Plant of the Week: Invincibelle® Spirit II Hydrangea arborescens

Hello and Happy Monday...Friday?
Invincibelle Campaign section of PWCC booth

Okay, it's been a busy week....but as promised, this week my post was written (partially) from Cultivate18 in Columbus, OH. It was a great show where I got to catch up with many of the friends I have met over the past few months, but the most exciting part for me was being part of making the "official" announcement that, through the cooperation of growers and garden centers across North America, we have raised over a million dollars for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation®!

Hydrangeas from the Invincibelle® Series
Dale Deppe and I making the announcement onstage
(They made it plenty pink for us!)
Over the past 9 years, one dollar has been donated for every Invincibelle® Spirit II hydrangea sold in garden centers, plus additional funds have been raised through Pink Day events in local garden centers across the US and Canada. On Monday morning (the 16th) I took the stage with Spring Meadow owner Dale Deppe and we made the announcement just prior to the State of the Industry keynote address. The stage was decorated with selections from the Invincibelle® line of hydrangeas, and we had Invincibelle® Spirit II hydrangeas in the campaign sections of the Proven Winners® and Proven Winners® ColorChoice® (PWCC) trade show booths.

There's plenty to love about the Invincibelle® Spirit II Hydrangea arborescens, but what's really cool is that it does something no other hydrangea can do, help to find a cure for breast cancer. You can go to the Spring Meadow website to find out more about the campaign and $1 million milestone.

Laura from Garden Answer even created a video about it! You can watch it here.

Because this was such a celebration of the Invincibelle® Spirit II hydrangea, I wanted to feature it in this week's Plant of the Week. Enjoy!  -Natalie

Meet Invincibelle® Spirit II hydrangea - the powerful, pink 'Annabelle' hydrangea. It delivers dark green foliage and large, deep pink flowers that age to an attractive green, held up on strong, stiff stems.

Invincibelle® Spirit II is an improved version of the orignal Invincibelle® Spirit pink Hydrangea arborescensbred by Dr. Tom Ranney in North Carolina.

An easy-to-grow North American native shrub, Invincibelle® Spirit II begins to flower in early summer. The flowers start out dark burgundy in color, open to a rich pink, and gradually age to an attractive green. This hydrangea has the unique ability to continue blooming up until frost, providing months of beautiful, pink flowers! While deadheading is not strictly necessary for the plant to re-bloom, it does encourage it to happen faster. Simply remove the faded flower just above a set of leaves.

It's worth noting, like other shrubs, hydrangeas require three seasons in the ground to perform their best. The flower size, color, and quantity will increase dramatically on your Invincibelle® Spirit II hydrangea as it grows into its site.

Fall Blooms on Invincibelle Spirit II
Invincibelle® Spirit II tolerates a wide range of soils but does best in moist, well-drained areas and can even be grown in potting soil in a large container if you’d like.

Hydrangeas like plenty of water, especially their first year or two after planting. Try to not let the soil to dry out completely while the plant is getting established. A 2-3″ thick layer of shredded bark mulch applied over the root zone conserves water, keeps the roots cool, and insulates the roots during winter.

This hydrangea will do best with a minimum of four hours of sun each day, ideally in the morning. Some direct sun each day ensures vibrant color, abundant blooms, and strong stems. In cool climates, it can tolerate more sun; in hot climates, it will require more shade, particularly in the afternoon.

The best time to prune a smooth hydrangea is in early spring, just as the buds emerge but before they
start to open. Remove any dead flowers still on the plant, along with any thin, spindly growth and any very old and woody growth. Pruning is not imperative but it can encourage stronger stems and a more attractive overall form. You can remove up to one-third of the plant’s total height if you’d like.

If you'd like to give your hydrangea a boost in early spring, apply a granular fertilizer formulated for flowering shrubs (rose fertilizers are ideal) according to package directions. The application may be repeated as the initial wave of flowers winds down if desired.

Invincibelle® Spirit II hydrangea is hardy to USDA zone 3 (-35°F, -40°C) and heat tolerant to AHS zone 9 (120-150 days above 86°F/30°C). Don’t know your zone? Find your hardiness zone here and your heat zone here.

Thanks for reading! Next week I have Jane's post about Lo & Behold® 'Pink Micro Chip' Buddleia ready to check back Monday for another new post.

Plant of the Week: Sonic Bloom® Red Weigela

Hello and happy Monday!

I'm up to my eyeballs getting ready to travel to the Cultivate conference in Ohio this week - if you're heading there as well, please be sure to look me up! The Proven Winners® ColorChoice® booth is #0915, in the Solutions Marketplace, near the New Varieties Zone. If you'd like to meet up, shoot me an email at and we can exchange telephone numbers.

We'll be making a special announcement at the Monday morning keynote, but just as a teaser, you'll see the Proven Winners® staff wearing pink shirts at the conference this year...hmm, what could that mean?

So for this week, enjoy Jane's plant of the week, and I'll post that latest and greatest about Cultivate next week!

- Natalie


All of the fireworks going off last week make me think of Sonic Bloom® weigela. Bloom or boom, it's exciting.

While regular weigela flower in spring and then just sit around the rest of the season, Sonic Bloom® Weigela will rebloom for a respectable summer flower display, too.

This is Sonic Bloom® Red weigela; there are also hot pink, pinkish-white and pure pink colors available.

All of the Sonic Bloom® weigela will grow best in full sun and get about 4-5' tall. There are a couple of good videos about Sonic Bloom® Red, including a recent update from Garden Answer.

Pruning reblooming plants.

Reblooming versions of old favorites can be a little confusing, especially with regard to pruning.

Many of us go with the traditional advice to prune spring flowering shrubs immediately after flowering, and to cut back summer bloomers in late winter and early spring. But what do you do with a plant that flowers in spring and again in summer and fall?

First off, don't prune the plant back in late winter. Reblooming plants carry the spring flowers over from the previous season, so if you prune them back or they are damaged by harsh weather the spring flowers will be gone.

It's best to trim these plants immediately after their spring bloom. As with traditional varieties, pruning at this time means the plant has plenty of time to set flower buds for the following season.

Trimming reblooming plants back after the spring bloom also encourages the new growth, which is where the repeat summer flower buds are created. The plant may go through a rest period before reblooming, but it will rebloom if you don't cut it back again and again.

Many rebloomers will flower again without trimming in spring, but if you do want to shape a plant, after the spring bloom is the time to do it.

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

Plant of the Week: Touring a test garden in Des Moines

Hello and happy Monday!

Yoshitomo Nara 'White Ghost'
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
Last week was action-packed! On Tuesday and Wednesday we had some special events here at Spring Meadow Nursery, and then I was off like a shot to spend a couple of days in Des Moines, IA, to meet with my new friends at Better Homes and Gardens and Garden Gate magazines.

Deborah Butterfield 'Ancient Forest'
Pappajohn Sculpture Park
First of all let me say, Des Moines is really beautiful! I love the bridges that span the Des Moines river, the beautiful architecture, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and of course the spectacular test gardens at Meredith, publisher of Better Homes and Gardens.

When we visited Sandra at the test garden, we heard so much about how they are trying to cope with the record amounts of rainfall they've been having, so I was particularly saddened to hear that the day after we left, Des Moines had another record rainfall event and experienced some major flash flooding. So we are all hoping for the best in the days to come, and that the residents and visitors of Des Moines can stay safe.
Gorgeous garden entry

Shade garden at BH&G in Des Moines
(See the Incrediball hydrangea in the back?)
Delightful daisies!
One of the things that are so spectacular about the Better Homes and Gardens test gardens is the fact that that, like a test kitchen, they test every plant they write about in the magazine for a couple of years before they present it in print or on screen, so they know first hand how they'll perform in a garden setting.

They also provide ideas that help readers imagine using the plants in their own gardens and landscapes and present unique ways readers can make use of the space they have to create a fabulous retreat - whether it's a back patio, or the back forty...

The garden and its various patio areas also provide a splendid outdoor video and photography studio for the company's publications, social media channels, and websites. 

This half of a city block is a gardener's dream with everything from a shrub walk and a shade garden to a perennial garden, a meadow, a vegetable and herb garden, and a few serene patio spaces to sit and relax. All in all, we spent about 2 hours touring the gardens and would have spent longer, but the weather was threatening so we moved inside.

If you're ever in downtown Des Moines, stop by...public visitors are welcome on Fridays from noon to 2 p.m., from the first Friday in May through the first Friday in October.

Tiny Tuff Stuff  mountain hydrangea
looking good in the test garden!
'Hayes Starburst' hydrangea
Want to see more of the test gardens but can't make it to Des Moines? Take a look at their website, it has interactive tours, slideshows, and videos including this one "The 6 Best Hydrangeas from the BH&G Test Garden." 

That's it for today...until next week, never stop growing.

- Natalie

Plant of the Week: Beyond Midnight® Caryopteris

Hello and Happy Monday!

Spring Meadow Nursery admin building and conference center
This week is a busy one at Spring Meadow Nursery. We are getting ready to have our first guests at the brand new conference center! These are a group of some of our most active customers, and we'll be making presentations and giving tours all day Tuesday, into Wednesday.

So to save a little time, but still get my weekly post out, I'm going to repost Jane's Plant of the Week, which happens to be a variety I wrote about last week in my pollinator post, Caryopteris! I wrote about Sunshine Blue® II and Lil' Miss Sunshine®, and this post is about Beyond Midnight®, but they are all spectacular. 

Enjoy! - Natalie

Light Beyond Midnight

Caryopteris is a very rewarding plant in many ways. It's easy to grow and once established in a landscape is pretty trouble free. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love it, and deer don't. Plus, it has that most unusual of horticultural colors, blue.

Beyond Midnight® is an outstanding selection with very dark, glossy foliage and a compact habit. Older varieties could look kind of ratty after a while, but this plant stays nice and full. The flowers are spectacular, too. They are a rich blue that cools down the steamy late summer garden.

Like all Caryopteris, Beyond Midnight® requires full sun and well-drained soil. It will grow to about 30" tall and wide and is hardy to USDA Zone 5. 

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

Note from Natalie: Though Caryopteris, a.k.a. bluebeard, is technically a shrub, it will experience dieback and can be treated as a perennial in colder zones...but don't cut it back in the fall. If you wait to cut back this plant when you see new growth in early spring you'll get a more vigorous plant with more late-summer flowers.

Plants of the Week: 5 Fabulous Pollinators

Hello and happy Monday!

In honor of National Pollinator Week, I created a birdbath in my perennial/shrub garden, because pollinators need water too! I just used a plant stand I had in my shed, and topped it off with a large, ceramic platter we had stored away in our basement. My husband added the rock...I like it!

One thing to keep in mind, especially in our neck of the woods, water sources like the one I created should be emptied and refilled every few days so they don't become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Since it's National Pollinator Week, I thought I'd skip in the single plant of the week post in favor of writing about five great, no-fuss shrubs that the pollinators love. I hope you enjoy it!

It's National Pollinator Week! Of course, if you're a gardener, choosing plants that attract pollinators is something we just do naturally - but if you're looking to add some easy-to-grow pollinator friendly shrubs to your mix, there are many varieties that will brighten your landscape and attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and more. Here are five of my favorites:

Lil' Miss Sunshine®  Caryopteris
I just love blue in gardens, and this blue flower, mixed with bright chartreuse foliage, is hands down one of my favorites. Sunshine Blue® II, and the more compact Lil’ Miss Sunshine® Caryopteris has bright yellow foliage all summer with abundant blue flowers late summer. They are drought tolerant and deer resistant, making them super easy to grow. Sunshine Blue® II will get to be about 3' tall and wide and Lil’ Miss Sunshine® will reach heights/widths of  2.5 - 3'. Both should be planted in full sun, and are hardy in USDA zones 5 - 9. 

Fun fact, Caryopteris, AKA bluebeard, is also known as blue mist spirea, despite the fact that it is not remotely related to Spiraea.
Sugar Tip® Gold Hibiscus

Hibiscus is another plant that pollinators love. And it's not hard to see why, the big brightly-colored double blooms of the Sugar Tip® series of Hibiscus, set off with bold variegated foliage is indeed, attractive! But what I really love about the Sugar Tip® series of Hibiscus (other than the fact that it's gorgeous) is that they are seedless, so they're non-invasive.  

Sugar Tip®/Sugar Tip® Gold are hardy in USDA Zones 5 - 9 and should be planted in full sun. They will reach heights/width of 4 - 5'.

Scentlandia® Itea

Sweetspire is beloved for so many reasons: it’s native, shade tolerant, deer resistant, has handsome foliage, amazing fall color, very showy flowers, and of course, delicious fragrance for pollinators and humans alike!

Scentlandia® sweetspire will be available at garden centers in 2019 and is an improved version of the popular Little Henry® Itea. This cultivar is hardy down to USDA zone 5 and boasts brighter, more consistent fall color, along with a compact, refined habit - reaching heights/widths of 2-3'.

Double Play® Painted Lady® Spiraea
Long used as an attractive, durable landscape plant Spiraea is also a terrific pollinator-attractant. The Double Play® series of spirea are super-showy from first-bud to fall. With improved foliage and blooms, they are packed with summer flowers in colors ranging from pink to red, and boast a wide range of foliage colors. Making them even more low-maintenance, Proven Winners® ColorChoice® will release a new variety in 2019 called Double Play® Doozie® with gorgeous dark-red sterile flowers, meaning it reblooms all summer. 

I'm a sucker for variegated foliage, so the pictured variety is Double Play® Painted Lady® Spiraea. She has bright yellow and green foliage and hot pink flowers, and like the entire series can be planted in full-to-part sun. Reaching mature heights/widths 2'-3', you can expect these babies to be covered in bees and even the occasional hummingbird, all summer long.

Finally, you can't talk about pollinators without talking about Buddleia. I love the Lo & Behold® series of butterfly bush from Proven Winners® ColorChoice® because the whole series is non-invasive. We really don't have trouble with Buddleia reseeding here in Michigan, but for states like Oregon and Washington State, this cultivar is a game changer. And I hate to think that these amazing, pollinator-friendly plants aren't available for everyone to enjoy!

Pictured here, Lo & Behold® 'Blue Chip Jr.' butterfly bush has a neat, compact habit with attractive silver-green foliage. But what's really great about it is that it blooms weeks earlier than other Buddleia with flowers that are larger, bluer and more upright - attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds aplenty! Hardy in zones 5-9, Buddleia like to be planted in full sun - Lo & Behold® 'Blue Chip Jr.' will reach heights/widths of 18-30" and other plants in the series will get to be about 2.5-3' tall.

And that's it! Five fabulous pollinators for National Pollinator Week! 

Until next week, never stop growing - Natalie 

Plant of the Week: Oso Easy® Urban Legend® Rosa

We're very excited share the news that
Oso Easy
® Urban Legend® rose has been awarded an American Rose Society Award of Excellence for 2019!

In 1973 the American Rose Society Board of Directors established the Award of Excellence (AOE) to recognize new miniature and miniflora rose varieties of superior quality and marked distinction. Since the inception of the award, there have been 130 AOE winners.

The competition accepts submissions of miniature and miniflora roses which have been in commerce for less than one year. Those chosen to compete are evaluated for two to three years in eight AOE public test gardens and two private gardens, which are spaced geographically across the United States. Roses may be entered in a “no spray” division, a “preventive spray” division, or both.

Each public garden has an AOE supervisor and five evaluators who score the entries on eleven criteria four times during each growing season. At the end of the trial period, Awards of Excellence are given to deserving entries, with a maximum of five per year.

The official public announcement of the Award of Excellence winners was made at the ARS National Miniature Rose Show and Conference in May, where Oso Easy® Urban Legend®, a cherry red miniature, was declared the top rose in the “no spray” division.

This is a really showy rose, and quite thorny, too. That's how it got its name: planting something this prickly near windows might help to keep burglars from breaking into your house. It's also good for keeping people out of your yard. You know, Father's Day is coming up. If your dad is one of those guys yelling at kids to keep off his lawn, maybe some of these pretty guard dogs would be appreciated.

Portions of this post are taken from the Plant of the Week email, written by Jane Beggs-Joles

Plant of the Week: 'Aphrodite' Calycanthus

Hello and happy Monday!

'Pink Mink' Clematis bloom
I have a huge forsythia that grows in my front yard, kind of snugged in between my house and the neighbor's house to the west and it just finished flowering. This thing is ginormous. Easily 8-10' tall and almost as wide. So this weekend I thought it was time to cut back that sucker. I thought "I'll just prune it enough to plant something underneath it." It takes up a nice spot that gets part-sun, and I had a new cotinus and a Pink Mink clematis to find spots for, plus there's a nice pergola right there for the clematis to crawl up on to, so I started pruning... and, well, I went a little crazy.

There was so much that was dead underneath the forsythia for lack of light, it all had to go. So I trimmed and trimmed until I discovered there's not just one, but two forsythia plants under there - however, the second one is growing out of the retaining wall from my neighbor's yard! Yikes. 

Needless to say, this spot is a work in progress - but the smokebush and clematis are in the ground!

So, that was my gardening adventure for the weekend. If I can get it looking good enough, I'll post a picture next week. But until then, on to Jane's plant of the week, which also happens to be my co-worker Shannon Downey's favorite Proven Winners® ColorChoice® plant! 

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

Love is in the Air

June is a busy time for weddings. It's not the busiest month - that would be October. And it's not the time to be married if one or both of the partners is involved in the green industry. Then you get married in December and hope that no one judges a bride in snow boots.

At any rate, this week we're looking at 'Aphrodite' Calycanthus. It's a sweetly romantic name for a sweetly fragrant plant. 'Aphrodite' Calycanthus combines the red flowers of 'Hartlage Wine' with the fragrance you would expect of a sweetshrub. The flowers have an apple-like scent that is pleasant but not overpowering.

'Aphrodite' Calycanthus is a nice addition to cottage gardens or mixed borders. The flowers appear throughout the summer; rather than sprinting with a lot of blooms all at once, it gives us a steady marathon of flowers.

Hardy to USDA Zone 5b, 'Aphrodite' will grow 5-8' tall and wide, in full sun or partial shade. Don't try to cram it into a smaller space; it's at its best in a more relaxed setting. Check out this video about the plant, which I think shows it off better than a still image ever could.

If you like the scent of 'Aphrodite' sweetshrub, check out Sugartina® 'Crystalina' summersweet or Scentlandia® sweetspire. The best thing about all of these sweets - is they are calorie free!

Plant of the Week is written by Jane Beggs-Joles