Enticing New Plants to Tempt the Home Gardener

by Pam Roy, edited by Bruce Gaudette
December 28, 2010

Cornus sericea ‘Firedance’

One of the best things about the year coming to a close is that it sets the stage for the arrival of newly developed plant varieties.  Each year the growers offer some interesting sounding variations on the tried and true plants we’ve become familiar with.  What better time than the dark of winter to read up on some of these and start dreaming about enhancing the garden?  Even the most well developed landscape has room somewhere for a newcomer.

Color, color, color…This year is all about color; adding color with interesting foliage and or bark color; or adding color at some of the more drab times of the year.  If you find yourself in a post-holiday slump, how about adding some cheerful winter color?

Cornus sericea ‘Firedance’ may be just what you’re looking for.  This dogwood shrub features shiny red stems that glistens under a coat of winter rain.  Cornus ‘Firedance’ does well in both sun and part shade and will tolerate wet soils.  It grows to 3-4 feet tall by 4-5 feet wide, making it suitable for many places in the garden.  White flowers in late spring are followed by white berries.  The fall foliage color makes this a plant with year round interest.  It is a disease resistant variety and not at all fussy.

Another good source of winter color is Hellebore.  The new variety “Cinnamon Star; showcases its flowers during the months of December through February.  Cinnamon colored buds open to creamy white flowers painted with hues of rose and cinnamon that contrast nicely with the dark green leaves.  This Hellebore is hardy to around minus 20 degrees, so hopefully will withstand anything La Nina has to send us.  Reaching 15-18 inches tall by 24 inches wide, this could be a nice foreground plant on the north side of the house.

The common wallflower (Erysimum) has just become less common.  Erysimum ‘Fragrant Star,’ with its green and yellow variegated leaves can brighten up a garden bed.  Its fragrant yellow flowers are a delight.  This compact, bushy perennial grows to 15” wide and 24” tall and will be happiest in full sun or light shade.  This plant is hardy to around minus 10 degrees, so is another plant undaunted by what the weather forecasters are predicting for us this winter.

There have been a number of new varieties of plants with leaves and or flowers in shades of chocolate lately.  New to the chocolaty trend is Sedum ‘Chocolate Drop.’  This tidy mound of succulent leaves shows off its chocolate colored foliage well in a rock garden.  The pink flowers hover above the plant, nicely contrasting with the leaves.  As with most sedums, Chocolate Drop prefers full sun.  It stays a small 10-15 inches tall.

A few others to look into:  Holboellia latifolia ‘Ritak,’ for an out of the ordinary vine, and Silver Mist mondo grass, with its soft silvery foliage.

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