Bloomerang® Lilac (Syringa x 'Penda')
How long have gardeners been pining for a re-blooming lilac? This new one, from Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, Michigan, is of the short, shrubby variety, about four to five feet tall and four feet wide. Tim Wood, the nursery's product development manager, travels the world looking for new plants with outstanding or unusual attributes.
At a meeting with garden writers, Wood said the new lilac has a strong spring bloom, then rests for a month or so before it starts blooming again -- from June until frost. It has a strong fragrance, excellent resistance to mildew (the plague of lilacs) and a compact branching habit. He suggests growing it as a hedge or a foundation plant, but it also does well in large containers. It's also a winner for northern gardeners, as it's hardy to zone 3.
Incrediball™ Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Abetwo')
The incredible thing about this hydrangea is the incredible size of the blooms ...most of them 12 inches or so in diameter. And even more notable ... it's an annabelle that doesn't flop. According to Wood, it was bred particularly for stronger stems, and the large-sized flowers were just a lucky break during the breeding process. Woods says this plant has four times the number of florettes per flower head than a regular annabelle, and it will reach a height of about four to five feet. It has large, dark green leaves, and is hardy from zones 3 to 9. I actually planted one of these in my garden last fall, so I'm eager to see what it does this spring. It blooms on new wood, so you can leave the fading flower heads on the plant for winter interest, then prune the stems back to 18" or so in spring.
Invincibelle™ Spirit Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'NCHA1')
Another Spring Meadow release, it's the first pink annabelle hydrangea, a very serendipitous find. While hiking in the Blue Ridge mountains, Richard Olsen -- a student of plant physiologist Dr. Tom Ranney of North Carolina State University -- found a pink lacecap hydrangea. He brought it back, and the two of them started crossing it with other hydrangeas -- and of 3000 crosses over five years, this hydrangea is the result.
It's hardy from zones 3 to 9, it re-blooms without dead-heading, has very strong stems, and takes full sun to fairly heavy shade. Its size is about four feet by four feet. Prune it back in early spring to about one-third of its height for best performance.
And, an added bonus ... one dollar per plant sold will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Wood says Spring Meadow aims to raise one million dollars for the foundation.
(photos: Spring Meadow)