California Spring Trials (CAST)

You know what they say...time flies when you're having fun.  I find that to be true because this is already my third time attending CAST and it's always a blast!   Over 1,000 people visited the Proven Winners site including media and garden writers (so glad to see all of you).   After talking to everyone about the new shrubs we had on display, I thought I'd share a few crowd favorites. 

Double Take Peach™ Quince Chaenomeles
What a stunner!  This one was loaded with buds at the beginning of the week so it was looking really sharp throughout the week with it's soft peach colored blooms.  This variety is very tolerant of heat and dry conditions...oh and it's thornless too!

Winecraft Black™ Smokebush Cotinus
My personal favorite of our new introductions, this one looks really sharp.  It doesn't get as big as your traditional smokebush and reaches just 5-6ft tall and wide.  New growth comes in a reddish color and aging to a rich near black tone that doesn't fade. 

Invincibelle® Series -The Invincibelle series of hydrangea is expanding again this year, now with three dwarf varieties.  Choose from Invincibelle Limetta™ hydrangea with its rich lime blooms or Invincibelle Mini Mauvette™ hydrangea with pink blooms. Both of these grow to 3ft tall and wide. Looking for something even smaller?  Try Invincibelle Wee White™ hydrangea that grows 1.5-2 feet tall. 


Tuff Stuff™ Series - Another great series that I personally have several of in my the lacecaps!  These guys live up to their name...they are tough as nails and are very hardy.   There are three in the series Tuff Stuff™ hydrangea, Tiny Tuff Stuff™ hydrangea and the newest, Tuff Stuff™ Red hydrangea



At Last® Rose - People love this rose!  The rich orange bloom draws everyone in, but then the fragrance wows everyone. To top it off, it's disease resistant.  It was also the 2016 Shrub Madness champion! 

Spilled Wine® Weigela - A great landscape plant!  These rock beautiful pink flowers with deep purple foliage like Wine & Roses® weigela, but has smaller, more cascading habit. 

Plant of the Week: Double Take™ Chaenomeles

Spring Color!

Is winter done? Last week seemed like a final, vindictive farewell tour. Let's hope that spring is here for good, because spring flowers are here!

Quince is a traditional favorite at this time of the year, and with good reason. The flowers are bright and cheerful, just what we need after months of gray gloom. And the plant itself is tough, tolerating sun, heat, drought and even clay soil. 

Double Take™ Chaenomeles have exceptionally large flowers for an even better spring bloom display than traditional varieties. As an added bonus, they don't have thorns, and typically don't produce fruit. Better flowers, no thorns, and no mess? Sign me up!

We're excited to introduce a new color into the Double Take™ series this spring: Double Take Peach™. Its soft color is a nice choice for folks who don't want the intensity of Orange, Scarlet or Pink.

All of the Double Take™ varieties are 4-5' tall and wide and grow best in full sun. They are hardy to USDA Zone 5.

Plant of the Week: Incrediball® X 2

We introduced Incrediball® hydrangea a few years ago, and it has proven to be one of our most popular plants. A souped-up 'Annabelle'-type hydrangea, it has huge flowers and very sturdy stems. A mass planting of these is a real showstopper! Even a single specimen will wow the neighbors.

So we were very excited to add Incrediball® Blush to our hydrangea collection. It has the same large flowers and sturdy stems as the original, but the blooms are a soft, refined pink.

Like all Hydrangea arborescens, these plants are quite hardy (USDA Zone 3), and bloom on new wood. Although they will grow in both full sun and partial shade we find that the flowering on H. arborescens is better in full sun. This is especially true the further north you are. Both of these hydrangeas grow 4-5' tall and wide. 

Here's the thing about H. arborescens: they aren't H. macrophylla.


That's obvious, but what does it mean? There's the good: H. arborescens are hardier and bloom on new wood so there's no tricky pruning or overwintering to worry about. They are also more durable. Established plants will tolerate some water stress. Although flowering may be compromised, the plant will be OK.

Then there's the not-so-good. H. arborescens aren't going to present as well in a container as H. macrophylla. Bigleaf hydrangeas make cute little two- or even one-gallon sized containers. Smooth hydrangeas don't really look their best until they are at least a three-gallon sized container.  The plants will need a few seasons in the ground to really come into their own, too. You will see more and bigger flowers on mature, established plants.
If you need smaller options try our new dwarf varieties, like Invincibelle Wee White™ or Mini Mauvette™. These little plants have great container presentation and are also a good fit for smaller yards. Here's a handy chart showing the color and size options for smooth hydrangeas.

Plant of the Week: Hooray for Bollywood!

Hooray for Bollywood!

Like other azaleas, Bollywood® flowers in spring. But it continues to put on a show all year long with its crisp variegated foliage. Admittedly it isn't the plant for everyone; your clients who want a restful oasis of muted pastels won't want this variety. But customers who embrace the irrational exuberance of azaleas in spring may like the year-long excitement of this variegated plant.® azalea is hardy to USDA Zone 6 and grows 2-3' tall and wide. It will grow in full sun or partial shade. If you're liking the bright flowers and bold foliage of this plant but it isn't hardy in your area, check out Double Play® Painted Lady™ Spiraea - it's got the same sassy color scheme but is hardy to USDA Zone 3!

Bollywood® is one of the flashier plants at Spring Meadow Nursery, and it's at its peak right now. Check out these liners blooming away in our greenhouses! (pictured right).

Azalea - or Rhododendron?

Both, actually. Properly, Bollywood® azalea is a Rhododendron (in italics). All azaleas are Rhododendron, but not all Rhododendron are azaleas. Clear as mud?

While azaleas and rhododendrons have very similar cultural requirements, and are both classified under the genus Rhododendron, they have different common names. Those termed 'azalea' typically have flowers with 5 stamens while rhododendron flowers have 10. While Bollywood® is a broadleaf evergreen, many azaleas are deciduous. Rhododendrons are usually evergreen. For a more detailed explanation of the differences you can buy a taxonomist a beer or three, or check out this website
In my completely unscientific opinion, azaleas give us saturated Kool-aid colors as our reward for surviving another gray winter. Rhododendrons have a more restrained color palette, but are still a delightful sight in spring.
Plus, rhododendrons do that cool leaf curling thing when the temperature approaches freezing. So your child doesn't want to wear a winter coat? Don't argue with the rhodie, kid.

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Instant Karma® Sambucus

Instant Karma®

Here's an improved variegated elderberry whose blue-green foliage is edged with cream margins. Instant Karma® Sambucus nigra has large white flowers and maintains its variegation nicely through the season. It's an easy way to add season-long color to gardens.

Like other Sambucus, Instant Karma® is a durable plant that adapts to most conditions. It is hardy to USDA Zone 4 and will grow 6-8' tall and wide. It will grow in either full sun or partial shade and is deer resistant. Note that the variegation will be best in areas with cooler night temperatures.

OK, let's go!

Spring is here! That means warmer days, rain instead of snow, and the first flowers of the season. Crocus and hellebores are the season's pioneers in my garden, and I know that the Chaenomeles and Forsythia aren't far behind. Even though we had a relatively mild winter here in West Michigan, spring's arrival is very welcome.

Last week was also the anniversary of the day that the term "OK" made it into the vernacular. If you think kids today are puzzling with the emojis, check out the weirdness that went on back in the 1800's. 
I celebrated OK Day by watching some OK Go videos. They're fun, clever, and infused with joy. The article has a some salty language, but it's a good read and a reminder to all of us to embrace what we do. Go ahead and bust out some dance moves of your own - it's spring!

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Old School varieties

Old School.

New plants get a lot of attention, which is fine. New plants are exciting and fun. But here's a look at a couple of old school favorites.
The first is 'Limelight' Hydrangea paniculata (see above). 'Limelight' sets a new standard for hardy hydrangea. Its full green blooms turn pink and burgundy in the fall. Hardy to USDA Zone 3, it's a favorite across North America.

Little Henry® Itea virginica is a dwarf form of  native sweetspire. It has fragrant white flowers in summer and brilliant orange foliage in fall. Hardy to USDA Zone 5, it will grow in sun or shade although flowering and fall color will be more pronounced in sun. While the species is typically around 4' tall, Little Henry® is just 2-3' tall and wide.

But what about the new varieties?

There are plenty of new varieties of hydrangeas. Even limiting the question to H. paniculata gives us plenty of options for new cultivars.

We are often asked how 'Limelight' compares with Little Lime®, and how Little Lime® compares to Bobo®, and do we really need quite so many choices?

The simple answer is yes, we do need these choices. Little Lime® is a dwarf form of 'Limelight'. Some sites call for a large plant, some call for a smaller one, but now we have the right sized plant for most any situation.
Bobo® is the smallest H. paniculata on the market, so it's a good fit for the smallest of sites or even as a patio container plant. It's cold hardy enough to winter above ground in much of North America.
Quick Fire® and Little Quick Fire® bloom earlier than other varieties. Bloom time and bloom color can vary quite a bit in H. paniculata, and plant breeders are pushing the envelope on both qualities to give cold-climate gardeners a longer flower season and bolder color.
Here's a nice chart showing the range of colors and bloom times for H. paniculata. Use it to create a long-lasting display in landscapes!

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: Deutzia Duet

Deutzia Duet
Yuki Cherry Blossom® Deutzia is the Proven Winnners® ColorChoice® Landscape Plant of the Year, and with good reason. Simply put, it's a pink Deutzia 'Nikko'. Yes, the same low growing habit and abundant spring flowers, only this time in pink. 
Hardy to USDA Zone 5, it grows 1-2' tall and wide and has a tidy, mounded habit. It will grow in full sun or partial shade.

Perhaps pink isn't your thing. I certainly can't argue with someone who embraces a Green and White aesthetic.
So we've got you covered. This is Yuki Snowflake® Deutzia. It's like 'Nikko' only with way more flowers. Seriously, put them side by side and you'll see why we introduced this selection. This little plant is covered with white blooms in spring and has nice fall color, too. Hardy to USDA Zone 5, it grows 1-2' tall and wide and takes full sun or partial shade.

Take a look at Deutzia.

I know, Deutzia is one of those plants that's been around forever. People who know and use the plant love Deutzia, but not everyone is aware of it.
You will find lots of places to use Deutzia. These low growing plants are perfect for edging walks or planting at the front of beds and borders. They will enjoy the spring flowers, and then have rich foliage color to look at in fall. This is sounding better and better.
Here's the real showstopper: Deutzia are quite deer resistant. Not deer proof, of course, but they are pretty low on the list for deer. Kind of like anchovies on a salad bar; when everything else is gone they might eat them but they'd really prefer that the vine-ripened tomatoes were restocked. (Actually I like anchovies, but only in moderation.) The point is that Deutzia is a plant that will make you happy.