Plants of the Week: Pearl Glam and Purple Pearls Callicarpa

Crisp days, apple picking, maybe a little discreet Oktoberfesting - fall is wonderful. The plants of autumn are fabulous, too. I like flowers as much as the next person, but vibrant fall foliage colors and richly colored autumnal berries really appeal to me.

Some plants, like Callicarpa (beautyberry), are at their best in fall. It's unfortunate that they can be overlooked earlier in the season when people are seduced by the flashy colors of spring. Smart gardeners who have planned for four seasons know to plant some fall features in their landscapes.

Pearl Glam beautyberry from Proven Winners ColorChoice
White flowers give way to bring purple berries on Pearl Glam® beautyberry.

While older varieties didn't do much in the landscape until fall, Pearl Glam® and Purple Pearls® beautyberries have interesting purple foliage during the growing season. They both have spectacular berry set, and nicer habits than older varieties for a better container display at retail. Purple Pearls® has distinctive pink flowers, too.

While Callicarpa isn't very fussy as far as soil goes, you will want to put them in full sun for the best berry production. Pearl Glam® and Purple Pearls® will have better foliage color in full sun, too. Both are hardy to USDA Zone 5, and will grow 4-5' tall and wide.

Purple Pearls beautyberry from Proven Winners ColorChoice
The purple fruit of Purple Pearls® beautyberry are a great addition to fall flower arrangements.

Callicarpa is a wonderful addition to gardens and commercial landscapes. It's a pretty adaptable plant, and has good deer-resistance. Whether used as a specimen plant or a hedge, it's a lovely plant for gardens. Those berries are nice in cut arrangements, too.

Pearl Glam beautyberry from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Pearl Glam® beautyberry grows 4-5' tall.

When the rest of the world is glowing in oranges and reds, isn't it fun to have a plant that is rocking purple? Birds will eventually get around to eating the berries, but it isn't one of their favorites so you should be able to enjoy the display for a while.

Finally, please check out this great video from Garden Answer. Laura really shows what a great plant Callicarpa is.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Still Waters Clematis

Still Waters Clematis from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Given the tumultuous waters of recent weather reports, a calming thought or two seems in order.

Still Waters™ clematis is a cool, relaxing plant that's perfect for adding some serenity to gardens. The large violet-blue flowers are a delightful contrast with dark-leafed plants like Black Lace® elderberry.

Unlike other clematis varieties you may have grown, it blooms on both old and new wood so you don't need to consult a chart before pruning it. Actually, you can get away without pruning it at all (or just cut it back to about 2.5' in spring.) Either way, it will flower from late spring to late summer.

Hardy to USDA Zone 5, it will grow in full sun or partial shade. You can expect it to get 4-7' tall on a fence or trellis.

Still Waters Clematis from Proven Winners ColorChoice

We could use some still waters right now.

First Harvey, then Irma - it's been a rough hurricane season. We certainly hope our friends who have been in the paths of these storms are safe and the damage to your homes and businesses is minimal.

When Mother Nature throws hurricanes, wildfires, and other extreme weather at us, we gain even more of an appreciation of plants that don't need special treatment. Really, even if we aren't dealing with crazy rain and wind most of us don't have time to coddle our plants.

For a long time clematis were in the high-maintenance plant category for many people. To be sure, if clematis are happy they're pretty easy going, but figuring out if you've got the right conditions for the plant and then identifying the correct pruning technique for it may be intimidating. Not oh-I-decided-to-die-today-for-no-reason frustrating like a Daphne, but still a little more demanding than a Spiraea.

That's why we're happy to have several easy-to-grow varieties like Still Waters™ available.

If you're in need of some clematis advice for older varieties, here's a bulletin from Oregon State University Extension.

And if you're staring down a cultivar with some cryptic warning about pruning groups, here's an explanation of them from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Oso Easy Lemon Zest rose

Who doesn't like a yellow rose? The only acceptable answer is people who haven't grown a good one yet. Those people need to try Oso Easy® Lemon Zest rose

Oso Easy Lemon Zest rose from Proven Winners ColorChoice

Like the other Oso Easy® roses, it's a disease-resistant selection with a tidy habit and copious blooms. Unlike other yellow roses, this variety's blooms stay yellow throughout the life cycle of the flower. Even when the petals shatter, they're yellow, not the color of sour milk.

Oso Easy Lemon Zest rose from Proven Winners ColorChoice

Oso Easy® Lemon Zest is hardy to USDA Zone 4 and grows 2-3' tall and wide. It earned an ARS Award of Excellence in the No Spray category in 2016. A yellow rose that you don't need to spray - hooray!

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Clethra

Vanilla Spice Clethra from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs
Vanilla Spice® summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)

August is when you notice things that you otherwise overlook. Like graham crackers. If you don't have a preschooler in the house you probably don't buy them regularly. But when August rolls around and you realize that s'more season is drawing to a close, you go on a mission to the cookie aisle.

Clethra (summersweet) is kind of like that, too. Not being a super showy plant in spring, it can be overlooked by the casual garden center shopper. That's too bad, because the fragrance of Clethra flowers is as sweet and enjoyable as the most perfect campfire s'more.

Sugartina 'Crystalina' Clethra from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs
Sugartina® 'Crystalina' summersweet

Sugartina® 'Crystalina' Clethra alnifolia is an improved 'Hummingbird' with a consistent, dense habit and dark green foliage. It's a tidy little mound that fits nicely into most landscapes without needing pruning.

While Sugartina® 'Crystalina' has lots of fragrant white summer flowers, if you want something even showier check out Vanilla Spice®. It has huge blooms whose flowers are roughly double the size of typical Clethra flowers.

The blooms of Vanilla Spice summersweet
are double the typical size.
Sugartina® 'Crystalina' Clethra grows 2.5-3' tall and wide and makes a great mass planting or groundcover. At 3-6' tall, Vanilla Spice® Clethra is better as a hedge than a groundcover, although either can be tucked into the landscape as a specimen or small group. Both are hardy to USDA Zone 4 and will grow in full sun or partial shade.

I was happy to see lots of Clethra when I visited the Boston area earlier this summer. Landscape designers know the value of this native plant: it's hardy, and tolerates clay soil, wet soil, shade - just about anything you throw at it. That makes it tremendously useful for purpose-driven landscapes like rain gardens or naturalized areas. But the compact varieties hold their own for gardens planted solely for aesthetic reasons. Seriously, who wouldn't want a mound of showy, fragrant flowers in summer? Your butterfly friends will enjoy it as much as you do.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Jazz Hands Loropetalum

Jazz Hands Dwarf Pink Loropetalum from Proven Winners ColorChoice

Go ahead - show us your moves: jazz hands, that is. (Not to be confused with spirit fingers, which are kind of creepy.) Seriously, the best part about naming a plant "jazz hands" is that people are compelled to do them while they talk about the plants. Since I tend to talk with my hands all the time it seems only natural to me.

Jazz Hands® Loropetalum have both great foliage color and intense flower color. The flowers, of course, are distinctive fringy blooms that inspired the Jazz Hands® name.

Jazz Hands Bold Loropetalum from Proven Winners ColorChoice
The blooms of Jazz Hands® Bold are the largest of any Loropetalum.

You can go big and Jazz Hands® Bold, or keep it on the down low with Jazz Hands® Mini. In between are Jazz Hands® Dwarf Pink and Jazz Hands® Dwarf White. And for something totally different, Jazz Hands® Variegated. All are hardy to USDA Zone 7b and will grow in full sun or part shade. Size does vary, so check out the individual varieties before planting them.

Jazz Hands Variegated Loropetalum from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Hot pink flowers are an afterthought to the eye-catching foliage of Jazz Hands® Variegated Loropetalum.

Jazz Hands® go coast to coast.

Not completely, of course. They aren't too happy here in Michigan unless overwintered in a greenhouse (but make a sweet little patio plant). Loropetalum need a milder climate than ours, so I need to travel to see them in landscapes.

Jazz Hands Dwarf White Loropetalum from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Not only does Jazz Hands®Dwarf White have a compact and versatile size, it is also the only rebloomer of the group.

I saw quite a few of them while in Northern California last week. Visiting California is always fun, for a number of reasons. But the reason that pays the bills is seeing how well many of our plants grow in the region. Jazz Hands®, Lo & Behold® Buddleia, Little Quick Fire® Hydrangea paniculata - these are just a few of the plants I saw in landscapes. Season-long color takes on a whole different meaning when your season is pretty much year round.

Jazz Hands Mini Loropetalum from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Great groundcover: Jazz Hands® Mini Loropetalum remains under a foot tall.
Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Polite Buddleia

Buddleia 'Miss Molly' from Proven Winners Shrubs
'Miss Molly' butterfly bush

With names like 'Miss Ruby' and 'Miss Violet', you would expect these varieties to be a bit more genteel than the hoolligan Buddleia of the past. And they are: compact, so they don't overwhelm the garden, and non-invasive so they don't produce unwanted seedlings.

Lest you think that refined Buddleia with good etiquette are missing the vibrant color and heady fragrance of traditional cultivars, rest assured that these well-bred ladies have all of the passionate hues and butterfly appeal of the old-fashioned plants. In fact, I'd say that the color is even better.

Buddleia 'Miss Violet' from Proven Winners Shrubs
'Miss Violet' butterfly bush

'Miss Violet' has rich, Welch's grape juice purple flowers. Unlike grape juice, it doesn't stain, so you can let your three year old walk around with it.

Red Buddleia color comparison
Color comparison for 'Miss Ruby', 'Royal Red', and 'Miss Molly': 'Miss Molly' is the reddest Buddleia available.

'Miss Ruby' and 'Miss Molly' push the red color as far as we've seen Buddleia go. 'Miss Ruby' is a delightful fuchsia, while 'Miss Molly' is a dark magenta-sangria red. The red color will be more intense in warmer climates. And if you need something cool and refreshing for a summer evening garden, check out 'Miss Pearl' with her crisp white blooms.

Buddleia 'Miss Pearl' from Proven Winners shrubs
'Miss Pearl' butterfly bush

All are hardy to USDA Zone 5 and will do best in full sun. They grown 4-5' tall and wide, and have nice full habits that are very attractive both in containers and in the garden.

'Miss Molly' and 'Miss Violet' Buddleia

The basics of Buddleia

First off, full sun and well-drained soil. There's no way around these two requirements. If you don't have well-drained soil, consider growing them in a container. The dwarf Lo & Behold® or Pugster® plants are good choices for container plantings.

Secondly, USDA Zone 5. You can grow them further north as annuals. If you're growing them in a container, consider them to be an annual as well unless you are in a very mild (Zone 6 or better yet 7) climate.

And then there's heat. We've been having some very warm weather here in West Michigan, and while the people and my poor dog aren't enjoying it, the butterfly bushes are loving every minute.

Buddleia has some wonderful qualities, like the aforementioned affinity for heat. While other plants are wilting, these characters are strutting their stuff in the summer landscape. Then there's the fragrance: when you walk towards a planting of Buddleia it's like being approached by a perfume demonstrator at the department store. Only with the plant there's no judgement of your grubby gardening clothes and no pressure to buy. And then there's the deer resistance. Yes, they attract butterflies and don't attract deer. What a combination!

Buddleia 'Miss Ruby' from Proven Winners Shrubs
'Miss Ruby' butterfly bush

In some areas they can be a nuisance, but new non-invasive varieties like the 'Miss' and Lo & Behold® series are sterile and so better choices for these areas. They are permitted for sale in Oregon, so our friends in the Northwest can enjoy Buddleia too!

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Better Rebloomers

Tuff Stuff™ reblooming mountain hydrangea from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Tuff Stuff™ reblooming mountain hydrangea

The case for mountain hydrangeas

Hydrangea serrata is wonderful. Similar to H. macrophylla, but with better bud hardiness, it's a better choice for folks in colder USDA Zone 5 areas. Even those of you in milder climates will appreciate these plants because they are just so pretty and such good growers.

The reblooming Tuff Stuff™ varieties are especially nice because they will bloom on new growth later in the summer so if the early summer bloom is compromised you will still enjoy flowers later in the season.

Tuff Stuff™ Red reblooming mountain hydrangea from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Tuff Stuff™ Red reblooming mountain hydrangea

Like H. macrophylla, the blooms of H. serrata will change color depending on the soil. (Here's a good guide to turning hydrangeas blue.) Tiny Tuff Stuff™  has delicate, refined lacecap flowers that are an elegant addition to gardens. For more intense color, check out the original Tuff Stuff™. And if you need some really intense color, check out Tuff Stuff™ Red, whose doubled lacecap flowers open green and red before maturing to deep pink-red.

All of the Tuff Stuff™ hydrangeas are hardy to USDA Zone 5 and will grow in full sun or partial shade. Tiny Tuff stuff™ is the smallest, at 1.5-2', and the other two are in the 2-3' range.

Tiny Tuff Stuff™ reblooming mountain hydrangea from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Tiny Tuff Stuff™ reblooming mountain hydrangea

Anecdotally I can tell you that my H. serrata plants have always performed better than the H. macrophylla in my yard, and that the Tuff Stuff™ varieties are especially nice. Actually, these plants are staff favorites, being good growers both in our greenhouses and in our growers' yards.

I know that when I go to a store I always like seeing the staff picks. So here are some other staff favorites:
P.S. This is the list I get when I don't let anyone choose a hydrangea as a favorite. Hint: Invincibelle Limetta® is joining Tuff Stuff™ and Bobo® on the separate Favorite Hydrangea Staff Pick List.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles