They may not be better, but some new plants worth a look

Erin Schanen

Every year when shiny booklets touting the newest  plants to hit garden centers show up in my mailbox, I remind myself that new isn’t necessarily better when it comes to plants. Then the other half of my brain reminds me that while new plants may not be better, but they definitely are fun.

Perhaps it’s winter boredom that makes me lust for plants with that tantalizing “new” label on them. It certainly isn’t good sense. So, dispensing with my better judgement, here are a few of the new plants coming to garden centers that have caught my eye.

Astilbe ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ has deep, dark foliage described as chocolate brown and light purple flowers, although from the photos I’d say the foliage is what this plant is all about. It’s fairly adaptable and will be able grow in sun or shade so long as it has sufficient moisture. I think it would be an excellent partner to Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’ in partly shady spot.

Early releases of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ snuck into a few local garden centers last year, and I heard that it looked as good in person as it does in the photos.

Weigelas are known for their beautiful flowers early in the season, but two new varieties from Proven Winners Colorchoice Shrubs are all about the foliage.

Midnight Sun is a diminutive variety that only grows 12 to 18 inches tall but packs a load of color into it’s small package. The glossy foliage shows colors of orange, purple and red.  The pink flowers are but a footnote.

Lovers of variegated plants will drool over Vinho Verde with its bright green leaves that sport an almost black edge. It grows 3 to 5 feet tall and wide and has a neat habit. The flowers — again, barely mentioned in the description — are reddish pink.

If you’ve ever wondered what the point of a peach tree that didn’t produce peaches is, I invite you to take one look at Ruby Ruffle patio peach. Growing just 4 to 5 feet tall, the tree’s show starts with deep pink, ruffled flowers that bloom in great clusters on bare stems. Long, strappy foliage in olive to purple follows, creating a bit of a Cousin It-type look that is just odd and beautiful enough to make everyone who comes to your garden ask what it is.

A new arborvitae called Sting is intriguing to me. It will grow to 20 feet in a decade or so but only get about 18 inches wide. That seemingly inconceivable combination will make this evergreen an exclamation point that could be used to great effect in a landscape design. It is Thuja occidentalis, which means it will also be delicious to deer, but if it’s kept safe from Bambi and friends it will be unlike any other tree in the yard.

Not all these plants will become garden classics. In fact, there’s a good chance that after that shiny new plant label wears off, some will be forgotten in a corner of the garden center. But there’s also a chance that a decade from now, one of or two of plants will be considered a garden classic. And you can say that, either because of winter boredom or a quest for excitement, you had it first.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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