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Posted on Sun. Mar. 30, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

As gardening season nears, it’s time to … meet the new plants

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Every time spring arrives, what’s new in the plant world fascinates gardeners. But, Fort Wayne area plant sellers say, not every new plant is suitable for northeast Indiana gardens.

“With a lot of stuff that comes out, there’s a lot of hype with it,” cautions Dan Galbraith, owner of Galbraith’s Landscaping and Garden Centers, 7945 Stelhorn Road and 6819 Bass Road.

“There’s a lot of things that aren’t as good as they say they are. Sometimes it’s better to wait a year or two and see how something handles the weather and other things.”

Still, at this time of year, it’s hard not to throw caution to the winds and at least try one of the new horticultural tempters.

Here’s some of what folks in the industry are excited about getting to customers in 2014 – and might have a realistic chance of local success.

Showy Echinacea

Echinacea isn’t new, if you’re talking about the typical purple-blossomed kind. It’s a staple native perennial around here, known for its tolerance of heat, drought, clay and neglect.

But the National Garden Bureau has enshrined 2014 as The Year of Echinacea, and hybridizers have been busy with new colors.

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, for example, is offering a Cheyenne Spirit coneflower seed mix named an All-American selection last year. The mix features plants with cherry red, melon orange and yellow, cream and white flowers in addition to deep purple and pink.

Spokeswoman Jo-Anne van den Berg-Ohms says if blooms are desired this year, seeds need to be soaked for 24 hours in tepid water and planted indoors about six weeks before last frost date.

When seedlings reach four inches tall, they’re ready to be hardened off by taking the plants outdoors for a few hours over several days. The hardened plants can then be put in the ground.

Started plants also can be planted at any time up to six weeks before fall frost. Seeds can be direct sowed at any time in late spring and summer if blooms this year aren’t important.

“Echinacea is really easy to grow from seed, and so much less expensive than purchasing nursery plants,” she says.

But expect at least some of these new colors to show up as starts at area garden centers this spring.

Revived Impatiens

Downy mildew has claimed many an impatiens plant in the Fort Wayne area, as well as around the nation, in the last couple of years. Last year, some garden centers didn’t sell impatiens, although others did.

This year, expect to see more sun-tolerant species and new varieties billed as less susceptible to mildew.

Home Depot, for example, will have Viva! SunPatiens in its garden centers this year, according to its website. A hybrid of New Guinea impatiens and wild impatiens, these plants, while not a substitute for impatiens that grow in full shade, will do well in full sun and part shade and tolerate heat.

Your impatiens eye will likely be caught by new Patchwork hybrids with large, tri-color blooms, says Galbraith. Look for Cosmic Burgundy, with 2-inch flowers in deep red with white-starred centers tipped in pinkish purple, and Cosmic Orange, with orange flowers with violet-and-white starred centers.

The hybrids still have susceptibility to mildew, according to the breeder, but Galbraith says he’s never had a problem.

Blueberry bushes

Dave Geller, owner of Arbor Farms Nursery, 12515 Coldwater Road, calls these plants part of a trend toward “edible landscaping.”

Gardeners are “using dwarf and even full-size fruiting plants as foundation plants,” he says. “With the blueberry, you’ll have interest with the flower as well as the fruit, and then … the blueberries have a nice fall color. You get kind of a burgundy with the leaf color.”

Blueberries like sun and slightly more acidic soil than is typically found in Fort Wayne, Geller says, so expect to amend the area’s clay soil with peat moss.

But also expect about a quart of blueberries per plant at first, with more with annual growth. Most plants will stand between 3 and 5 feet tall.

Birds love blueberries too, Geller says. So if that foundation is part of a white-sided house or near a sidewalk, you might want to reconsider your location because of the birds’ purplish – well, you know.

Confetti baskets

That’s what florists are calling what they expect to be a very popular approach to pre-planted baskets.

“These are planted as with several species of young plugs, so the finished basket has a unique combination look, rather than the ‘larger plants planted together’ look often seen,” says Marla McAfee, in sales at McNamara Florist and Garden Center, 4322 DeForest Ave., just off Bluffton Road.

The baskets take the guesswork out of color schemes and growing conditions that might overwhelm someone trying to create his or her own hanging or container garden, she says.

She likes Berry Blend lantana with pink and orange flowers, Goldilocks Rocks bidens yellow daisies, and petunia-like calibrachoa Superbells’ Dreamsicle orange planted together “for a wonderful color mix.”

Exotic daylilies

Stella de Oro, you indeed deserve a gold star – witness the glorious golden summertime display on the medial strips planted with these long-bloomers along East Main Street in downtown Fort Wayne.

But lately, says Doug Hackbarth, “What I hear people say when they come out for daylilies is ‘Anything but Stella de Oro.’ ”

People want different colors and tones, ruffles, even stripes –so that’s what Hackbarth, owner of Broadview Florist and Greenhouses, 5409 Winchester Road, is stocking.

To get an early look at some of the fancies, check national mail-order supplier Cottage Farms (www.cottagefarmsdirect.com), which is featuring Exotic Candy, ruffled and with mauve and beige flowers with yellow-green centers, and Marque Moon, a two-toned yellow with blooms ever-so-reminiscent of lemon meringue pie.

Rainbow veggies

For some reason, people who grow food are fascinated by food that isn’t the expected supermarket color. Purple carrots, green popcorn, golden beets, white eggplants and yellow tomatoes have all found their way into gardens.

This year, Burpee Seeds and Plants (Burpee.com) features a new Mardi Gras radish mix with white and yellow (mild) purple (spicy) and black (described as “earthy”) radishes.

Just like regular radishes, they can be direct sowed every couple of weeks for harvests throughout the season.

Burpee also has a red jalapeño pepper, a purple-and-red-striped beet called Moulin Rouge, a purple potato called Midnight Moon and a pastel pink pumpkin.

Locally, look for a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes with Bonny Best (red), Brandywine Pink, Golden Sunburst (yellow), Black Krim (purple), Evergreen and Djena Lee’s Golden Girl (orange) varieties at McNamara, McAfee says.

rsalter@jg.net


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