Those of you that regularly read this blog know that I am NOT a fan of new plants so it may come as quite a surprise when you read what I have to say here–or maybe not!
If you recall, one of my New Year’s gardening resolutions was to try to incorporate some new things–and that meant new plants–into my garden this year. So far I am meeting with some mixed success. More in a moment.
If you read regularly, you know that I am a proponent of the “tried and true,” at least when it comes to perennials. Part of that has to do with my experience in retail gardening and angry customers. Part of that has to do with having a very difficult site in my own garden where only the hardiest plants will grow, so I want something that’s stood the test of time, not a plant that’s only been out a year so no one knows how it will over-winter in my finicky environment.
But I recently read a post in Greenhouse Grower magazine by Dr. Allan Armitage (you can find that post here if you’d like to see what I read) about the spring plant trials in California.
If you have ever been to one of my lectures on “Trade Secrets,” you know I talk a bit about these trials. It’s a bit like a beauty contest for the latest and greatest plants. The growers show all the new varieties to those in the trade, hoping to get them to buy them for the retail market.
Dr. Armitage made 3 points in his article but the shocking one to me is that we are only seeing a small portion of the new plants–if we are seeing any at all–come to market.
This can’t be a good thing. How will a plant ever become a “tried and true” if it first isn’t a new plant? People have a right to see these new plants, to buy them, try them, love them, and even more important, to buy them again the following year!
But one of my pet peeves is buying a plant one year, only to be completely unable to find it the following year. This has happened to me several times with several different types of plants including roses and most recently this year, echinaceas.
I bought 6 of a certain variety of echinacea last year. One has died and I can’t find that particular variety of echinacea anywhere at all this year to save my life. There are many other different varieties–I bought two different varieties for another garden I planted hoping that if I needed to replace any next year I could find one of those. But it’s quite frustrating.
There is a certain breeder who is dumping echinaceas on the market as fast as it can breed them–surely many of you have noticed this? There is no regard for whether any of these will be hardy or come back true with respect to color (I know many of you have had that happen in the past).
It’s almost as bad as what happens with heucheras. Heucheras or coral bells, come from different strains, generally. These strains have very different backgrounds. Some are native to California, some to New Mexico and Arizona, some to the Appalachian Mountains. It is therefore very easy to see why some fail to thrive in your particular garden–depending on your own conditions.
Unfortunately, when you go to the garden center, it is not clear from the tag what you are buying. After exhaustive research, I cannot determine what strain heuchera ‘Obsidian’ comes from. It does okay in my garden but not fabulous. I guess that means it is not from the Arizona strain at least!
Heuchera ‘Caramel’ does fantastically in my garden although by rights it should not–it was bred specifically for the hot, humid southern garden. But I think that means it can take my soggy wet clay as well.
But if heucheras are up and dying for you, it is not you. Just try different varieties. Or try tiarellas. They are native plants. They should be hardier for you!
So what is the balance between dumping new plants so fast that they are here one year and gone the next and never seeing the new plants? Darned if I know! But I would sure like to see it!