New plants for 2016, hydrangea help and a seed plea

Are you gearing up to go plant shopping?

I am. My plant wish list is already made, but I’ve read about a few new plants lately that look pretty promising so I thought I’d share them with you. As always, know that the companies that release these plants don’t always sell to the public. But you should be able to find these new varieties at garden centers. You can also buy them online.

First up, a gorgeous, petite smoke bush. Yes! Now widely available from Upshoot Horticulture, meet Cotinus coggygria ‘Old Fashioned’, a cultivar that looks very much like the giant smokebush varieties we’re used to. But this one is 6 feet tall rather than 10 feet or more. Leaves are large and emerge in shades of dark pink and purple before turning green for the summer. The plant’s smoke-like blooms appear in June and are a pretty shade of pink. Come fall, the leaves turn pink, orange and red for great fall color. Full sun. Zone 4

I love Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), but it does tend to flop over in mid-summer. Proven Winners’ new ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ variety was bred to stand tall on shorter, upright stems. Be sure to plant it in full sun. Plants grow to about 32 inches tall and wide. Zone 4.

Gardeners like me, who have a lot of shade to work with, are always looking for something interesting to break up the sea of green. I think I’m going to have to try Terra Nova Nurseries’ new golden bleeding heart (Dicentra) ‘White Gold’. Plants have golden-hued leaves and white heart-shaped flowers. They will do well in shade to part shade, and grow to 24 inches high and about 36 inches white.

A ‘Black Truffle’ cardinal flower. Photo courtesy of Plants Nouveau
A ‘Black Truffle’ cardinal flower. Photo courtesy of Plants Nouveau

Even though cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) seems to make a suicide pact every time I plant it, I always try, try again because it’s beautiful. Plants Nouveau’s new cultivar ‘Black Truffle’ has striking maroon leaves and bright red flowers. Like all cardinal flower varieties, they prefer partial shade and moist soil, so plant this beauty in a spot where you have other water-loving plants. Plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Zone 3.

Hydrangea help 

People ask me a lot of questions about hydrangeas, which isn’t surprising because caring for them can be confusing at times. Here are a few helpful things to know:

  • Over-fertilizing in an attempt to promote more blooms is a bad idea because you can burn the plant’s roots and all of that extra fertilizer is probably just running off somewhere anyway. Instead, do your fertilizing in the spring. If blooms aren’t so hot anymore, you may need a fertilizer with a higher level of phosphorous.
  • Wilting—hydrangeas have a habit of wilting in the summer heat but that may not mean they need water. Always check the soil to see if it’s dry before watering. Too much water is harmful to the plants and your wallet.
  • Unlike other hydrangeas that you usually prune in the fall, Bailey Nurseries’ Endless Summer hydrangeas should be pruned in the spring after new growth starts. If a stem doesn’t have any green leaves when others do, cut it back to the ground. Otherwise, just prune the new growth to shape the plant.

A plea for seeds 

I know I’m always nattering on about seed sharing, and here I go again. As many of you know, I use the top shelf of the Little Free Library outside my house for seed sharing in the spring and fall. Well, the library has been super busy so far and we are nearly out of seeds. If you have any to share with others, they would be greatly appreciated.

The library is located on the boulevard on the corner of 45th Street and Washburn Avenue South in Linden Hills. If you have seeds to share, please bring them in their original packet or an envelope or baggie labeled with the type of seed. Thank you! And thank you to all who have already come by with seeds to share or to take seeds home for your gardens.

Check out Meleah’s blog: for more gardening tips or to email her a question or comment.