Everyday Gardener // New plants for 2011

Whether you have room for something new in your garden or not, it’s hard not to at least peek at the plants that are introduced each year. I’ve drooled over much of what I’ve seen on tap for 2011, and here is a roundup of the things I fell for that are suitable for our Zone 4 climate. If you’d like to see more of what’s new for 2011, go to the websites of any of the nurseries or growers I mention here. You can also just type “new plants for 2011” into a search engine, like Google, and you’ll get all kinds of results and photos.

From our very own Bailey Nurseries, located in Newport, Minn., we have Hydrangea arborescens (‘PIIHA-I’) Bella Anna, a new hydrangea in Bailey’s Endless Summer collection. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of many of the poofy-headed hydrangeas in this collection. But Bella Anna stands out in my mind for being only 3 feet tall, having unusual pink blooms that last from early summer through fall, and for being able to withstand severe pruning and our harsh winter weather.

I have no idea where I’ll put it, but I have to have Bailey’s new Hydrangea paniculata (‘Le Vasterival’) Great Star. This hydrangea grows to 6 or 7 feet tall, which is a bit difficult to squeeze into a small city garden I know. But get this: it has giant star-shaped white flowers that can be as wide as 4 inches across. It’s gorgeous! And, well, one of the many red-twigged dogwoods in the side yard is going to have to move to a new home to make room for it.

From California-based Monrovia comes Paeonia Misaka Itoh (Beautiful Blossom), a new peony with flowers that look orange at first but fade to a peachy-yellow when planted in full sun. Touted as heavy flowering, this cultivar is disease resistant and has fine foliage that complements the bright, wide flowers.

Iris ‘Cinque Terre,’ is a beautiful, tall, bearded iris with petals described as a combo of henna and terra-cotta. A vigorous bloomer, this iris can have as many as 7 to 10 buds on each stem. Plants grow to 3 to 4 feet.

If you don’t have penstemon, commonly known as beardtongue, in your garden, now may be the time to get some. California-based Blooms of Bressingham has introduced Penstemon ‘Prairie Twilight’ and we northerners can enjoy its bounty of tubular-shaped, purple flowers from May through mid July. If you plant this, I would advise buying at least three plants since penstemon doesn’t tend to spread quickly.

Black petunias anyone? That’s right, Ball Horticulture introduced Petunia x hybrida Black Velvet last year, but now you’ll be actually able to find them in local garden centers. Black flowers aren’t for everyone, I know. But if you like black, plant these petunias in full sun and you’ll have dense masses of long-blooming flowers all season. They’ll look great in containers, too.

Coreopsis ‘Salsa’ is another don’t-miss annual that’s new this year. Yes, yes, we’re all a bit tired of tickseed. But this new one, part of the Coloropsis Coreopsis series from Washington-based Skagit Gardens, features bright, golden flowers with burgundy eyes and can grow as tall as 18 inches. Oh, and did I mention it can take drought and light frost? Local garden centers should be carrying this, but you can find it online too.

If you’re looking for a new ornamental grass to add to your garden, Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ from New Mexico-based High Country Gardens is definitely worth a try. What makes this large-growing selection of blue grama grass exceptional are the nearly 3-foot-tall flowering stems that top the grass’ shorter blue-green foliage. Blooms mature into “blonde” seed heads by mid summer and unlike some grasses, this plant’s strong stems can stand up to rain and dry winds.

Meleah Maynard is a Master Gardener and freelance writer. If you’ve got a gardening question you’d like her to address in her column, you can email it to [email protected]