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One of the perks of being a garden writer is I sometimes get to trial new plants and seeds a year before they appear in retail nurseries, garden centres, or catalogues. I may also spot a striking specimen in other trial gardens a year or two before they’re released, or watch someone in the plant world tease new varieties in a talk. And at some point in any given year, my inbox starts to receive sneak peeks at new plant introductions. By the time the growing season rolls around, I’m usually pretty prepared to make recommendations—and seek out my favourites for my pots and plots.
Speaking of new plant introductions, I got a behind-the-scenes look at how that whole business works after attending the California Spring Trials with the National Garden Bureau a couple of years ago. That trip gave me an extra sense of appreciation for the work that goes into plant breeding, and the pride that comes from releasing interesting new annuals and perennials to the world.
And so, this will be the page where I discuss the eye-catching new plants that cross my radar each year. Check back in from time to time, as I’m sure I’ll be adding a new plant here and there if I discover something special.
New plants for 2019
Echinacea KISMET Raspberry
I like how echinacea plants bloom as ready-made bouquets in the garden. They grow well in my dry front garden, add interesting bursts of colour, and the bees love them. The flowers look interesting in all their stages of growth, even as they die off. I deadhead throughout the season, but those last blooms of fall are left in the garden over the winter, so the birds can eat the seed heads. I have planted a few varieties of this perennial over the years, including Cheyenne Spirit. Echinacea KISMET Raspberry, from TERRA NOVA Nurseries, blooms in full sun from early summer until first frost. Apparently, this variety grows well in a container, too.
Zone: USDA 4-9
Panther Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
I’ve become a real fan of ninebarks, especially when they bloom. The delicately hued flowers against the deep dark foliage is quite a stunning combo. And it provides a great backdrop for other flowers and foliage, too. This new variety from Bloomin’ Easy has sumptuous, black-tinged foliage, loves full sun and has a stronger mildew resistance. This shrub grows between four and five feet tall, and about two to three feet wide.
Zone: USDA 3
Nasturtium Baby Rose
I sow nasturtium seeds every year among the edibles in my raised beds. Nasturtiums are great triple-duty plants: You can eat the flower petals and leaves; the pollinators love them; and they can be planted as a trap crop for aphids (if you don’t mind sacrificing a plant here and there). I guess a fourth bonus is that no matter which variety you choose, nasturtiums have very unique blooms. A few years ago I was delighted to discover Climbing Phoenix, with its serrated petals, rather than the more scalloped ones you’ll find on most other varieties. Baby Rose, which appears to be a similar rosy hue to the echinacea (hey, I have a type!), is a 2019 AAS winner. This compact plant is a great choice for small spaces and containers. I’m adding it to my seed order list!
Butterfly Coreopsis Incredible
I love when a seed packet yields more than one colour of flower. That’s why I enjoyed the Queeny Lime Orange Zinnias I grew in 2018—no flower looked the same. This new introduction from Renee’s Garden, Butterfly Coreopsis Incredible, features a mix of flowers in soft cream, maroon, yellow, and shades of red. This is a pollinator-friendly plant that is deer resistant and that can withstand hot, dry spells.
Superbells Doublette Love Swept Double Calibrachoa
Calibrachoas have become container staples on my property. Each season, I choose at least one variety for a pot or hanging basket. These annuals don’t get leggy, they’re heat tolerant and self-cleaning, and they bloom right through the fall. It looks like someone took a paintbrush and carefully painted white around the edges of this new hot pink variety from Proven Winners. I love details like this. These plants are great “spillers” in containers and will also cascade over hanging baskets—and they attract hummingbirds!
Dahlia Belle of Barmera
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a plant belonging to one of the National Garden Bureau’s “Year Of” series. 2019 is The Year of the Dahlia, so I included this showy new variety from Longfield Gardens. And since my inbox has been flooded with emails showcasing plants that are coral, the new Pantone colour of the year, Belle of Barmera checks that box, too. Plant your tubers in sun to partial sun/shade and wait for the frilly, ruffled blooms.
Not new, but still gorgeous: New plants from past years