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Here’s preview of new plant varieties, hybrid blueberry

Here’s preview of new plant varieties, hybrid blueberry

Natalie Walsh is back with her garden column for a 10th season.
Here’s preview of new plant varieties, hybrid blueberry
New for 2008: With its glossy mahogany/burgundy leaves, compact bushy form and cascading habit, Festival Grass, the dramatic new cordyline from Anthony Tesselaar Plants, introduces something new and desirable to the summer garden, landscape and container

It’s time to think warm thoughts of seedlings, soil and sunshine. The garden column is back for its 10th season and I am very ready for temperatures to improve. I bet you are too.

If you’ve been at the garden shows this season, you have probably seen some of the tempting — OK irresistible — plants. If not, I’ve compiled a list that you may want to look for in garden centers during the next months or search online to get a sneak preview. There are some beauties, some new varieties that can add pop to the garden and a hybrid blueberry that may be the answer for a gardener who wants to grow fruit in a small space.

Let’s start with an evergreen.

Compact shrub

Technito arborvitae is a more compact cousin of larger arborvitaes. It requires less shearing and offers dense, dark green foliage, which translate to less maintenance. This shrub would work well as a hedge or backdrop for other plants as it grows up to eight feet with a pyramid shape.

Hardy in the Capital Region, arborvitae does well in a variety of soils, preferring consistent moisture throughout the season. It will thrive in full sun and can tolerate partial shade.

The baptisia “Twilight Prairie Blues” has such an unusual color that I have to add it to the garden this year. The flower is a deep coppery red, with a lemon-yellow keel. The leaves have a bluish cast.

Baptisia is native to the prairies, and this plant was hybridized by crossing two hardy prairie species. Dr. Jim Ault at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Ill., released it to the trade.

High Country Gardens (www.highcountrygardens.com) carries it and recommends it be planted in compost-enriched, non-clay garden soils with a slightly acid to neutral pH.

Be patient. Baptisia takes a few years to mature, but then lives for many years. It grows to about 5 feet. So consider it for the back of the border.

Festival Grass (Cordyline hybrida banksii x australis x pumillio) is a must-have for a cobalt blue urn that sits out in the garden. The long, strappy burgundy leaves, compact form and cascading habits should look stunning. The downside of Festival Grass is that it takes time to gain size. I will let you know if this plants grows fast enough to create the desired show I demand from container plants.

New nasturtium

It was the color of the “Night and Day” nasturtiums that caught my attention. It has distinctive cream flowers and deep mahogany flowers, which is a nice change from the bold bright colors of many other nasturtiums.

With a mounding habit and a height of about 16 to 20 inches, “Night and Day” can be used in baskets. I intend to use it intermingled with Lady’s Mantle. The color combination should be attractive.

For the fruit garden, I’m trying out “Seascape” strawberries and a new dwarf blueberry bush.

Seascape is a day-neutral strawberry that flowers and fruits all season. I’m told the fruit is flavorful when picked ripe from the plant. You can order them from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com).

I’m going to try them this year in hanging baskets hung by the back door, where I can easily pick a few for the breakfast table each morning. I’m also hoping that the close proximity to the house will discourage squirrels and crows, both of which have a hearty appetite for my berries.

Small and Productive

North Country blueberry is a dwarf cross between a high-bush and low-bush blueberry. It may be the answer for city-sized gardens as the bush grows to between two and three feet, is productive and has the appeal of an ornamental with its bright red fall foliage.

Developed in Minnesota, this berry is noted for its sweet wild blueberry flavor. I asked Marvin Pritts, one of Cornell University’s fruit experts, about it and he thought it was a good choice for the backyard gardener, noting, however, that the sky-blue fruit are on the small size.

A vigorous-growing cultivar, North Country reaches bearing age in two years, ripens in mid-July and harvest can be between 2 and 3 pounds over a three-week period. Considering that blueberries are loaded with protective natural compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, I think I’m going to find some room in my garden for a few of these.

It’s good to be back. Happy gardening.

Natalie Walsh is a horticulturist in addition to being the Gazette’s special sections editor. Reach her at [email protected]

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