(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 5, 2008.)
ColorChoice®, a collaboration between Proven Winners® and Spring Meadow Nursery, of Grand Haven, MI, has brought us such popular shrubs as Hydrangea 'Limelight', Summer Wine® ninebark and Brandywine™ viburnum. If their track record continues, these seven 2008 introductions will quickly become garden must-haves. Some had a limited release last year (I have one of them), but there is a larger supply for the official release this year.
| Pinky Winky™ Hydrangea|
This Hydrangea paniculata, hardy to zone 4, grows at a moderate rate to reach six to eight feet high. Like all paniculatas, it blooms on new wood and the flower color is unaffected by soil pH. This variety is unique in that it holds its 12 - 16 inch blooms upright, unlike most others which droop. It also starts blooming earlier than most paniculatas. Each flower starts out white, turns pink and continues to develop white tips as the bloom grows. The result is an eye catching two-tone effect that should light up your garden. It performs best in full sun to part shade, is tolerant of most soil conditions and is relatively pest and disease free.
| My Monet™ Weigela|
Here is a variety that offers the weigela lover two added features - dwarf size and variegated foliage. A first of its kind, it slowly grows to 12 - 18 inches, lending itself to container use, as well as an ideal shrub for the front of the border. It can be used to transition down from larger, solid colored plants. In full sun, the variegation will tend toward the pink, while in part shade it will be closer to white. In spring it is covered by pink blooms. It is hardy to zone 4, is adaptable to various soils and is resistant to pests and diseases.
| 'Eyecatcher' Weigela|
Another variegated weigela, 'Eyecatcher' has foliage that is a variegated bright yellow. Also small in stature, it grows at a moderate rate to two feet high. Partial shade is preferred for this shrub, which is also hardy to zone 4. It is also adaptable to soil conditions and has no major pest or disease problems. The spring blooms on this variety are a deep pink / red, which stand out nicely against the bright foliage.
| Lil' Kim™ Hibiscus|
This is the only true dwarf Rose of Sharon, reaching only three to four feet high. This allows the gardener with limited space to grow this wonderful summer bloomer. The small flowers are white with a bright red eye. A major attraction is that the blooms last for three days, instead of the typical one. Hardy to zone 5, it prefers full sun and will tolerate most soils. It has no serious pest or disease problems. Its small size gives the gardener many options for use - in containers, mixed beds, on decks, etc.
An uncommon garden shrub, Genista, or dyer's broom, is a member of the legume family. This variety boasts improved branching and texture. It produces very bright yellow flowers in early spring. Then the bright green stems, which have very small leaves, provide year round interest and can serve as a great backdrop. Hardy to zone 4, this shrub requires full sun, is heat and drought tolerant, and needs well-drained soil. It will reach two feet high at maturity. It is ideal for drought prone areas, distant areas of the garden that seldom get watered, and can be used in containers, as well as mixed beds.
| Lo & Behold™ Buddleia|
This butterfly bush is billed as the only blue flowering dwarf buddleia on the market. It will be released in the fall. It grows quickly to its final size of three to four feet high. Hardy to zone 5, it prefers full sun, like most buddleias. It does best in well-drained soils but is adaptable and has no serious pest or disease problems. Of course it attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees! It is useful in containers, mixed beds and wildlife gardens. A nice reliable blue is always an essential component of any gardener's palette.
| Oso Easy™ Fragrant Spreader Rose|
This highly anticipated rose series promises to grant rose lovers one of their greatest wishes - clean foliage without spraying! The product of years of development, these roses are hardy to zone 5 and all share glossy green, disease-resistant foliage. All reach about one to three feet and most are reliable bloomers from mid-summer until frost.
Oso Easy™ Fragrant Spreader - This variety has fragrant, single pink flowers with a white center. It grows to one to two feet tall, but spreads up to four feet wide or more! This ground cover rose thrives in full sun and needs moderate moisture. Its peak bloom is in early summer, but it re-blooms intermittently throughout the summer. Since it spreads so wide, it can be used for covering banks and other large areas.
Oso Easy™ Peachy Cream - Double flowers appear peach colored and fade to cream. They are billed as self-cleaning, so another rose chore (deadheading) is eliminated! This has more of a mounding habit and reaches one to three feet high and wide. It is a strong re-bloomer, putting on its show from mid-summer until frost.
| Oso Easy™ Paprika Rose|
Oso Easy™ Paprika - This one has reddish-orange single blooms with a gold eye. It grows one to two feet high and wide with a rounded habit. It is also a good re-bloomer from mid-summer to frost.
| Oso Easy™ Strawberry Crush Rose|
Oso Easy™ Strawberry Crush - Strawberry pink double petals surround a yellow eye in this offering. They turn a more creamy pink with time. They are also self-cleaning. It gets one to three feet tall and slightly wider with a mounding habit. It will re-bloom reliably until frost.
Photos: All photos courtesy of Proven Winners®. Top photo is Oso Easy™ Peachy Cream rose.
Special thanks to Danielle Ernest of Spring Meadow Nursery.