Let’s face it, we all love new stuff. We are driven to have the latest version of…. you fill in the blank. Every spring, automobile manufacturers tempt us with new models of cars that have all the bells and whistles and cutting edge technology in hopes that we won’t be able to resist trading in our old junker for a new and improved model. Well guess what? Plant breeders do the very same thing to us gardeners, only their new features are usually things like more compact growth habit, fragrance, disease resistance, longer blooming periods, double flowers or new and unusual colors and tastier fruit. Here are some of the new introductions I will be hoping to add to my garden this coming spring.

Vitex Flip Side Chastetree — The genus Vitex is rarely seen in the northwest, primarily because it is a heat lover and doesn’t bloom until late summer. ‘Flip Side’ however, is a hybrid that should perform well in our cooler climate and provide some spectacular color in late summer, much like the butterfly bushes but without their noxious self-sowing tendencies. Plant it in a very sunny location and plan on cutting it back hard every spring, or you can let it grow into a small 10 to 12 foot tall tree. Here is what our grower Bailey Nurseries has to say about it: “This beauty is cloaked in 8-inch panicles of fragrant, deep purple flowers that attract a nonstop parade of pollinators. It’s also a strong rebloomer. Flip Side® got its name because the greyish olive-green leaves are dusky purple on the lower surface.”

There has been a proliferation of new hydrangeas in the last several years and this spring will be no different. Again, Bailey Nurseries has a doozie called ‘Summer Crush’ that is a must for my garden. It is part of the repeat blooming series called Endless Summer and you can recognize them by of their distinct blue pots. Summer Crush is described as follows: “With a profusion of big raspberry red or neon purple blooms, Summer Crush™ brings floral quality blooms to your garden or patio container. Not only is it drop-dead gorgeous, but it is compact so you get a neat, tidy look throughout the summer.” These big leafed hydrangeas should be planted in morning sun and afternoon shade, although my wife has managed to get them to perform in full sun in our garden.

Shrub roses, like ‘Knock Out’, ‘Drift’, and ‘Floral Carpet’, have been around for decades now and they are very hardy, easy to care for shrubs with rose-like flowers that repeat bloom all summer. But, they rarely have fragrance. Now you can have durability, easy care and fragrance with ‘At Last’ rose from Proven Winners. Here is their sales pitch: “It's the dawn of a new day for roses: At Last® combines all the romance of a fragrant, fully-petaled tea rose with the no-nonsense practicality of a disease-resistant landscape rose. No spraying is required to enjoy a non-stop display of large, sweetly perfumed sunset-orange blossoms from late spring through frost. Handsome, glossy foliage and a vigorous, rounded habit makes it ideal for use in the landscape or the flower garden. I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

One of our major suppliers, Monrovia Growers, is featuring a new compact Beebalm called ‘Bee You’. They describe it as follows: “Deep maroon buds that cover the lush, minty-basil-scented, dark green foliage open to show-stopping, electric violet-purple blooms. This carefree, naturally rounded plant with a uniform habit is truly mildew free.” I might add that Monarda (or beebalm as it is commonly called) will grow in sun or shade and is a total hummingbird magnet.

From Blooming Nursery, in Cornelius Oregon, comes one of my favorite shade perennials, Brunnera. Last year I purchased one called ‘Alexander’s Great’ and for this year I am lusting after ‘Alchemy Silver’. Brunnera have heavily textured, showy silver foliage with forget-me-not flowers in early spring and grow well in shade along with hostas, ferns, and bleeding hearts. Best of all, they are slug resistant.

have been so smitten with all the new introductions of coleus that can now grow in sun or shade, and look fabulous in containers where they provide vivid colors from their leaves. Best of all, the new introductions don’t bloom as much, so you don’t have to pinch them all the time. From Proven Winners is my newest favorite called Colorblaze ‘Golden Dreams’. It sports colorful chartreuse foliage with red veins and will be a must in most of my containers this summer.

Truly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I will share many more new plants in the next few weeks, so you can be on the hunt once spring breaks.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

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