Oso Easy® Urban Legend® Rosa takes honors at Biltmore

If you read last week's blog about the GWA Region III "Cleveland Grows" event, you remember that I mentioned the "Meet the Trade Editors" panel discussion with representatives from the green industry press. They suggested that we create videos to go with articles we send to them and I just happened to be getting ready to send a press release about an award one of our lovely little roses had earned. Well it has been picked up and it's one more fun way we tell the stories about the plants we love.

See the video here, on the Floral Daily website.

We talked about this rose in June, but I think it deserves another look in the context of the Biltmore International Rose Trials:

Oso Easy® Urban Legend® Rosa is a bright-red rose with non-stop blooms and all the disease resistance you'd expect from a Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrub. And it's getting noticed as a top contender in the rose world with three awards under its proverbial belt.

You might wonder why it's called Urban Legend? Well, the story is this beautiful, bright little rose is the perfect addition to urban gardens because its prickly thorns will discourage burglars and other undesirables when planted under windows and in hedgerows.

It reminds me of my mother-in-law, who has planted a large barberry hedge by her house to keep unwanted visitors away from side windows. I have to say, the last place I'd want to find myself is in the middle of a barberry hedge!

But my guess is the rose is also named for its prolific blooms and ease of growth, even in urban settings where conditions are not typically as cushy as in home gardens.

On Sat, Sept. 29 the 2018 Biltmore International Rose Trials took place at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. Oso Easy Urban Legend Rosa was awarded the Lord Burleigh Award for Best Disease Resistance, plus the Chauncey Beadle Award for Best Shrub Rose.

The Biltmore’s Lord Burleigh Award for Best Disease Resistance is named after a descendant of George Vanderbilt, Biltmore’s builder/visionary. I asked LeeAnn Donnelly, the Biltmore's senior PR manager, about the origin of the award name and here's what she had to say about it:

"Lord Burleigh was the original Cecil ancestor (William Cecil, Lord Burghley) who was related to and served as an advisor to Queen Elizabeth 1.

How does that relate to Biltmore? George Vanderbilt, Biltmore’s builder/visionary, and his wife, Edith, had one child, daughter Cornelia. Cornelia married British diplomat the Honorable John Francis Amherst Cecil in 1924. He was the third son of Lord Cecil and the Baroness Amherst of Hackney, making him a descendant of William Cecil, Lord Burghley."

The Biltmore's museum curators say the spelling of Lord Burghley’s sir name is often spelled “Burleigh” hence, the award spelling. 

With more information on the Biltmore's website to go on, I discovered that Chauncey Beadle, the namesake for the award for best shrub rose, was an avid azalea collector and horticulturist hired at Biltmore in 1890, who later became the estate superintendent.

I listened in to the Biltmore International Rose Trials on the Rose Chat podcast and I have to say, this is an event I'm now eager to attend! More information, including a full list of award-winning roses at the trials, can be found here.

These two additional awards bring Oso Easy Urban Legend's total to three awards announced this year, having been honored with the 2019 Award of Excellence by the American Rose Society in June.

Oso Easy Urban Legend­ is a tough, landscape rose with true-red, semi-double flowers that bloom in early summer and continue through the first hard frost. A crown of lush yellow stamens in the center adds interest and contrast. Like all of the roses in the Oso Easy series, the dark green glossy foliage resists powdery mildew and black spot.

Bred by Christopher Hugh Warner in the United Kingdom and released by Spring Meadow Nursery/Proven Winners ColorChoice, Oso Easy Urban Legend Rosa is one of 12 varieties in the Oso Easy rose line.

And that's a wrap! Until next week, never stop growing. - Natalie

Cleveland Grows! GWA Region III meeting and tours

Happy midweek!

I finally had a chance to update my online photo album with the spectacular photos for the Region III meeting and Cleveland Grows! tours.

You may notice that several of the photos are much nicer than my usual work. That's because I didn't take them all. I had a pro with me, my co-worker and partner in crime, Adriana Robinson, came with me on this trip and she took a good many of the pics shared here and on the album.

Like this one! An eye-popping photo of the entrance of our first stop, Willoway Nurseries, Inc.

If you arrived early you had time to self-tour their display gardens which was worth getting there an hour early! The day was perfect for walking around the gardens and inspecting plants. I even tried my first goji berry. It wasn't my favorite. Then we were herded inside for a presentation, lunch and our Region III meeting. One of the things that fascinated me most in Danny Gouge's presentation was the infrastructure they've created for irrigation applications. Stormwater runoff is collected throughout the nursery facility and stored in water containment ponds, creating recycled water for irrigation. This, plus large portions of production that has been dedicated to pot-in-pot growing, is the future of greenhouse production!

We were treated to a nice lunch during our meeting, then we hopped on a buggy and toured some of their greenhouses (pics are in my online photo album). I'm sure we all look a little younger from the natural dermabrasion we experienced when the wind kicked up on that part of the tour! We came back to the main building and there was gifts, gifts, gifts! Bulbs, starter plants, Corona pruners (here's a link to a video Tweet I made about mine) and more. Susan and Maria did this thing up right.

Our next stop was Petitti Garden Center in Avon, OH. This is just one of NINE locations! Apparently, the location we were visiting used to be an amusement park, which was renovated into the retail center and the beautiful cathedral-like greenhouse was added. We had about 1/2 hour to shop and I went home with grass seed, orange crocus bulbs, two pairs of fuzzy socks from the fuzzy sock Christmas tree, and a dress! Adriana got the coolest grafted cactus... Yes, they had a wide selection of items - fortunately, we didn't have a ton of time so I couldn't buy out the store, but I got a good start.

And as you can see from another one of Adriana's great pics, they had lots of gorgeous Proven Winners ColorChoice shrubs to choose from. We noticed one of our fellow garden writers from Tennessee had her car filled to the doorhandles with some stunning PWCC hydrangea paniculata!

Our final tour stop was Green Circle Growers. Adriana and I decided to take the long way around when we missed our exit and discovered the next one was 18 miles away! Luckily we were able to easily catch up to the tour at their Just Add Ice Orchids production facility. Of course, it was a feast for the eyes, but it was also fascinating to see their automated sorting and potting lines at work. Also, like Willoway, all of the water they use for growing is 100% recycled and reused. They also have retention ponds that collect 1.5 million gallons of fresh water for every one inch of rainfall received and they use this rainwater in their growing facilities. Seeing all the orchids was spectacular, but I'm such a huge geek that if given the chance, I'd have tromped across the fields to see those ponds.

Bobbie Schwartz talks
about her back garden
The day closed with a delicious dinner at The Hotel at Oberlin in adorable downtown Oberlin, sponsored by Green Circle Growers. We enjoyed a "Meet the Trade Editors" panel discussion with Matt McClellan, Managing Editor of Nursery Management magazine and Janeen Wright, Managing Editor of Greenhouse Grower magazine. My favorite takeaway? Include video with your stories and press releases! I just sent out a press release and Adriana and I created a video to go with it.

Then it was on to the hotel where we stayed overnight. The 40-minute drive felt short as we talked about the interesting things we'd done and seen that day. The morning held private garden tours (photos here) and we managed to squeeze in the beautiful gardens of Bobbie Schwartz. It's a long drive back to West Michigan and I had a personal commitment on Saturday evening that couldn't be missed, so we had to duck out before the final garden tour, but I'll be looking for photos!

Until next week...never stop growing.  - Natalie

Plant of the Week: Infinitini® Lagerstroemia

My co-worker Adriana and I just got back from the Cleveland Grows! Tour and GWA regional meeting last weekend, and I'm still processing all of the great information (and fun gifts!) we received.

More about all of that next week...in the meantime, here is a repost of Jane's Plant of the Week,
Infinitini® Lagerstroemia.


If only summer would go on forever...Infinitini® style.
Infinitini® Watermelon

But it won't. Fall is here.

Really, that's OK. Fall means vibrant colors, fresh apples, and more forgiving clothing. I see you, fleeces and sweaters.

However, the Infinitini® Lagerstroemia series is having a hard time letting go of summer. These plants have loved our very warm September and are blooming vibrantly when many other plants are kind of over it.

It's done fine for us here at the nursery (zone 5b-6a) but is not a reliable winter-hardy plant. Luckily, it's a great container plant. Quart-sized pots planted this spring filled out and bloomed quite nicely by midsummer. They handled the heat far better than many annuals would have.

The Infinitini® crapemyrtles are hardy to zone 6 and grow 2-4' tall and wide. Infinitini® Purple may get a little bigger. They will want full sun to be at their best.
Infinitini® Purple
Now is a great time to review gardens.
I know, fall is busy. Busier than spring in a lot of ways. My own yard is a real mess, and shorter days make it that much harder to get things cleaned up.

Yet autumn is an excellent time to really evaluate plantings. Not only do some plants really look their best in late summer and fall, but it's a perfect time to see what performed well and what failed to live up to expectations. 

Maybe this is an annual that just didn't make you as happy as you had hoped, or a more permanent plant that really needs some attention now if it's going to look good next year.

You also have to be honest with yourself: did you place the plant in question in the right spot? In the optimistic days of spring, it's easy to convince yourself that there's enough space or daylight for a plant that you really, really want. Luckily, fall is a great time to move plants to a more suitable spot. Maybe when I clean up the weeds I'll find one. 

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles.

GWA Chicago Story Tours - day two

GWA Chicago Story Tours - South Side Saga and Bus #3

Well, the time has come. It's the story you've all been waiting to hear (or at least the story I've been waiting to tell.) Just as a recap, in August, the GWA Annual Conference & Expo took place on Navy Pier. Part of the fun when you throw in with the Independent Garden Communicator events are the much-anticipated garden tours. 

As I mentioned in last week's blog, while working the Proven Winners ColorChoice booth at the show, I was approached by Beth Botts who said she was looking for a fill-in bus docent for the second day of the tours and that Diane Blazek had recommended me. Well, how could I say no? Diane Blazek not only remembered me (remember, I'm pretty new to this group); she thought enough of me that she entrusted one of the tours to me! Plus I was told I wouldn't be on my own - another person was also assigned to the bus and we'd do the job together. I was thrilled to say yes. After all, how hard could it be?

The first day of tours went swimmingly. We had a great time seeing all the sights and I paid special attention to the docents, in case I could get any tips along the way. I wanted to make sure that Diane and Beth felt like they had placed their trust in the right person! 

So Thursday came, I found my way back down to the station where we had boarded the buses the day before and looked for Beth, or someone who would have my script for the tour. This is when I discovered I was on my own...my partner had gotten sick so I was flying solo. Um, okay, no worries, I thought...just get me that script and I'll start studying. No sooner said than done. "Hmmmm....this script doesn't seem to have any times noted on it. How do I know when to start talking, or when to tell people to get back on the bus?" 

I was querying this when none other than the spectacular Kirk Brown walked up to me, script in his hand. What luck! He was a fill-in docent for the other bus and we could compare notes. He immediately started sharing all the facts he knows about the places we'd be stopping and I instantly felt bad for the people on my bus. I'd be reading from a script and he'd be acting out the history of Chicago with obvious aplumb. He probably brought costumes. 

Long intro to a story short, Kirk did manage to get the times written on his script, and I was attempting to copy them over when we found out the buses were going to be a half hour late.

Apparently, the buses went to the first stop on the tour before coming to Navy Pier, opened the doors and asked where all the people were? To which the people waiting for the bus responded: "I thought they were on the bus?" Oops... Not quite sure how the buses could have thought we'd all get there to begin with, but there was no time for contemplation - Kirk and I are standing in the bowels of Navy Pier with about 200 hot and unhappy bus riders and we had to regroup!

So, we have a 3.5-hour tour and we've just lost 1/2 hour of it. It is decided somewhere along the way that the buses will now take the tour in tandem when they arrive. This is significant because my script is in a different order than Kirk's, so we reorder, and starting chopping time off each stop, so we can still see close to everything that was scheduled. It will be fine....breathe...everything will be fine.

The buses arrive and they are both filled quickly. I am pleased and relieved to discover that none other than Becky Heath has been recruited to be my seat partner and I feel like once again, I'm in good hands. Now I just need to be sure the rest of the bus feels that way.

The JC Hutchins House and Garden
Off we go to the first private home tour. I read the script..." the home was designed by architect Charles Sumner Frost for the President of the Illinois Steel Company..." We disembark at the gate of a gorgeous, large brick home that had been thoughtfully renovated after it had fallen into disrepair when it had been a school, and then a boarding house, for many years. 
Pond at Kossiakoff home
Mrs. K. was so gracious, with snacks and drinks set up inside and an invitation to even use the facilities if we needed! It was such a peaceful place, with the pond and stream and shade trees, it was just what we needed after a somewhat stressful start to our trip. 

An interesting fact about their garden is that the side yard that now was a beautiful, colorful garden, buzzing with bees and alight with butterflies, was a blacktop playground when they bought the house. They had all the blacktop removed to restore the grounds to the lovely private garden - I imagine it looks much like it might have looked when the house was built in 1894.  

By now you may be thinking...this isn't so bad! Sounds like this trip got off to a rocky start but is going pretty smoothly. Let's talk about the 56th Street Gardens...

Next on the agenda, we set off for three gardens that are situated back-to-back and dubbed "56th Street Gardens." I'm not sure why they are called that. They are NOT on 56th street, none of them. Our bus driver, Mike, (who has a splendid accent and in his defense, was doing is best with the info he was given) stops on a residential street, points up the street to the right and tells us, "the house is up that street, to the right." Um, okay... So we all disembark, take a right, and start walking down, yes, 56th street. Right away I can see this isn't going to work, there are no HOUSES, just apartment buildings. So I ask everyone to wait, run back to the bus and ask Mike for the exact address of the first house (it's not on my sheet) - he doesn't have it.
Ulrich garden
You must remember here, we have not just one, but TWO tours buses unloading at this point...I'm like a salmon swimming upstream to get back to the bus before everyone gets around the corner only to discover we don't have a clue where we're going. And some point in my racing back and forth, someone says, "that's Caroline Ulrich's house" pointing back to a house that is right in front of where the second tour bus is parked - it's supposed to be the LAST house we tour, but we tell everyone to start there, and we'll go backward through the tour of the three houses. So what I have now is about 200 people filing into one small garden and heading toward the back gate, where they are supposed to be able to walk across the alley to the next garden. 

So I race through the yard to the alley to open the next gate. What was I thinking? It's like Lady or the Tiger back there! All these gates, you can't see a thing through them...who knows if I open one what lies behind it? (Besides the whole trespassing thing...) A few people are now exiting Carolyn's backyard into the alley, it's hot and not very pleasant there. All I can think about is 200 people filling up the alley like a sardine can...so I make a break for it. I figure if I sprint around the block to the fronts of the houses on the next block, I'll see that right one and can proceed to open the correct gate.

Bingo. As I round the corner, just a few houses in, there's Kirk on the porch of one of the houses trying to explain our extreme tardiness to a very unhappy Caroline Ulrich - that must be it! He's definitely the man for the job, and there's no time for pleasantries, I dash by them, through the yard, to the back gate and pop it open! 
Kris B.'s shady garden

Just like it was meant to be, the tours stroll through the open gate as I welcome them to Ron G.'s garden which features over 137 varieties of vegetables, all cataloged by name and number. Carolyn and Kirk guide them through the garden, and all I have to do now is figure out which is the third garden.

Back through the gate into the alley, I peer at the gardens on either side of Carolyn's house. Which looks most like the description? Honestly, they're both lovely, but I use my detective skills. The two houses were built by the same architect, but the neighboring garden is described as carefully designed and "more shaded." Plus, there's a high-rise apartment building next door. I choose a house and try the gate, it's unlocked.

It's time now to usher people back through Ron's vegetable garden, through the alley, to the bus. I've managed to ID the house (or at least I hope I did) and the tour can stroll through Kris. B's open gate and see that final garden on the way back to the bus. 

Whew! Crisis (mostly) averted! Smooth sailing from here, right?

Hold my beer...

Out in front of the two buses, an informal gathering of guides (at this point there's nothing remotely formal about what we're doing here) decides we need to go to the Garden of the Phoenix, a Japanese Garden on Wooded Island; created for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, AKA, the Chicago World's Fair. We were going to skip it because we weren't sure if there'd be time, but we know there's a park district guide waiting for us, so we set off. 

We head toward the Museum of Science and Industry and I read the portions of the script pertaining to the World's Fair, and that it is the only original remaining building from the exhibition. We circle the general area of where we thought the garden entrance would be but we can't find it, so our bus driver pulls into the back parking lot of the museum to regroup. At that, the other bus pulls into the lot, and as quick as you please passes us and pulls back out again, taking the lead. Mike the bus driver wasn't super-pleased, but we followed, thinking we must have missed something. 

I will say, we did drive by the statue of The Republic, which is quite a sight. And where did we end up? Right back in the rear lot of the Museum of Science and Industry. I immediately tell my bus they can disembark, because there are a few cool things to see over the bridge in the back. While they snap photos, Kirk asks what appears to be a grounds crew worker, or security worker how we get to the island. The worker proceeds to tell us the bridges are closed and you can't get on the island at all. Hm.

Back on the bus.
We proceed to the last stop, the Burnham Wildlife Corridor. I flip on the bus PA and ask my fellow riders to bow their heads and join me in a short moment of silence as we pray that we reach the wildlife corridor safely. And we do. 

A park district guide meets us there...she's a little distressed that we never made it to the Garden of the Phoenix because there's has indeed been a park guide waiting for us there for half the day (apparently we were misinformed during our short visit to the museum parking lot). We explain to her that we really did try - but she could never know the full extent of the complexities of our day.

Dubbed "the largest stretch of natural area along Chicago’s lakefront." the Wildlife Center is a native prairie, savanna, and woodland ecosystems that provides healthy, diverse habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.  

Groomed trails lead you through native flowers and grasses that are easily as tall as you are. It's a strange feeling, you can hear the cars rushing by in the distance on Lakeshore Drive, but all you see is natural area and the wildlife that calls it home. It was strangely peaceful and lovely. 

At that, our tour was ended. We made it back to the hotel with no significant drama and my first time as a bus docent had ended. Would I do it again? Absolutely. How hard could it be, right?

So until next week...never stop growing.

- Natalie

P.S. Considering my day, you'll understand that there aren't as many photos from day two, but you can still click here to see them all.

GWA Chicago Story Tours - day one

Today I'm excited to finally start blogging about the trip I took to Chicago a few weeks ago, where we worked two, count 'em two, shows at once!

Invincibelle Spirit display
In August, the Independent Garden Center show and the GWA Annual Conference & Expo both converged on Navy Pier and they definitely kept me, and my coworker Adriana on our toes.

Our journey began at Navy Pier on August 13 when we hauled materials to set up booths for the IGC and GWA shows.

We have been working hard to get the word out about reaching the $1 million donation goal for breast cancer research through the Invincibelle Spirit Campaign for a Cure. To that end, we set up a display in the outer lobby and I made the announcement prior to the Charlie Hall keynote address.

We also set up a pretty pink booth a the GWA show, where we gave away nearly 300 plants! It was great meeting new people and reconnecting with friends I have met over the past few months, and I'm eager to become more involved with this fun new family of plant lovers.

So when I was approached on Tuesday to help with day two of the garden tours, I was all in! Apparently one of the bus docents couldn't make it and I had experienced the tours in Austin not long ago - so I felt confident I could read the script prior to each stop and make sure we didn't leave anyone behind. How hard could it be, right? (Hint, see next week's post, "Day two of the Story Tours and the saga of Bus 3."

But let's not get ahead of ourselves...

Day One 
of the garden tours
began at 12:30 on August 16 when we boarded one of the four big tour buses at Navy Pier and set out for our first stop, the Garfield Park Conservatory. Constructed between 1906 and 1908, the conservatory has seen many renovations and has changed hands over time. Now owned and managed by the Chicago Park District, it remains an urban oasis in "Chicago's backyard" serving its community as a free resource that they can access 365 days a year.

I was with a group that chose the guided tours led by one of the park district volunteers, I was completely in awe of all the unique and interesting plants that were housed in this historic site. Here are a few of my favorites:

Show House
Scheelea Palm
The largest room the in the conservatory, the Palm House, held many beautiful surprises such as the Scheelea Palm (Attalea phalerata) which is the biggest, oldest palm in the conservatory. The palm dates back to 1926, when it was sprouted from a seed collected on an expedition to Brazil. The tree, which would be much larger in nature, has survived two major room renovations but now that its tallest fronds are brushing the ceiling we were told it won’t last much longer. The good news is a baby Scheelea sits just north of the original that can take its place once the larger one is gone.

Nymphaea thermarum
Moving from largest to smallest, the conservatory is also is home to the Nymphaea thermarum - the world's smallest water lily. The pads (leaves) of N. thermarum can measure less than 1/2" across, which is less than 10% the width of the next smallest species in the genus Nymphaea. Also known as the pygmy Rwandan water lily, this plant is extinct in the wild and only grows in damp mud rather than water. You can see we were a little early for the flower, but it is about the size of a nickel when fully open.
Garfield Park Conservatory
The next stop on our tour was the Farm on Ogden, which is a project of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Lawndale Christian Health Center. Where do I begin... this project does everything. From sustainable growing to education programs, to a place where the community can get affordable (and sometimes free) organic produce, this place is the epitome of how to do a community program right.

Seedlings in sprouting beds

Aquaponic system

In the food production program, seedlings are sprouted in coconut husk on a rock bed under purple LED lights. They are then transferred to a 50,000-gallon aquaponic system which can grow up to 2500 heads of lettuce at a time in raft beds. Big barrels of tilapia produce waste that feeds the produce, so the entire system is organic and self-supporting.

Other programs include the North Lawndale youth farm, complete with raised beds bursting with produce, an onsite bee pod from which beeswax products are made, a commercial teaching kitchen and an aggregation kitchen where produce can be cleaned and prepped for retail sale in the farm stand, or provided free to those who have a fresh food "prescription" from the Lawndale Christian Health Center through their Veggie RX program.

But we're not done yet! This 'little farm that could' also runs a job training initiative for Chicago Public School students, ex-offenders, and future urban farmers. Participants get hands-on experience in farming, food safety, and cooking and nutrition through Windy City Harvest's urban agriculture and certificate programs.

There is a lot of action taking place in this relatively small city lot!

Finally, we visited Ping Tom Memorial Park. The park's 17-acre site was originally a Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad yard located along the edge of the South Branch of the Chicago River in the Armour Square Community. In 1998, the Chicago Park District began transforming the old railyard into a beautiful rolling green space, taking full advantage of the impressive river views.

Today, Ping Tom Memorial Park holds a children's playground, community gathering areas, and Chinese landscape design elements.

The park was named in honor of the leading force behind its creation, Chinatown's most noted civic leader, Ping Tom (1935-1995). A lifelong resident of Chinatown, Ping Tom formed the Chinese American Development Corporation in 1984.

The park is home to 2.9 acres of native prairie and wetland habitat, supporting local wildlife, birds and other pollinators.

A pagoda offers a fantastic space for picnics and other leisure activities, and spaces that may otherwise be an eyesore have been beautified with art that is a collaboration of artists and the community, with the goal of bridging different cultures.

So that's day one of the GWA story tours in a nutshell! Click here to see all my photos from day one, and I'll be back next week with my account of the Day 2 Story Tours, otherwise known as The Saga of Bus #3. 

Until next week...never stop growing!


Plant of the Week, and a quick look at Cultivate

Oh my how the week has flown! I had big plans last week to start posting my photos from the trips I took in August. These include the Cultivate Conference in Ohio, the IGC show and GWA conference and tours in Chicago, and the Grand Garden show on Mackinac Island, from which we just returned last week.

However, duty calls, and although I have managed to post the photos of the last two trips on my online album, I haven't had the time to actually blog about them. So that will have to wait until next week when I can give each trip the time and attention they deserve.

Waiting for keynote to begin
Since the Cultivate conference resulted in the fewest photos, here's a brief look at what kept me busy while we were in Columbus, OH:

Invincibelle Campaign display in Proven Winners booth
Invincibelle hydrangeas on keynote speaker stage
We made our official announcement that, through the cooperation of garden centers across North America, the Invincibelle Spirit Campaign for a Cure has reached its $1 million donation goal to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

I had the honor to join owner of Spring Meadow Nursery, Dale Deppe, to make the announcement prior to the "State of the Industry" keynote address.

Throughout the conference, Proven Winners staff was decked out in pink polos and pink displays could be seen on the keynote stage, in the Proven Winners booth, and in the Spring Meadow Nursery booth.

GWA Connect mtg.
Of course, it was also great to see everyone at the Assn. for Garden Communicators (GWA) Connect meeting, and participate in the great plant giveaway!

With that, let's get to Jane's plant of the week, a new arborvitae we call Tater Tot™ (formerly Tiny Tot).  - Natalie

Coming to a garden center near you...

You'll begin to see Tater TotThuja occidentalis in garden centers next year and it's sure to be a big hit. It's a nice little evergreen ball for landscapes and gardens and it also looks great in a deco container for patios and entryways. You can use it to line a walkway or narrow garden bed...and it stays 1-2' tall and wide, which is a great size for a lot of yards. It's featured in this Garden Answer video, which shows how it can fit into a bed.

Tater Tot™ is a seedling of 'Brandon' and has good hardiness and burn resistance (it's hardy to zone 3). It will grow well in either full sun or partial shade.

Tater Tot™ is cute, hardy and easy to grow, and although it reaches its full size quickly, it never gets too big. Just like those little ones headed off to school, they grow up so fast...only this one will never get taller than you or steal your shoes.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles. 

2019 Plants of the Year

Hello and Happy Monday!

This week we're on Mackinac Island for the Grand Garden Show!

It's been a busy weekend for me, returning from a vacation in Vermont on Thursday, packing up my youngest for her first year of college and moving her into the dorms at Western Michigan University Saturday morning, and then driving a little over 280 miles north to the island Saturday evening. But I wouldn't dream of missing either thing.

So this week, since we'll have the 2019 Plants of the Year all on display at the Grand Garden Show, I'm devoting the blog to them. It's the first year we've expanded the shrub program to include a Rose of the Year, a Hydrangea of the Year and a Flowering Shrub of the Year, alongside our already popular Landscape Plant of the Year program.

Why have a Plant of the Year program? Our top growers help us identify varieties they feel are going to be great garden performers and best sellers - we then take that information and back it up with increased marketing efforts, via the Plant of the Year program. We hope this creates increased awareness of these special varieties so that gardeners will seek them out at their local garden center. This helps garden center operators to feel confident they are stocking the varieties people want to buy each season.

So without further ado, here are the Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs of the year for 2019.

The 2019 Landscape Shrub of the Year is Low Scape® Mound Aronia This dwarf Aronia is adaptable to most soils and offers dark glossy foliage, loads of white flowers in spring, black summer fruit and intense red foliage in autumn. Developed by Dr. Mark Brand of the University of Connecticut, Low Scape® Mound Aronia is a native plant and is ideal for low-maintenance, mass planting.

The new At Last® rose has been selected as the 2019 Rose of the Year. Its romantic, fully-fragrant, apricot-peach blooms, combined with the easy care of a landscape rose, makes this a truly outstanding variety. Glossy, deep green foliage that stays free of black spot and powdery mildew, plus a rounded habit with self-cleaning blooms, makes this Rose of the Year an ideal low-maintenance choice for landscapes and flower gardens. 

At Last® rose was developed by Colin Horner in the United Kingdom and has proved itself to be a consumer favorite, claiming the top spot in the 2016 Shrub Madness championship.

The 2019 Hydrangea of the Year is Fire Light® Hydrangea paniculata. Held upright on strong, supportive stems, its panicles are packed with florets which transform from pure white to deep pomegranate-pink as the season progresses. This very hardy hydrangea is adaptable to most well-drained soils and is also a Shrub Madness Champion from the 2015 competition.

Finally, the 2019 Flowering Shrub of the Year, Sonic Bloom® Weigela,1 boasts the strongest reblooming ever seen in weigela. With loads of flowers in May followed by waves of blooms until frost, Sonic Bloom® Weigela are good additions to mixed borders and make a great low-foundation planting. Sonic Bloom® Weigela comes in four flower colors, pearl, red, pink and the lighter pure pink.
1Sonic Bloom® is a registered trademark of the Syngenta Group Company.

Proven Winners® also has released a 2019 Hosta, Perennial and an Annual Plant of the Year. Those varieties will also be on display at the Grand Garden Show. Want to know more about the show? Here is a link to a terrific video tour of the show from Laura at Garden Answer. But be careful! Once you watch you'll be wanting to get tickets for next year!

I'll bring back some great photos for next Monday, until then...never stop growing.