1. By: Elisabeth Ginsburg

    The best way to survive winter is to dress warmly and dream of spring. And the best way to dream of spring is to get acquainted with new plant varieties. For maximum spiritual uplift, start with flowering annuals and perennials.

    If you were conjuring up the perfect flowering annual or perennial for 2015, it would possess all the traits that gardeners have come to expect over the last few years. The ideal plant would feature a compact growth habit, making it suitable for both in-ground and container gardening, and it would bloom continuously or rebloom regularly throughout the growing season. On top of all that, the ideal plant would be fragrant, adaptable to varying cultural conditions and resistant to pests and diseases. Shade loving paragons of perfection would feature interesting foliage or conspicuous flowers, or, ideally, both.

    The following are some of the pick of the 2015 introductions crop.

    Annuals

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    Superbells Cherry Red Improved gets top ratings from Proven Winners customers. (Image by Chris Brown)

    Millions of Petunias: Petunias and their smaller relatives, Calibrachoa, abound among this year’s introductions, with breeders bringing out new colors, forms and expansions of existing lines. Vivid red-and-yellow striped ‘Caloha Double Trouble’ from Cohen Propagation Nurseries features double flowers and a trailing growth habit. Proven Winners adds to the Super Bells series of single-flowered calibrachoa with the vivid cerise ‘Superbells Cherry Red Improved.’

    Foliage Drama: Coleus continues to dominate among annual shade plants. New entries include Ball Seed’s maroon and green ‘Coleosaurus’ and ‘Box Office Bronze.’ Rex begonias also come on strong with the introduction of the Jurassic Series from Ball Ingenuity. The plants feature lobed foliage variegated in shades of green, red, white, bronze, purple and silver.

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    The impressive Osteospermum ‘Blue-Eyed Beauty’ is a floriferous new introduction from Ball Seed. (Image care of Ball Seed)

    Tougher Impatiens: For those who have given up impatiens because of disease issues, help is at hand in the form of Selecta’s Bounce and Big Bounce series. Bearing flowers in an array of colors, these impatiens are disease-resistant interspecific hybrids that are able, according to marketers to rebound from fungal disease.

    Crazy Daisies: With their colorful petals and blue-tinted centers, floriferous daisy-form osteospermum, native to South Africa, are wonderful for containers and garden beds. New varieties include ‘Blue-Eyed Beauty’ from Ball Seed’s, with golden petals surrounding a blue-purple central eye.

    Perennials

    Uptick in Tickseed: American’s love affair with Coreopsis or tickseed continues unabated with many new varieties of this daisy family member. Veteran breeder Darryl Probst of Walter’s Gardens makes a big noise with his compact Little Bang series, including ‘Enchanted Eve,’ which is yellow with red centers; rosy ‘Red Elf’ and white-petaled ‘Starlight,’ which also features rosy centers.

    The soft colored blooms of 'Candy Love' Hellibore come in shades of pink and primrose yellow. (Image care of Plants Nouveau)

    The soft colored blooms of ‘Candy Love’ Hellebore come in shades of pink and primrose yellow. (Image care of Plants Nouveau)

    On the Rise: Vertical gardening continues to thrive everywhere and this year’s clematis introductions take it to new heights. ‘Fireflame’s red flowers grow as large as 6 to 8 inches, appearing as single or double forms over the course of the growing season. With raspberry-pink petals edged in white, ‘Maria Therese’ is a compact, large-flowered variety introduced from Pride of Place Plants. Planted in containers in-ground, ‘Maria Therese’ combines big visual impact with manageable size.

    Early and Often: Shade-loving hellebores have caught the fancy of many breeders and gardeners, providing bloom and color in late winter and early spring. Color ranges have increased, with breeders also working on new leaf colors and shapes. One of the better varieties from from Plants Nouveau is called ‘Candy Love’ and has blooms in delicate shades of pink and yellow.

    Compact and long-blooming, Geum 'Sun Kissed Lime' is a superb introduction from Terra Nova Nuseries. (Image care of Terra Nova Nurseries)

    Compact and long-blooming, Geum ‘Sun Kissed Lime’ is a superb introduction from Terra Nova Nuseries. (Image care of Terra Nova Nurseries)

    Geum Generosity: Cheerful, low-growing geums have come into their own, because they suit plots or pots and rebloom over the course of the growing season. One of the most vibrant of the geum tribe is the new ‘Sunkissed Lime,’ from Terra Nova. The 9- inch tall plants feature eye-grabbing lime green foliage and vivid orange flowers. ‘Sunkissed Lime’ offers garden smooches in sun or light shade.

    Butterfly Magnets: With plentiful flower spikes that attract butterflies and garden visitors, while repelling deer, ornamental salvias have long been mainstays of the sunny garden. New varieties abound for 2015, including Salvia nemorosa ‘Blue Marvel’ from Ball Seed. The color is similar to old favorite ‘Mainacht,’ but the flowers are larger. The Color Spires series from Proven Winners expands the Salvia nemorosa color range and includes three new varieties: ‘Crystal Blue,’ ‘Violet Riot’ and ‘Pink Dawn.’

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    Clematis ‘Maria Therese’ is a spectacular new offering from Pride of Place Plants. (Image care of Pride of Place Plants)

    With daylight on the increase and green thumbs beginning to tingle for another year, get a good start on the gardening season by making lists of interesting, newly-introduced plants that might work in your garden. Stock up on necessary garden components like Fafard Natural and Organic Potting Mix for containers and Fafard Garden Manure Blend to build soil fertility. The last frost date will come sooner than you think.

    About Elisabeth Ginsburg


    Born into a gardening family, Elisabeth Ginsburg grew her first plants as a young child. Her hands-on experiences range from container gardening on a Missouri balcony to mixed borders in the New Jersey suburbs and vacation gardening in Central New York State.

    She has studied horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden and elsewhere and has also written about gardens, landscape history and ecology for years in traditional and online publications including The New York Times Sunday “Cuttings” column, the Times Regional Weeklies, Horticulture, Garden Design, Flower & Garden, The Christian Science Monitor and many others.

    Her “Gardener’s Apprentice” weekly column appears in papers belonging to the Worrall chain of suburban northern and central New Jersey weekly newspapers and online at http://www.gardenersapprentice.com. She and her feline “garden supervisors” live in northern New Jersey.

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