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Banner year for plant introductions.

Byline: Paul Rogers

COLUMN: ROOTS OF WISDOM

This year, like no other, is a time of new plant introductions. Whether it is trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals or vegetables, there is something new for you to try growing. Some of the introductions offer only slight improvement over existing varieties. In an encouraging number of cases, the new plant exhibits people-pleasing new characteristics. Would you be interested in including in your garden a mildew-resistant summer phlox like Volcano Ruby, a rose that has disease resistance, cold hardiness and a long blooming season (too many of these even to list!), or calla lilies that are at home in the garden and not limited to greenhouse conditions?

Perhaps one way to illustrate the important strides that have been made in providing gardeners with improved plants that offer increased interest in the garden, would be to look at the Eastern ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius.

Native from Quebec to Virginia, this dependable shrub adapts to any soil and grows best with inattention. It produces an adequate display of small white flowers in clusters. It was recognized as a vigorously developing, nine-foot tall, arching-branched shrub that offered little except dependability and foliage mass.

What has happened to ninebark? A plant that was considered a drudge has become Cinderella - and not just one princess but a bevy of lovelies. Diabolo, a deep purpled-leaved Ninebark, came on the scene as an introduction from Germany. Look to Diabolo to provide you with an upright growing shrub with arching branches and leaves that maintain an intense reddish hue all summer.

Summer Wine is a hybrid form that supplies the foliage color of Diabolo with the neat compact plant habit of Nana (a dwarf form of Ninebark). Picture Diabolo, yet with finer foliage and a more refined habit of growth.

To complement Summer Wine, what would be better than a golden-leaf Ninebark? Dart's Gold is such a plant. This golden ninebark flowers in May, rather than midsummer, which is the bloom-time of the other Ninebarks. It is compact, rounded, with the reddish-brown exfoliating bark (pealing off in long strips) that requires full sun to best maintain its foliage color.

Nugget has leaves that emerge in the spring a deep golden yellow and gradually mature to a lime green in summer. Coppertina is another new introduction of Ninebark. It is a hybrid between Diabolo and Dart's Gold that comes to us from France. The foliage starts an attractive copper color in the spring and slowly changes to a rich red in summer.

Center Glow is a cultivar that we are watching with interest in our gardens. It has new foliage that emerges yellow-green and changes to red leaves with a center area of sulfur-gold. Monlo is another introduction from Germany, quite strong-growing with beautiful red-purple foliage. Snowfall bears white flower clusters that are larger and showier than other varieties.

Note that European breeders and nurserymen (Germany and France) recognized the possibilities contained within this North American native. It would be well if homeowners, garden designers, and landscape contractors will recognize what others have seen and begin to use the ninebark group appropriately in their designs. What is not to love about a plant that is cold-hardy into southern Canada, has an interesting growth habit, will grow in poor soil in full sun and offers a season-long display of striking foliage color?
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Title Annotation:FEATURES
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 8, 2007
Words:557
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