New Plants for 2016: First Impressions

I’m one of those lucky garden writers who receives plants from several plant wholesalers to test before the plants are introduced to the public. The companies—Proven Winners and Bailey Nurseries this year—use feedback from writers (and many other plant testers) to make sure the plants will perform well in home gardens.

These are plants that you will likely see in nurseries and garden centers next year. Maybe I’m getting better at growing these new plants or maybe this is just a particularly good year for introductions, but the plants I tried this year were overwhelmingly great.

Here are five that you may want to look for next year.

Campfire bidens blooms weaved around Autumn Joy sedum in my garden in June.
Campfire bidens blooms weaved around Autumn Joy sedum in my garden in June.

Campfire™ Fireburst bidens was one of the most commented on plants when my garden was on a tour earlier this summer. The bright yellow and orange flowers add a dainty element to containers. The blooms were prolific and the plant bloomed most of the season. They took a bit of a break in August, but revived with some fertilizer and more attention to watering.

Holy Moly calibrachoa blended nicely with pink and green coleus. (Note to self: wash off pot before taking photos!)
Holy Moly calibrachoa blended nicely with pink and green coleus.

Superbells® Holy Moly™ calibrachoa is a cousin to Superbells® Cherry Star, which I loved for its bright pink and yellow petunia-like blooms. Holy Moly is predominantly yellow with red-pink accents. It is a prolific bloomer and looked fantastic in several containers. This calibrachoa is known for continuing to bloom even in the fall, and that certainly proved true in this warmer-than-average October. The plant took a break in September, but has been blooming away since then.

container with sedumAnother container plant I really liked was Lemon Coral™ sedum, a  short, chartreuse annual sedum. I used the plant in containers and it added a textural element as well as brightness. This sedum can handle part sun and is great for brightening up a shady corner. Some other garden bloggers have commented that the plant is a bit too aggressive, but I grew it only in containers and did not find that it took over. That may be because the containers were usually in part shade areas.

I’ve never been a huge fan of potentilla, but I really liked the look of the new First Editions® Lemon Meringue™ potentilla from Twin Cities-based Bailey Nurseries. The blooms on this plant look like tiny, yellow roses and the foliage is neat. The plant grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, making it a good option for smaller landscapes. Potentilla is completely hardy to northern climates and virtually maintenance free. This looks like a great addition to potentilla options.

divine imptiensThe last plant I’d like to recommend is not new per-se, but is a recent introduction for those who love impatiens but are concerned about downy mildew on impatiens. Northern Gardener Plant to Pick columnist Debbie Lonnee recommended the Divine series of New Guinea impatiens in her column. Since my garden was on a tour and I have a lot of shady spots, I bought an entire flat of them to use to brighten up parts of the garden. They were a bit slow to get going, but once they took off they were gorgeous. (For the tour, I grew some of them in containers, which got them to a bigger size faster, then planted them on the edge of some of my tree, shrub or perennial beds.) While the small frosts we’ve had recently, have nipped some of the Divine impatiens, many are still going strong.

Which plants did well in your garden this year?

Disclaimer: I was sent some of these plants for free, but am under no obligation to write about them and have no financial relationship with Proven Winners or Bailey Nurseries.



New Northern Gardener, New Blog and the Digital Issue

It’s been a month since I’ve written on this blog, and while I don’t usually explain my absences (not even my mother is that eager for my next post), this is one worth elaboration.

blog-notesfromnortherngardMost importantly, I’ve been working on a new blog for Northern Gardener magazine. While I edit Northern Gardener, this blog has always been my own thing. Since July, I’ve been working with the Minnesota State Horticultural Society on its new blog, Notes from Northern Gardener. This has been an exciting effort. In November, we ran a series on Great Plants for Northern Gardens, which inspired some conversation about which plants are winners and which are sinners for northern gardens. Then, in January, publisher Tom McKusick and I teamed up to write a month’s worth of posts about vegetable gardening. Tom is a bonafide tomato expert and has two large gardens that he tends. The series, which just ended, got a terrific response from readers on Facebook, Twitter and in real life. With all the cold, wet, just plain nasty weather we have had this month, many people are ready to get out in the garden.

NG coverWe’re also at work on the March/April issue of Northern Gardener, and it will be out before the end of February. In the meantime, if you have not picked up our January/February issue, it’s on the newsstands with the bright photo of an African violet on the cover. There are lots of good articles in this issue on everything from rock gardening to must-have tools to a profile of a beautiful “up North” garden in Wisconsin. If you followed the earlier link, you may have noticed that it went to the new digital edition of Northern Gardener. From now through June, this digital edition will be open to the public. So, if you have been thinking about subscribing (or better yet, joining MSHS), you can get a preview of the magazine for free. Check it out.

As I write this, the thermometer is hovering around zero — up from about 15 below zero this morning when I walked our poor dog. (It was a very short walk.) But we have noticeably more daylight than in early January and I’m about to plant some winter-sowing containers and the seeds I’ve ordered arrive in the mail nearly every day. As my mother-in-law used to say, “if you make it through January, you’ve got winter licked.” Here’s hoping you’ve got winter licked, too, and are looking forward to the garden season ahead.





New Northern Gardener Available

I was very happy the other day when I spotted the November/December issue of Northern Gardener on the end-cap display rack at my closest Barnes and Noble. Even happier, because the magazine was displayed at eye-level where lots of folks can see it.

This is a fun issue, full of garden information to ponder over the winter, as well as inspiring ideas and our annual holiday gift guide. The cover photo, taken by Susy Morris of the Chiot’s Run blog, goes with Martin Stern’s article on planning your garden year with nature’s time in mind. Martin, co-owner of the wonderful Squire House Gardens in Afton, begins his garden year in November, assessing what worked, what didn’t and what to do in the next season. From there, he takes readers through the year, offering ideas for when to do particular chores and which plants to plant for color and interest all year long.

In addition to Martin’s story, we have Eric Johnson’s article on how to make a terrarium, a profile of a contemplative garden and Nancy Rose’s interesting comparison of soils in Minnesota and Massachusetts, called “A Tale of Two Soils,” which is not only educational, but gave me a chance to write a few Dickens puns.

I hope you enjoy the issue!

Fall Issue of Northern Gardener

The September/October issue of Northern Gardener has been out for a few weeks, and I’ve gotten so many positive comments on it. I love the cover of a ripe tomato from the garden of Ted Beverly and Rick Chrustowski in River Falls, Wis. Their “exuberant garden” is filled with large, lush plants and carefully designed to provide views and places to wander, no matter what the season.

In addition to being profiled in the magazine, Ted wrote a wonderful piece on eight, late-blooming perennials worth planting. I have several of the plants he suggests in my garden, but there are others I’m planning to plant next year for an extended garden season.

Speaking of extending the season, Colleen Vanderlinden of inthegardenonline, vegetable gardener extraordinaire, wrote about 10 ways to extend your vegetable season. Keeping up with the list theme, Michelle Mero Riedel gives top-notch design advise in her article on choosing perennials with foliage that is not just green.

Check it out at Barnes and Noble, Lunds and many garden centers, or subscribe or join MSHS.

New Northern Gardener Available

July/August 2012 Northern GardenerThe July/August issue of Northern Gardener has been on the newsstands a couple of weeks, and if you have not picked up an issue yet, please do. It’s a great issue.

For inspiration, we have profiles of two fantastic urban gardens. Both gardeners work on slopes and they have come up with creative ways to deal with that issue. Both are also clearly plant lovers, judging by the interesting plants they grow.

For information, we have an incredibly useful article on how to take better garden photos by Rhonda Fleming Hayes, who is a photographer, writer and gardener — and does them all well! Bonnie Blodgett also checks in with a warning about the potential for brown marmorated stinkbugs to come to the North. Not exactly what we need! But it’s something we need to know.

Those are just the highlights — check the issue out at area bookstores and grocery stores!

Straw-Bale Gardens Are Looking Good, Too

I still get a mushroom or 30 in my straw-bale gardens from time to time, but overall, I am really pleased with how they are growing. The four tomato plants I put in two of the bales are getting tall and sturdy. The zinnia seeds I spread across another two bales have all germinated and are putting out leaves, and the potatoes planted in the last bale are growing so tall I’m trying to figure out a way to add more soil around them, so I can get more potatoes.

It probably helps that the bales are watered every day (or at least every other) and that, per the instructions, I poured a weak solution of diluted fish emulsion over all the bales for fertilizer a couple of weeks ago. While I’m not thrilled by the appearance of the bales (and, just to tease you a bit, there will be a great article on how to improve their appearance in the July/August issue of Northern Gardener), I love their productivity. The rabbits haven’t figured out how to get up on them, either. So, go bales!

How are your straw-bale gardens growing?

Gas Plant and the New Northern Gardener

The May/June issue of Northern Gardener is in the stores — I saw it prominently displayed at Barnes and Noble recently — and is full of spring and summer inspiration.

Terry Yockey describes how a Red Wing couple created a dream garden for their daughter’s wedding, featuring lots of pink roses, dahlias and even a few nods to the young couple’s love of pork. In another article, garden designer Betsy Danielson teaches readers the principles of English borders and offers plant and design suggestions for creating the same look in the North. Elsewhere in the issue, Rhonda Fleming Hayes writes about one of the biggest trends this year: succulents; and horticulturist Debbie Lonnee provides an insider’s guide to all the new coneflower varieties.

A word about the plant on the cover, which is one of a dozen beautiful shots from Donna Krischan in this issue. It is a gas plant (Dictamnus albus), a USDA Zone 3 hardy plant. It’s called gas plant because of a sticky substance that covers the plant in summer. If you hold a match to it, it will ignite instantly. I don’t see gas plant in gardens much, and wonder if this is why?