Monday, February 14, 2011

A glimpse into the future

A few weeks ago I was able to attend the National Green Centre Conference in St. Louis. While there, the audience was given a sneak peek of some of the newest plants being brought to the market. Growers and breeders from all over were showing their wares. It was awesome. These are the people who have bred and/or grown the plants in our latest catalogs. I love thumbing through the catalogs. This brought the catalogs to life. I was extremely pleased with how accommodating many of the vendors were at answering questions that ranged from simple to mundane.

Well known companies and the people behind the plants were willing to share information about themselves, their products, and (most importantly) their plants. I've shared just a few enjoyable encounters here.


In the warmth of the sun...
I had the great pleasure of meeting Ray Jackson of Jackson Nursery who found and introduced Cercis canadensis 'The Rising Sun' (The Rising Sun™ Red Bud). He was as enthused at seeing this plant being shown by Greenleaf Nursery Co. at the Sweet Melissa Fashion Show as he was when he discovered it growing in the field. Every person in the audience seemed equally excited to see it. I was happy to hear the details about this tree straight from the source. This small twelve foot tree offers a beautiful form in leaf which gives it a unique summer interest that many cultivars are missing. New growth comes out in "reds and peaches fading to green," said Jackson. Personally, I'm hoping to see this in my yard soon.

Photo credits: Ball Horticultural Company

At the Willoway Nursery booth, Scott Thompson shared a lot of information about a plant called Mahonia 'Soft Caress'. This was one of the plants on display at the conference Sweet Melissa Fashion Show. He broke my heart when they informed me that this lovely plant is not hardy in Zone 5, until they made the suggestion of growing it as a container plant. Then we started talking about some of the other plants that they had on display. I really found the Ficus carica 'Brown Turkey' (Brown Turkey Fig) interesting. Large mitten-shaped leaves that were tropical looking, but it looked promising for a plant in a three-season room. The plant that stole the plant show was the new Gryphon Begonia hybrida by PanAmerican Seed. This is a plant that I am super excited about for containers. I'm really looking forward to these plants hitting the market in my area.

Bob Flanders of Botanico, Inc.  spent a fair amount of time talking plants with me, and then asked if I wanted to see something really cool. I did. He was kind enough to give me a sneak peek at a Cornus kousa sp. (Dwarf Kousa Dogwood) that looks to have serious promise for small gardens, or as an accent specimen . This Dogwood has dense compact growth, with the same beautiful full-sized white flowers that we love. After over 10 years the mother plant is still only around 7 feet tall. He was kind enough to share these images with me.
First crop of grafts grown from the mother plant
(photo with permission of Botanico Inc.)
Mother plant more than 10 years after discovery
(photo with permission of Botanico Inc.)

I spoke with Raymond Evison of Raymond Evison Clematis briefly about his newest line of plants. Feeling a bit under the weather, this world renowned expert on Clematis was still able to shine.  He enthusiastically showed a number of the newest Clematis vines coming out. I have to admit that I am a fan of the doubles and already own an older variety named Josephine. So it was no surprise that I was most fond of the new Clematis Diamantina™, a purple double-flowering variety. Simply gorgeous.

Being a tree and shrub girl, I spent the most time talking with Terry Hines of Hale and Hines Nursery out of Tennessee. They had an interesting display with unique plants that also caught my attention. They had a large Thuja 'Green Giant' as a center piece. It was already towering above many plants being 14', but stood even higher on the ball and burlapped base making an excellent presentation. Other gems that stood out that are way to big for this gardener's yard were, Salix 'Scarlet Curls'  with spectacular fine red tipped, contorted branches. The Phellodendron amurense (Amur Corktree) which has a beautiful mature form, but only look at males (the females have been found to be invasive),  and Celtis magnificus (Hackberry) were both great looking trees. For an urban area, this tree is really strong.

I've had a few opportunities to talk directly with growers and the people bringing us new plant introductions before. This was a truly uplifting event to see the excitement in the eyes and hear it in the voices when these people shared information about these particular plants. It made the catalogs pale in comparison. I would love to feel the exhilaration of finding that potential new hot plant, and it makes me long for another glimpse into the future of the plant world.

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