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

Plant of the Week: Sun and Blues

Sunny Boulevard Hypericum from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Sunny Boulevard™ Hypericum

Hypericum is having a moment.

Maybe I'm just saying that because I want it to be true, because I do really like this plant. After all, what's not to love? It's adaptable and easy to grow. It flowers all summer long - nice flowers, too, not wimpy little 'nice try' blooms. It's deer resistant, drought tolerant, and bees love it. We hear so much about the need to grow native plants that support pollinator populations. Well, here's one, and it looks great, too.

Sunny Boulevard Hypericum from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Sunny Boulevard™ Hypericum

We have two great varieties here: Blues Festival® and Sunny Boulevard™ Hypericum.

Both are loaded with very showy yellow flowers all summer long. Sunny Boulevard™ may bloom a little longer, into September, but Blues Festival® has really cool blue-green foliage. We like these varieties because they have both very long bloom times and nice, densely branched habits that look as sharp in containers as they do in the landscape. They're both hardy to USDA 4 and grow 2-3' tall.

Blues Festival Hypericum from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Blues Festival® Hypericum

Anyway, I'm not saying that it's having a moment just because I want it to happen. I have seen more and more Hypericum in landscapes recently. I think that for many people the excellent deer-resistance is the real appeal. That's no small thing, and if you're in an area with heavy deer browsing pressure you might put this on your list along with the Caryopteris and Russian sage.

Blues Festival Hypericum from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Blues Festival® Hypericum

I was lucky enough to be at the APLD conference in Boston, and we saw LOTS of Hypericum in the gardens we toured. The northeast has even more deer than it does Dunkin' Donuts, so plants that resist browsing are a must.

So this isn't just me trying to make fetch happen. It's a thing. Just like on Wednesdays we wear pink.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: One Tough Customer



Diervilla is an outstanding plant, but the species isn't super showy. So we wanted to introduce some flashier options to help them get a little more popular in the ornamental world. The Kodiak® series does just that: the plants have the durability you expect of a Diervilla but more color than you're used to.

Kodiak Orange Diervilla from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Kodiak® Orange Diervilla

Kodiak® Orange Diervilla has nice orange new growth and outstanding fall color. It would be a good native alternative to burning bush. Kodiak® Red Diervilla has more red foliage in spring and fall. Both these and Kodiak® Black Diervilla have yellow summer flowers that support pollinator populations. All grow 3-4' tall and wide.

Kodiak Red Diervilla from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Kodiak® Red Diervilla


Bring it.

When we introduced our Kodiak® Diervilla we knew we needed a name that illustrated how tough this native plant is. Kodiak seems to do the job.

The Kodiak archipelago extends south from Anchorage into the Gulf of Alaska. That sounds pretty harsh to me. While Diervilla isn't native to this region, the Kodiak bear is, and it's a pretty intimidating creature. Males can weigh more than 1300 pounds, which I think is heavier than my car.

Kodiak Black Diervilla from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Kodiak® Black Diervilla

Diervilla is also intimidating, but in a good way. It can take sun, it can take shade - even dry shade - and is an all-around durable landscape plant. Kodiak® Red and Kodiak® Orange are hardy to USDA Zone 4, while Kodiak® Black goes into Zone 5. One more thing: they have good deer-resistance, too. See what I mean? Your tricky landscaping problem is no match for the mighty Diervilla.

They have a softer side, too: pollinators love them. When those yellow flowers bloom in midsummer the bees go crazy. There's a lot of talk these days about using native plants and supporting pollinator populations, both worthwhile goals. But the plants need to look good, too. That's why we're so happy with these plants, and hope you will be, too.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Midnight Sunshine




So, do you like dark and mysterious? Or sunny and bright? That's what we've got going on with our Caryoperis varieties.

Beyond Midnight bluebeard from Proven Winners
Beyond Midnight® bluebeard

Beyond Midnight® bluebeard was selected for its extremely glossy, dark green foliage and intense blue flowers. It's the classic Caryopteris, only better. Sunshine Blue® II Caryopteris is an improved version of the original Sunshine Blue® Caryopteris. Same flashy blue and yellow color, but with better hardiness.

All Caryopteris will do best in full sun and well-drained soil. Cold, wet winters are really hard on them, so be sure to check the drainage of a site before planting. They are hardy to USDA Zone 5. Beyond Midnight® gets about 30" tall and wide, while Sunshine Blue® II bluebeard grows to about 3'.

Note: bees love these plants. Personally, I like seeing bumblebees in the garden. But the bee-phobic might not want them right next to the patio. (The technical term for bee-phobia is 'melissophobia'. Sorry to all of the very nice ladies named Melissa out there.)

Sunshine Blue II bluebeard from Proven Winners
Sunshine Blue® II bluebeard
Caryopteris peaks later in summer. It's a really nice plant for refreshing a summer border. When other plants are starting to get a little tired, the Caryopteris burst into bloom with their distinctive blue flowers.

The challenge for summer stars like this is that they don't look like much in spring. The one-time garden center shopper can miss out on some great plants. How do we convince these folks to plant for more than one season and hopefully shop more than once a year? 

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: A patriotic weekend in North America!



First, Canada Day was on July 1, then U.S. Independence Day on July 4. Since Michigan is on the border, we're having one long weekend of international bonhomie, with fireworks all around.

It's a good time for folks on both sides of the border to appreciate the richness of our native plant genera and species. We have so many cool plants, and I think that plant breeders are just getting started exploring them. What if there were as many choices of Cephalanthus as there are Hydrangea macrophylla? OK, that might make my head explode. But you get the idea.

Sugar Shack buttonbush from Proven Winners ColorChoice
The firework flowers of native Sugar Shack® Cephalanthus (buttonbush)

How's that for a celebratory flower?

Sugar Shack® Cephalanthus is a compact selection of our native buttonbush. The crazy flowers are quite fragrant - pollinators love them. Unlike the green fruits of the species, Sugar Shack® buttonbush has flashy red fruit in fall. It's smaller, too, growing to 3-4' tall rather than the 8-15' of the species.

Sugar Shack buttonbush from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Unlike the green fruits of the species, Sugar Shack® buttonbush has flashy red fruit in fall.

This is a good plant for moist to wet sites. It's not the plant for someone who wants a very manicured, formal landscape, but perfect for the gardener who wants to take a walk on the wild side. Hardy to USDA Zone 4, it grows in full sun or partial shade.

While there's lots of chatter about native plants, I tend to stay away from most of the ideology. I just like plants that do what they're supposed to do. Smaller selections like this can be less intimidating to gardeners, and often have better shelf appeal than seedlings.

Sugar Shack buttonbush from Proven Winners ColorChoice
Sugar Shack® buttonbush stays a compact 3-4' tall and wide, compared to the typical 8-15' size of the species.

Native plant selections like Sugar Shack® Cephalanthus give us valuable new choices for solving tricky landscape challenges, and offer gardeners something fun and novel to set their yards apart from the neighbors'.




Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles