbells “Cherry Star” (pictured below) and Verbena Superbena Royale “Peachy Keen”, lived up to their pedigree and walked away with top honors for 2012 annual flowers with first and second place, respectively.
Fad or fashion?
Vote totals also indicate trends in plant popularity. Flags placed consistently in a particular type of plant, a color or a group of plants (such as perennials) provides valuable consumer information for plant suppliers. Coleus stands out as a variety with staying power. No longer considered a fad, Coleus, with more than 70 varieties on display, took the top spot for several years. “Debron” hardy fuchsias were introduced in 2010 and coleus slipped to #2. With the introduction of six more hardy fuchsias for 2012, this group of plants is certainly positioned to become a perennial favorite.
Yet another frontrunner in variety recognition surfaced in 2011. Begonias, as a group, proved to be more popular than any category of plants. Sheer numbers of begonia varieties and the diversity within this category of plants make them a “must have” for any garden or container. There are begonia varieties that tolerate full sun, those that bloom or show off their colorful leaves in dense shade as well as every exposure in between. The Gardens @ Sandy Bend include shaded trails, west-facing full sun and morning filtered light exposures ideal for showing the performance of as many different begonia varieties as the suppliers offered to send for evaluation. 2011 proved to be the perfect summer with just the right weather for begonias of all kinds. (Pictured above: Scentimental Blush, Begonia Scentsational)
For more information about the gardens, complete 2011 evaluation results and photos, visit www.theplantstation.com and go to The Gardens @ Sandy Bend page. To make an appointment to view the gardens in the summer of 2012 or to be placed on the notification list, email email@example.com. You’ll have the opportunity to cast your vote for the favorite plant (s) that will be growing in your garden in 2013!
Garening enthusiasts: Are you already thinking ahead to next season's garden? Do you enjoy trying out new varieties of plants or do you have "old standards" you always grow? What is your favorite? Please add your comment in the space below.
Long-time garden center operator Nancy Chennault has written Northwest Gardener since 2006. She and her husband, Jim Chennault, now operate “The Plant Station” and The Gardens @ Sandy Bend on their beautiful garden property in Castle Rock.