Episode 71 – 2024 Plants of the Year

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

Today, we’re introducing the 2024 Proven Winners Plants of the Year:

Annual of the Year: Supertunia Vista® Jazzberry® petunia

Caladium of the Year: Heart to Heart® ‘Lemon Blush’ Shade Caladium

Perennial of the Year: ‘Pink Profusion’  Salvia nemorosa

Landscape Perennial of the Year: ‘Storm Cloud’ Bluestar Amsonia  

Hosta of the Year: Shadowland® ‘Hudson Bay’

Flowering Shrub of the year: Wine and Spirits™ Weigela 

Rose of the Year: Oso Easy Peasy® Rose

Hydrangea of the Year: Let’s Dance Sky View® Reblooming Hydrangea 

Landscape Shrub of the Year: Fizzy Mizzy® Sweetspire

Houseplant of the Year: Mythic™ Dragonite™ Alocasia 

Of all the shrubs of the year, Fizzy Mizzy itea is the one that I thought would benefit from a little extra background and explanation, because it really is quite a bit different. Itea virginica is known colloquially as Virginia sweetspire, due to its distinctly spire-shaped flowers in late summer. The “Virginia” part comes from the fact that it is indeed native to Virginia as well as the entire Southeast, all the way down to Florida and over to Texas – as well as far north as Illinois and Indiana.

Itea has been kind of a landscape staple since the variety ‘Henry’s Garnet’ was selected by Woodlanders Nursery way back in 1985 – an interesting case that shows that native plant gardening may be trendy, but it certainly isn’t new! It was selected by Mary Henry for its ability to flower far more than wild versions, and also to take on consistent and excellent fall color. The smaller, more landscape-friendly version of Henry’s Garnet, Little Henry, was a plant that we introduced back in the 1990s, when we were still just ColorChoice Shrubs. People loved both of them because they are some of the most shade tolerant flowering shrubs – not just suriving in the shade, but actually flowering well and taking on good fall color in the shade (though of course, more sun favors the development of both!).

Its popularity is due to many good features: fragrant flowers, beautiful red-purple fall color, shade tolerance, thrives in wet soil. Little Henry also offered better winter survival in the colder ends of its range, as its smaller size meant it was typically covered in snow, which insulated it. We then selected Scentlandia itea, which we selected from our breeding program for its unusually strong fragrance. But Fizzy Mizzy looks quite a bit different – its flower spires stick straight up instead of cascading downward, kind of like the effect of opening a fresh bottle of soda. It also has a nice, tidy habit and is much less suckering than other itea – though itea will only sucker if you are growing it under ideal conditions. In less than ideal conditions, it will stay pretty compact.

Some growing tips, if you are interested in adding Fizzy Mizzy itea to your garden:

  • Be patient with itea in spring if you live in a cold climate. It may die back to the ground, like a butterfly bush, but will eventually re-emerge.
  • That said, it does bloom on old wood, so if you live in a cold climate or are planting in an exposed area, opt for a smaller variety like Little Henry or Fizzy Mizzy, and mulch well. These smaller varieties are more likely to be covered by snow during the coldest part of winter, reducing damage. 
  • Fizzy Mizzy itea is hardy in USDA zones 5-9 amd reaches 2-3′ tall and wide. It can grow in full sun (especially if it has sufficient water) to full shade, though in very shady spots, its flowering will be diminished and its fall color muddy. 

If you’d like to add Fizzy Mizzy itea– or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

Sorry we didn’t get to your question last week, Ryan, when the weather here in Michigan was still mild and there was no snow on the ground – by the time this show airs, we’re looking at 8″or more of snow on the ground. But that said, the answer to this question is that it’s always better to get your bulbs planted than to try to store them until fall. Bulbs are traditionally planted in fall simply because this gives the plant plenty of time to grow roots before it blooms in spring, but even if you were to plant bulbs here in January, they’d still be able to have some root growth before spring, and should bloom without issue. While the ideal would be to put the bulbs in the ground in their permanent spot, if that’s not possible, it’s perfectly fine to pot them up into some plastic containers and potting mix, water well, and leave outside for 6-8 weeks. At that point, you can bring them inside to force and enjoy, or even use them to fill out some nice spring containers with pansies and the like. 

Yikes! This is definitely not a great situation from a plant health perspective. Flooding is always bad for most plants, but is especially detrimental in winter because plants have no means of off-gassing the excess water. When they are photosynthesizing, their stomata are open and water vapor is lost, but when they are dormant, it’s just soggy soil with no oxygen to the roots, which few plants can tolerate. While normally it would not be recommended to work flooded soil, if you want a chance at saving your plants, trying to remove them is your best chance. I would suggest potting them into containers with some nice potting mix, which provides lots of oxygen to the roots, and then if they live, planting them elsewhere in spring. If you are going to plant in a spot that is so prone to flooding, I’d recommend sticking to those that can definitely tolerate periods of standing water, like these

A flooded lawn in a suburban backyard, with trees reflected in the standing water and a birdbath to the center left.

Arborvitae have many good qualities: they provide fast-growing evergreen coverage, they smell delightful, the most popular species are native to North America, and they’re pretty adaptable to light and soil. However, whether its an inherent trait or due to their ubiquity, they are also susceptible to a number of pests and diseases. Diagnosing pests and diseases is always a gamble when you can’t see the actual plant (and sometimes, even if you can!), but my first thought on this particular plant is arborvitae leaf miner, which you can check for this spring (roughly April-June) if you have a magnifying glass. There are some other possibilities to research and consider: spider mites (which can also be seen with a magnifying glass), bagworms, kabatina blight, and needle blight

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above. Due to high volume, we may not get to your question, so if you need an answer quickly, please reach out via the Proven Winners website.

Branching News - Rick

Congratulations, Proven Winners Color Choice Shrubs! Pugster Amethyst buddleia, a Proven Winners ColorChoice variety, has earned the 2024 Flower of the Year award from the Japan Flower Selections Association (JFA).

The 2024 Pantone Color of the Year is Peach Fuzz.  An appealing peach hue softly nestled between pink and orange. A warm and cozy shade highlighting our desire for togetherness with others or for enjoying a moment of stillness and the feeling of sanctuary this creates. A couple of our favorite Peach Fuzz-colored plants include Double Take Peach thornless quince, At Last rose, and Flavorette Honey-Apricot rose.

This week’s Lim-A-Rick celebrates Peach Fuzz:

The decor world all abuzz,

It’s what a trend usually does,

As a figure of speech,

This one is a peach,

Appealing and covered in fuzz. 

Somewhere in between orange and pink,

Peach is the colorful sync,

More than nutritious,

It’s downright delicious,

When added to a drink. 

This development I find to be pivotal,

A fruit and color so mythical,

and so for a groan,

I say to “peach their own”

…that peach pun was downright “pitiful.”

One of the world’s top 10 food and beverage flavor manufacturers has identified the official 2024 Flavor of the Year: Ube

Everything is better, even in fitness training territory, if you are in the open air.

Pink rose of Sharon flowers bloom on a plant with variegated foliage.

Episode 92 – Weeding by Example

Ah, weeds – maybe the #1 thing that discourages people from gardening. But weeds are interesting and become a lot easier to manage when you apply some basic IPM principles. Featured shrub: Sugar Tip rose of Sharon.

Read More »