New introductions at Cultivate’22

Continuing at the trade show, Cultivate’22 on July 17th in Columbus, Ohio. These are the new introductions that caught my eye. First up, this Colocasia ‘Waikiki’. This would be beautiful in a tropical garden. Or in a container on our deck. But, I don’t need another large potted plant to overwinter. Sigh.

Green, white, and red leaves of Colocasia 'Waikiki'
Colocasia 'Waikiki'
Green, white, and red leaves of Colocasia 'Waikiki'

Looking down the line at what’s to come. Flowers, flowers, and more flowers. I know several nursery folks from Oregon who went to this event for the first time and were a little surprised/disappointed that it was so focused on floriculture and houseplants. They had hoped that there would more nursery content (meaning trees and shrubs), but there really wasn’t much of that at all.

If there is one thing that brings back memories of childhood, it’s the scent of lantana on a warm summer day. I adore the ones that progress from yellowy-orange to reddish-orange as they age (like the one below). These plants, however, had hardly any scent at all. I think it was because the exhibit hall was so darn cold. Hard to get those essential oils up into the air without heat. I would gladly have taken this one home. It would have loved the heat last week where we hit the record for the number of days (7!) above 90°F. More heat on the way this coming weekend.

Yellow, orange, and red-orange flowers of Lantana 'Red Chili'
Lantana 'Red Chili'

I wish rex begonias were hardy. This one reminds me of squash leaves at the end of summer when they are covered with powdery mildew. And yes, I think both the begonia and the squash leaves with powdery mildew are pretty.

Silvery dotted leaves of Begonia Sterling Moon
Begonia 'Sterling Moon'

The next two plants took me off guard. At first, I thought they were bouquets because of their overall form (narrow at the base, wider at the top with lots of flowers). But no, these are the actual complete plants – roots, leaves, stems, and all. Both are intergeneric crosses between Echinacea (coneflower) and Rudbeckia (black-eyed susan), which they call Echibeckia. I was thinking to myself, why on earth do we need a hybrid between these two genera? Particularly when the flowers  look the same as those from a regular Rudbeckia. When I got home, I looked them up. Echibeckia apparently offers the “appearance and fast growth of Rudbeckia with hardiness and disease tolerance of Echinacea, zones 6-10″. Well, um, okay. I grew several species of Echinacea and Rudbeckia in my zone 4 Wisconsin garden back in the day and had no problems with either hardiness or disease. So what exactly does this cross get us? Hardiness actually seems to be worse if the Echibeckia hybrids are really only hardy to zone 6. I don’t know. There are already so many Rudbeckia and Echinacea varieties on the market that look similar to each other that I don’t see how these bring anything new to the table.

Yellow and rust flowers of Echibeckia Sunreef
Echibeckia 'Sunreef'
Yellow flowers of Echibeckia 'Glow Swoop'
Echibeckia 'Glow Swoop'

Now here is a coneflower that I would buy. Cool, cool, cool. I like the green flowers with the dark button in the center.

Green flowers of Rudbeckia' August Forest'
Rudbeckia' August Forest'

Continuing down the next aisle. More flowers.

Calibrachoa aka million bells. Essentially a mini petunia, but actually a different species. I liked ‘tri color pink’ well enough, but I liked ‘Midnight Kiss’ even more, particularly the five yellow lines leading to the center against the dark purple interior.

Pink, rose, and yellow flowers of Calibrachoa 'Tricolor Pink'
Calibrachoa 'Tricolor Pink'
Purple and white streaked flowers of Calibrachoa 'Midnight Kiss'
Calibrachoa 'Midnight Kiss'
Purple and white streaked flowers of Calibrachoa 'Midnight Kiss'
Flower detail

For the past two years, I’ve considered writing an entire post on the different Dianthus species and varieties I’ve got in the garden. But, for one reason or another, I’ve never gotten around to it. I prefer the single-flowered varieties far and away over the double and semi-double forms. In my opinion, the extra petals often appear all jumbled up in an unattractive way and usually obscure the pattern of dots and stripes on the individual petals. In addition, many of the double forms seem to have lost one of the best things about Dianthus, their clove-like scent.

That said, I do like how short some of the new varieties are. If only I could get my sweet william (Dianthus barbatus) to stay this small. Over the past 30 years or so, I’ve periodically purchased seed packets of “dwarf” sweet william cultivars that were only supposed to be 8 to 12 inches tall. Each time, I’ve been disappointed by the floppy, two and a half foot monstrosities that I actually end up with. Some say that it’s because my soil is too rich and that the plants would be smaller if they were planted in infertile soil. I call bull. I’ve gotten the same results regardless of the type of soil that they were in, from the dry, calcareous desert soils of the Chihuahuan Desert, to various nonamended garden plots in central Wisconsin, to their current location in 7+ year old potting soil that has never been fertilized. I think what it comes down to is that the seed is simply mislabeled. My guess is that my plants are from 2nd or 3rd generation seed that lost their dwarf characteristics long ago.

Now that I think about it, the same phenomenon has been happening with my dwarf snapdragons, which were supposed to be 6-12″, but are instead 2-3 feet. How crappy does your soil actually have to be to get a “dwarf” variety to stay short? Strip mine tailings?

Anyway, back to these Dianthus, where my only real complaint about these is the name. Violet Passion? They aren’t violet at all, maybe more of a fuchsia rose? I forgot to smell them to see if they had a scent. Oh, and I wish they were single. I guess that’s a couple complaints…

Some new sedum varieties. These looked so delicate that I think they would quickly mold in our wet PNW winters or fry in our hot, dry summers.

Green and white variegated Sedum 'Little Shimmer'
Sedum 'Little Shimmer'
Green mound of Sedum 'Little Shine'
Sedum 'Little Shine'

The sheer number of flowers on these Bidens were astounding. You can hardly see the leaves. They remind me a bit of those mounding alpine plants that are covered in flowers in spring. I wonder if they remain this short (maybe 8 inches tall) and bloom like this all summer? How do they photosynthesize enough to stay alive?

Orange-red and yellow flowers of Bidens 'Red + Yellow Eye'
Yellow flowers of Bidens 'Sir Francis'
Bidens 'Sir Francis'
Yellow flowers of Bidens 'Sir Francis'
Bidens 'Sir Francis' flower detail

I had similar questions about these Coreopsis… Their names aren’t very interesting. I bet they will think of something flashier later. “Gungho Flower Blaster” or some such.

This whole section of the floor was devoted to dwarf flower varieties. Many were branded with “imp”, which made me think they were supposed to stay even smaller than their regular dwarf counterparts. Seeing the name “fuchsita” further confirmed that these were supposed to be tiny. I was a little conflicted about them. On the one hand, I didn’t like them because they look so far removed from the fuschias that I grew up with. I almost didn’t recognize the one on the far right as a fuchsia. It looked more like a bowl of apple blossoms. On the other hand, these would make a really quick burst of color for Mother’s Day. I wondered if these were basically bred for the impulse buyers who would buy on a whim and then toss them later when they got ugly, and not for those of us who want longer-term garden plants. I did ask about them, and yes, many of these flowers had been treated with growth regulators. So, once you got them home and planted them in the garden, they would probably end up looking quite a bit different. I have a feeling that I’ve bought other dwarf plants in the past that had been treated with growth regulators, only to be disappointed when they later grew much taller in the garden. I wish they would come labeled so that a serious gardener would know whether they had been treated or not.

These Ptilotus were in the same area and drew a lot of attention. I would buy these in a heartbeat. One of the few plants that almost everyone ended up touching – very soft.

Pink, fuzzy flowers of Ptilotus 'Matilda'
Ptilotus 'Matilda'

One last thing that I almost forgot about. There was one booth that had a fairly large walk-in curtained closet with signs telling us to go inside and take a look at their Sky Petunias. Intrigued, I went in. I was sort of expecting that the flowers would be genetically modified or treated somehow to glow under black light, but they didn’t. They looked like regular ole petunias to me. I looked again. Still didn’t see anything special.

I looked them up later online. These petunias are supposed to be so heavily spotted that they remind us of all the stars and galaxies in the night sky. The promotional pictures of the flowers online look very different than those that I saw at the show, which hardly had any spots at all.

Thinking back on several of the plants in this post, it makes me wonder how often the plant label/description actually matches our expectations as a consumer. That’s got to be a difficult job, trying to write a short, descriptive label that will accurately convey what the plant will look like and how it will perform across several different environments. I’m sure you’ve all seen how the same plant can look quite different depending on where and how it’s grown. Now imagine trying to write a descriptive label that encompasses that variability. Sometimes, though, I wonder if the labels are just plain wrong because not enough research was put into evaluating the plant before it was released? What are your experiences with label accuracy? Do your dwarfs stay dwarf? Are the colors accurately described? Did you even get the right variety? This might be a topic to explore further in the future.

Pink and white Enchanted Evening petunia
Enchanted Evening
Purple and white flowers of Glacier Sky Petunia
Glacier Sky
Pink flowers on Pink Sky petunia
Pink Sky

Wrapping up, this is not a new introduction, but I wanted to end this flower heavy post with flowers that aren’t so flowery. Queen Tut, a very nice dwarf papyrus. Dwarf. Now what does that really mean in the plant world?

Green flowers of Cyperus prolifera 'Queen Tut'
Cyperus prolifera 'Queen Tut'

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Anna K

    I’ve had the same experience with supposedly “dwarf” versions of taller plants. Verbena ‘Lollipop’ for example. It stayed short its first year, but shot up like the regular ol’ bonariensis in its second. Oh well, I still like it. But, you raise a very good point. What on earth does “dwarf” really mean?

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      I am glad I am not the only one. I was just reading a thread on FB that for trees and shrubs, “dwarf” refers to an overall smaller size (compared to the average size for the species) within the first 10 years. Makes me wonder what the excuse is for herbaceous perennials and annuals that have to regrow each year.

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