Stacey and Rick kick off the show with a look at the National Plants of the Year for 2023:
Innovation meets performance top to bottom: this hydrangea blooms dependably every year! This extra-hardy hydrangea hybrid sets its flower buds along the entire length of the stem, not merely at the tips like other re-bloomers. Feature in your entryway or most visible landscape areas because these lace-cap flowers are very showy. If you’ve been reluctant to try a big-leaf hydrangea, this one’s for you! Watch the video here.
A distinctive color blend of sunshine that will make you smile. Single flowers with a blend of melon-orange and pink age to lavender for a multi-colored effect. A cherry-red eye and sunny yellow stamens make the blooms even more intriguing. Beyond the “pretty,” this easy-care re-blooming shrub rose is tough and has healthy, disease-resistant foliage for reliable performance. Perpetual blooms are all the buzz, a magnet for pollinators in your neighborhood! Watch the video here.
It’s prime time to add some hydrangeas to your landscape! Limelight Prime® panicle hydrangea has everything you love about Limelight panicle hydrangeas with a boost. A more compact habit, stronger stems, and healthy foliage, in its prime this hydrangea will turn heads and garner attention, year after year. Watch the distinctive lime-green flowers transition and finish to a rich punch pink color in fall. This beautiful classic has gone prime time! Watch the video here.
Think of all the areas in your landscape where you could squeeze in a burst of summer color. You’ve never seen a rose of Sharon like this before! If you thought you didn’t have enough space ‘Purple Pillar’ is perfect for you. It’s upright columnar vertical habit has stems packed with lavender-purple and deep red center blooms perpendicular to your garden path. Squeeze the durable, easy nature of ‘Purple Pillar’ into a narrow space in your landscape. You’ll be glad you did! Watch the video here.
Hot pink flowers that combine good looks with grit! Get ready for season-long fireworks that are a vertical exclamation point where you plant it. And don’t let the whimsy of the unique pink blooms fool you, this is one tough plant. Freewheeling flowering and an autonomous nature, the plethora of upright, airy blooms can be clipped for lovely long lasting bouquets too. With pretty perseverance, this is a unique and drought tolerant flowering plant. Plan on your neighbors ringing the doorbell to ask, “what are those gorgeous flowers?”
Want a plant that puts on the glitz and enjoys the spotlight? Turn up the heat with Scarlet Flame caladium! Imagine a leaf of vivid red color, then liberally mark it with pink and white speckles. Now tie it all together with a bright green margin around the perimeter. That’s ‘Scarlet Flame’ a true spectacle! The handsome strap-like foliage will give you the warm feel of the tropics.
A rich royal hue for your garden! As you walk through your garden you’ll notice the large glossy purple leaves look unflappable as they hold their color all season long. And as if the rich regal purple color isn’t enough, the ruffled foliage adds contrast and texture calling attention to this plant. Use in containers, or as a border plant, dot it throughout your landscape, make a mass planting or as a specimen focal point, Dolce® ‘Wildberry’ coral bells checks all the boxes on your wish list!
Looking to make a big impression? This hosta has an aura of great standing, the largest known hosta available! A massive perennial plant it forms a gigantic upright mound of large rippled leaves. Grown for its dramatic foliage, the emerging summer blooms are a bonus sure to attract hummingbirds and pollinators. A plant with character, it will make a lasting impression on you and in your shade garden!
Flirt with color to brighten your interior space. The variegated leaf looks as if someone used a paint brush to add silky green stripes to pink foliage. The pink is truly a “flirty” playful contrast! It knows its role as a “spiller” in a planter. A great easy-grow houseplant, it can also be used as an accent plant when grown outdoors in summer. ‘Feeling Flirty’ makes it easy and fun to bring nature inside. Add a vibrant tease of color to your kitchen, living room, bathroom or office!
Why: We’ve got two stories about birds coming up in Branching News, and I got to wondering if we had any plants with bird in the name. We don’t exactly, but Chicklet Orange tecoma is pretty close, since it contains “chick,” plus, it’s a very cool new plant that I’m guessing many listeners have never heard of. And that’s because tecoma is primarily a plant for hot, dry climates, like southern Texas and Arizona. In fact, it’s native to the American Southwest and Mexico. To get a picture of roughly what the flowers look like, you can visualize a more familiar species, trumpet vine, aka campsis, to which it is related. Tecoma has those same long, trumpet-shaped flowers, and in the case of Chicklet Orange, they are – not surprisingly – bright orange. Tecoma is not a vine, however, it’s a shrub, and Chicklet Orange is a nice compact one that reaches just 3-6’ tall. That smaller than usual size makes it a much more versatile garden plant than many of its relatives, and it can be used as a low hedge, edging, specimen, or even incorporated into flower gardens. It blooms continuously all summer long, making it extremely colorful and very attractive to hummingbirds and other pollinators. It always has a fresh meal to offer them!
Who: Even though tecoma is a North American native species, it was actually developed in Italy. This may sound strange, but it’s actually quite common for North American native plants to get over to Europe, have a breeder work with them, and then bring us back a showier version of the plant. This has happened with numerous perennials, especially native grasses and rudbeckia. In fact, the most popular rudbeckia, ‘Goldsturm’, was developed in Europe. But this tecoma was developed by the Proven Winners partner company in Italy, and not surprisingly because of course Italy’s dry Mediterranean climate provides ideal growing conditions. It was selected for its very bright blooms and that neater, more compact habit, which makes it easier to use in the garden than conventional tecoma.
How to grow: Chicklet Orange tecoma is only hardy to USDA zone 8, so that’s pretty warm – basically, middle Georgia and south. But, if you live in a cold climate and this plant sounds interesting to you, fear not: its warm climate origins means that it is fast-growing and it makes a great summer patio plant. I grew it on my sunny back porch last year and absolutely loved it. It flowered non-stop, I loved the hot, bright orange color, and hummingbirds visited it constantly. If you want to try this out, you should be able to find a small one-quart plant online for around $20 and it will grow quickly enough to flower in a few weeks.
Whether you are growing it as a landscape plant or just seasonal color, it’s going to want full sun – at least six hours a day of bright sun. It’s pretty drought tolerant once it is established, but if you are growing it in a container on your deck or patio, you won’t want it to get too stressed from lack of water or that could slow down its blooming. If you’re growing it in the landscape, that’s pretty much all you need to know! It doesn’t really require pruning or deadheading or anything fussy. If you are growing it in a container, you are going to want to fertilize it regularly just so it keeps putting on a peak performance – summer is too short to not have it covered in blooms all season. And finally, one more nice tidbit great news: it seems to go completely untouched by deer and rabbits.
If you live in a warm climate where Chicklet Orange tecoma is hardy, you can find a local garden center that sells Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs here. If it is not hardy in your area and you’re looking to grow it in your summer containers, check out the online retailers at this link.
Do you have a garden question for us? We’d be glad to help! E-mail us, or click the “contact” tab above.
Nancy wrote, asking: This past fall, I planted three Ruby Slippers Hydrangea. Over this winter, deer have nibbled the leaves and branch tips, severely pruning the bushes. Do you have recommendations for products that deter deer?
Yes! Rick and I have both used Liquid Fence and Plantskydd with good success. These repellents/deterrents both contain putrified egg solids, which smell about like they sound they would. Which is to say, disgusting, and therein lies the key to successful deer deterrent – it probably won’t work unless it makes you gag while you apply it. Fortunately, that smell doesn’t linger in the air too long. It’s important to know that plants in their first year are much more susceptible to deer browsing than they will be once they are established. Even though your oakleaf hydrangeas have been planted for some time, they are still far more tender and soft than they will be after a year outdoors. Plus, once they get larger, the deer won’t be able to reach the tips where most of the flowers form. So putting in a few seasons of applying repellent should pay off in time.
Paul has a question that we’re betting a lot of people are asking right about now: Will my spring blooming bulbs be okay if they already started sprouting shoots in January? I know the flowers might be messed up for this season, but will this affect next springs blooms?
Rick took the photo below in his garden here in West Michigan a few days ago, so your daffodils are in good company! As alarming as it may seem, it’s totally normal for bulbs to push out early foliage in mild winters like we’ve had so far. It’s not a cause for concern, nor does it necessarily indicate that they will bloom early. That will depend completely on warmth and the amount of daylight, which at this point in the season is still pretty short so serves as a check on flowering.
Gina is wondering: I reside in Southern Ohio, not far from the Kentucky border, hence Cincinnati Ohio, and would like to know when to start planting some of my winter perennial bushes (holly, spreading wintergreen, rosemary etc.)? Our weather can swing from -8 at Christmas to a week later at 67 degrees. Lately been hovering around 45-50° high. These plants were purchased before Christmas at my local box store to incorporate into holiday dècor. They now sit on my enclosed screened-in patio (in original pots) awaiting to be incorporated into my backyard landscape.
It sounds like you are doing the best possible thing right now. The plants should be kept cool, with plenty of bright light and fresh air, until they can be planted outdoors in spring. Trying to keep them indoors would be stressful on both you and the plants. Since the plants are fairly tender, having come recently from the garden center, they should be kept from any extreme temperatures. So if the mercury starts dipping into the low 30s, either bring them indoors or throw a blanket on them until it’s in the 40s again.
- Rick shares a good-natured rant on the struggle of opening produce bags in the grocery store. While he got plenty of suggestions on social media, perhaps the best solution is just to grow as much of your own produce as you can.
- Word of the day is leu·cism. Derived from the Ancient Greek word for “white,” it describes the abnormal condition of reduced pigmentation affecting various animals (such as birds, mammals, and reptiles) that is marked by overall pale color or patches of reduced coloring and is caused by a genetic mutation which inhibits melanin and other pigments from being deposited in feathers, hair, or skin. The photo here is from a listener in West Michigan who spotted this leucistic finch in her yard.
- Speaking of birds, here’s a “peck”-uliar story: Peanut is no spring chicken – in fact, she might be the oldest chicken in the world. At twenty years old, the “cluck” is ticking on this old timer.
- Stacey and Rick discuss a new vaccine that has been introduced for honeybees. Added to the royal jelly that drone bees feed the queen, it protects the bees that ingest it and their offshpring.
- Tumbleweeds hit Texas!
- Tumbleweeds begin their lives as little green shrubs called Salsola tragus, aka Russian thistle. There are several other species that turn into “tumbleweeds,” but this particular one is an icon of the American West.
- The death of a Russian thistle marks the beginning of its reproductive cycle. In winter, it breaks off at the stem and begins its journey as a tumbleweed blowing around the desert spreading seeds as it bounces along.
- Tumbleweeds can release up to 250,000 seeds that can rumble through frontier lands for years. Tumbleweeds are edible, and are actually quite palatable! While the plant is young, it can be cooked in the same way you cook collard greens. It is said that much of America’s cattle were saved from starvation during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s due to their ability to eat the invasive thistle.
- That mower is lawn-gone! Elvis, a rescued crocodile who lives at the Australian Reptile Park near Sydney, is estimated to be over 50 years old and has historically been a grumpy animal. When a loud lawnmower violated his, he responded negatively and took the lawnmower, causing keepers to attempt a risky rescue. Be sure to click the link to watch the video – don’t worry, no one was hurt (except maybe the lawnmower…).