“New varieties can help solve some landscape challenges, such as needing something that fits into a space without needing a lot of maintenance pruning,” says Jane Beggs-Joles, landscape market coordinator for Proven Winners. “They also help to set you apart from the competition. Being up on the newest varieties is one more way to elevate your own brand and not be competing on price.”
Beggs-Joles adds that if you don’t get in the habit of evaluating new plants, you’ll struggle to find a new go-to when your old one is unavailable. Also, every year there are new pests and diseases an older variety many not have a resistance to.
“Trying new plant material also tells your clients that you’re a professional and that you invest in learning new things,” she says.
It may seem unnecessary to add new varieties to a dependable plant palette, but new introductions can elevate a good plant to a great one.
“Whether that means better disease resistance, right-sizing plants to place, better flower color, longer-lasting flowers, or multiple-season interest, tried and tested new varieties can set you apart as a designer with long-lasting landscape success,” says Ryan McEnaney, marketing and communications manager for Bailey Nurseries. “While not all new introductions live up to expectations, aligning with companies and brands that put in the hard work up front will set you up for long-term success.”
McEnaney says Bailey Nurseries puts a strong emphasis on trialing plants across the country at their production sites and external trial sites.
“Any plant that is accepted into the First Editions Shrubs & Trees brand undergoes rigorous testing to ensure that it lives up to its unique attributes,” McEnaney says. “Similarly, we set an expectation that each plant selected for the First Editions brand is better than or provides a unique attribute that doesn’t already exist on the market. We are methodical and intentional with each new introduction and take our time to choose only the best.”
2022 Trends and Plants to Try
There continues to be high demand for compact, low-maintenance plants.
“Despite digging in the dirt more than previous years, the focus remains on hardworking plants that looks great for long periods of time without a lot of work,” McEnaney says. “This means extended flowering seasons, plants with great leaf texture, disease-resistance, and plants that offer something unique and beautiful for more than one short season.”
The pandemic has also heightened the focus on the outdoor space and the need for privacy. Larger plants that provide screening hedges and fastigiate plants have risen in popularity.
“All of those folks who learned to value their outdoor space in the past year also learned that a little privacy from their work-from-home neighbor would be nice, too,” Beggs-Joles says. “Tall, narrow plants are just the thing to plant along a fence or pathway.”
So, what are some of the new plants to consider testing out? Below are a handful to keep an eye for:
Fothergilla, Legend of the Small™ – it has all the charm of full sized Fothergilla but in a smaller package. It has fun flowers, fabulous fall color, and is an all-around handsome plant for either specimen use or as a mass planting.
Gardenia jasminoides, Steady as She Goes™ – a low-growing evergreen with a long bloom time and good deer-resistance. It flowers right through the heat of the summer. It is recommended only in USDA Zones 7-10.
Little Lime Punch™ – If you like Little Lime™ but want something with lots of different flower colors in fall, Little Lime Punch has flowers that are pink, green, white, Hawaiian-punch red – all there at the same time.
Little Hottie® Panicle Hydrangea – genetically compact, it maintains its 3-5’ stature after many years of trials across the United States. Its flowers emerge green and turn bright white all summer. Bred in Georgia, it can stand up to warm-climate summers without getting heat stressed or the blooms browning out and has the cold tolerance expected of the species. Because of its tight branching and strong stems, the plant stays upright and is an easy-care blooming machine in the landscape.
Pinktini™ Lilac – a more compact, tidier version of the classic ‘Miss Canada’ Lilac. Rich pink flowers bloom in late spring on a tightly upright shrub against glossy, dark green foliage. Bred in Manitoba, Pinktini™ is incredibly cold hardy to zone 2. At 4-5’ tall and 3-4’ wide, Pinktini™ Lilac is fantastic for small spaces and early-season blooms in cold climates.
Vanilla Brandy™ Abelia – a compact new introduction for warm climates with green and white variegated leaves that hold up, even through the summer sun and heat. White, slightly fragrant flowers emerge in May and continue through October when the leaf margins turn pink to rose as the nights cool down in fall. At 2-3’ tall and wide, Vanilla Brandy™ forms a perfect mound that doesn’t need to be pruned to hold its shape.
This article was published in the January/February issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Landscape Professional magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.