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 Garden Edition: A Peek Preview of 2005

by Linda Coyner

Most of us have to wait until the spring catalogs arrive before we can glimpse what’s new. A pre-preview actually occurs the year before for insiders. In late summer there’s the annual Garden Writers Association (GWA) Symposium, a media event where growers and marketers display and promote next season’s plants. All during the year at various locations throughout the country, pack trials are held. That’s where marketers and growers demonstrate the results of growing trials to the rest of the industry and to the media. The spring trial in California has become the most  important one.

At this year’s GWA’s symposium, we were all buzzing about a jumbo coleus. Two new hydrangeas and shrub roses also got a lot of attention.
Here are the details:

Coleus Kong. (Ball Seed)

The coleus craze is only going to get crazier with the introduction of the Kongs. This coleus boasts huge leaves on stocky, mounding plants. Despite 3-4 inch wide leaves, overall plant size remains modest, not exceeding two feet. Kong comes in five color variations: Rose has a light green leaf with a bright rose center; Green has a green leaf with a creamy center; Red has a green edge with a wine and pink center; Mosaic is green, wine, and pink splashed with cream; and Scarlet is green-edged with a darker green and rose center.
Note that Kong prefers shady locations.

Double Red Knock Out (Conrad-Pyle)

Knock Out was first introduced in 2000 and was hailed a "breakthrough shrub rose" by the All-American Rose Selections (AARS) because of its exceptional disease resistance and hardiness. Since then, the series has grown to include red, blushing pink, and pink. The newest release is Double Knock Out Red. 

Like the others in the series, it’s a landscape shrub rose that is easy to grow and nearly indestructible. Recommended for USDA Cold Zones 4-10, Red Knock Out lived up to its hardiness range even as far south as my southern Florida garden in  Zone 10B. I’ll be trialing Double Red this year but it should have the same carefree growing habits — disease resistance, self cleaning, and nonstop blooming.

Height and width:  4 feet.  Like the other Knock Outs, the flowers are numerous but on the small size. Availability may be limited in 2005. You can check to find a retailer near you.

Rosa x ‘Angelsie’  Lady Elsie May (Angelica)

This shrub shrub rose is a 2005 AARS winner. It produces coral-pink flowers that are about 4 inches across and very full. The shrub is moderately-sized and should fit nicely in a mixed bed. The overall habit is elongated, about 3.5 feet tall with a 2-foot spread. According to AARS, it should be vigorous with a uniform  growth habit and excellent disease resistance. USDA Cold Zones 5-10.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lady in Red ‘(McCorkle Nurseries, Inc)

Lady in Red has lacecap flowers that open a pinkish white and turn a burgundy rose. The plant itself is attractive even before flowers appear thanks to distinctive red stems and veins in the leaves. In the fall, the foliage turns a reddish purple. Lady in Red forms a compact, mounded shrub that’s 3-5 feet tall and wide. USDA Cold Zones 6-9.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Big Daddy’ (Novalis/Plants that Work)

As the name implies, Big Daddy needs plenty of room. It forms super-sized flowers (12-14 inches) on a super-sized shrub (5-6 feet high and wide, with one report saying 12 feet!).  Sturdy stems promise to hold the big flowers upright. Fine in full sun but partial shade is recommended in warm zones. Reportedly easy to grow in hot, humid summers of the South and the Midwest. USDA Cold Zones 5-9.

Lots of other noteworthy introductions were discussed in symposium workshops, but  three from Monrovia  grabbed my attention:

Calycanthus ‘Venus’ Venus Sweetshrub ( Monrovia)

This sweetshrub sports very showy white flowers that resemble magnolia blossoms. The flower’s fragrance of melon,strawberries,and spices is said to be as amazing as its appearance. Overall height: 5 feet. USDA Cold Zones 5-8.

Mandevilla x amabilis ‘Monrey’ Tango Twirl (Monrovia)

This vine boasts fully double pink flowers that are held in upright clusters and framed by large, deep green, glossy leaves. Mandevillas take full sun to part shade. Expect fast growth to 15 to 20 feet by twining stems. USDA Cold Zones 10-11; AHS Heat Zones 2 -12.

Yucca recurvilfolia ‘Monca’ Banana Split Soft Leaf Yucca (Monrovia)

This yucca offers slower growth and smaller stature than the species.
It has attractive, drooping strap-like leaves with grayish-green margins and a wide stripe of warm yellow down the middle, which apparently reminded someone of a half-peeled banana. A huge head of white blooms appears on 3- to 5-foot stalks. Full sun is recommended. The overall habit is clump-forming, 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, with trunk-like stems. USDA Cold Zones 7-9; AHS Heat Zones 3-9.

Plants that caught the attention of attendees at the spring California Pack Trials ranged from new gaillardias, a red petunia and cosmos, a coral zinnia, a mini Dragon Wing begonia, and a double vinca. Here’s a closer look:

Cosmos sulphureus ‘Cosmic Red’ ( Ernst Benary)

The bright orangey-red flower color is bound to make this cosmos an instant hit.  The Cosmic  series is relatively easy to grow and trouble free, producing 12-inch-high sturdy plants. Other varieties in the same series are Cosmic Yellow and Cosmic Orange.

Begonia Pink ‘Babywing Pink’ (PanAmerican Seed)

Dragon Wing begonia is one of my favorite begonias. It’s showy and yet takes the heat. Babywing is very much like its big brother, just smaller. It grows about 12-15 inches tall in the garden and spreads approximately 10-12 inches. Like the series, flowers are in abundance, only these are smaller and light pink- to rose-colored.

Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’ (Ernst Benary)

Arizona Sun is both an All-America Selections (AAS) and Fleuroselect Gold Medal winner. It produces an abundance of bright yellow and red flowers that are 3-inches in diameter. In the trials, the plant's growth habit was uniform reaching 12-14 inches in height. What distinguishes this gaillardia is its early blooming.  Like the genus, it thrives in the heat of summer and blooms well into fall.

Gaillardia ‘Summer’s Kiss’ (Yoder Brothers)

Summer Kiss shares all the wonderful attributes of the genus but delivers a softer look than the garish red/yellow standard. The large daisy-like flowers open pink-orange and mature to a golden apricot. Truly a welcome addition to the gaillardia line-up.

Hemerocallis x ‘Malja’ Golden Zebra (Monrovia)

Malja is a gorgeous dwarf day lily with variegated foliage. The foliage has striking  green and white stripes when grown in the shade; green and yellow, in the sun. The flowers are clear golden-yellow clusters  on very short stems. Lovely with or without flowers. Foliage reaches 12 inches in height, spreading to 24 inches. USDA Cold Zones 7 to 11; AHS Heat Zones 1 to 12.

Kalanchoe blossfediana ‘Calandiva’ (Fides)

When potted kalanchoes are in flower they’re showy, but wait till you see the new double-flowering Calandiva series. It has fully double, rose-shaped flowers on large, full-flowered heads that last at least six weeks.  The series includes Charming Red, Dark Pink, Orange, Pink, Pink Purple, Purple Red, Soft Pink, White, and White & Pink.

Petunia ‘Easy Wave Red’ (PanAmerican Seed)

This plant represents a new color in the Wave series. The flowers open dark red and mature to a soft red. Overall height: 8-10 inches with a compact, 2-3 foot spread.

Vinca ‘First Kiss Blueberry’ (Ernst Benary)

This 2005 AAS winner is the first vinca with violet-blue flowers. The large 2-inch single blooms have a dark violet eye. The plant grows 11 inches tall and about 16 inches wide.

Zinnia ‘Magellan Coral’  (Flower Fields)

Superior coral color, flower quality, early bloom , and consistent flowering  earned this a 2005 AAS award.  Magellan’s flower is fully double and described as dahlia-like. The blooms measure 5-6 inches; plants, 15-19 inches tall.

Verbena Corsage (Cohen Propagation Nurseries)

This series of verbenas offers a first — double and semi-double flowers. They're all trailing verbenas that reach a height of 12-15 inches. The Corsage series includes Peach, a medium-sized, fully double flower; Patio Dark Red, a medium-sized, semi- double variety; and Red, a medium-sized, fully double variety. The varieties selected are said to promise some powdery mildew resistance.

If you’re looking for a certain plant and your local nursery does not carry it, ask the nurseryman to contact Plant Search Online, Tp: 828 275-5765,, which covers 19,000 plants grown by nearly 2000 wholesale nurseries.

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