What was Hip and Cool in 1988, Not so Cool Now

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In mid June of 1988 when I officially joined the ranks of the green industry or more specifically the nursery business certain plants were cool. These were Sandcherry bushes, Stella d’Oro Daylilies, Burning Bushes, Pear Trees, and Ash trees.All these plants had excellent qualities then. However, due to over planting, new insect problems, and over planting and new insect problems they are not quite as relevant in contemporary gardens.In this article I wanted to suggest some ideas as well as particular plant cultivars that will make good replacements in the future.First would be the Sandcherry Bush also known as a Newport Plum when grown as an ornamental tree. The main problem with this plant is it gets defoliated by Japanese Beetles during the summer. Other problems are it was not meant to be a 3-4’ tall shrub, it’s more like an 8-10” tall ornamental tree and it is short lived. However, the plant has beautiful burgundy red foliage and can be mildly irresistible for the novice gardener when at a garden center. Suitable replacements would be the red foliage forms of Weigela “Wine and Roses”, 4-5’, “Fine Wine”, 3’, “Midnight Wine”, 2’. ‘Fine Wine’ and ‘Midnight Wine are also excellent substitutions for Barberry ‘Crimson Pygmy’. Another superb replacement for the Plum as well as the Burning Bush is Ninebark, which there are two red leaved forms. Summer Wine 5-6’, and ‘Diabolo’, 6-8’. These plants do not have the bug or cultural problems associated with the Sandcherry and Burning Bush. Weigela ‘Wine and Roses’ Ninebark ‘Diabolo’ and ‘Summer Wine’ also come in patio tree form to replace the ‘Newport Plum’.The golden Daylily ‘Stella d’ Oro’ should at least be replaced with ‘Ruby Stella’. ‘Ruby Stella’ is ‘Stella d Oro’s’ red sister. Furthermore there are so many different varieties of hardy perennials at this stage in the game that landscapes of Barberry and daylilies are so 1992 it is just ridiculous not to choose something different. It is also fun to put combinations of plants together that one does not see on every corner in the neighborhood. Often times I think availability of cool new plants and the fear of doing something wrong cause the uninitiated to fall into the trappings of mundane old school combinations of plants. Suggestions of cool perennials to sub in place of daylilies would be Coneflowers, Salvia, Baptesia, and Phlox. There are new varieties of Coneflowers that are red, golden yellow, white and purple doubles, and even orange. There are also some new varieties of Salvia such as ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, which are extremely attractive. Baptesia is a native plant also called False Indigo that I would highly recommend. It comes in white, different shades of blue as well as yellow. Tall garden Phlox is making a comeback with new dwarf varieties that are also powdery mildew resistant. Heights on these plants are in the 18-24” range.Pear trees have become so overplanted I have a fear that they will become prey to some imported bug from Asia such as the Emerald Ash Borer. If this happens we will see a second wave of urban blight not experienced since the chestnut blight or Dutch elm disease during the 1900s. An excellent replacement would be Crabapple ‘Royal Raindrops’. This plant has a spring floral display of dark pink, a unique leaf shape resembling a trident maple, which is burgundy all season long. Unlike other crabapples  the ‘Royal Raindrops’ Crabapple has excellent deep red fall color. ‘Royal Raindrops’ also has excellent disease resistance compared to some of the other Crabapple selections.The Ash was such a good tree for so long it will be hard to replace. One group of trees we are looking at is the Red Maple. This is the one that has green leaves and turns red in the fall. There are some new varieties that are seedless, meaning they do not get the helicopter type seeds you see with other varieties . Therefore they are not “dirty” trees. These plants also have beautiful fall color that ranges from purple red to burgundy red to orange red. Seedless cultivars of red maple would include ‘Somerset’, ‘Sun Valley’ and ‘Brandywine’.We will undoubtedly touch on this topic in future articles. For the sake of brevity and being concise I will conclude this article.            





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