Plant of the Week: CAST Preview

Good morning and happy Monday! I'm preparing to head out to sunny California and the end of the week for the California Spring Trials.

For those who are unfamiliar, the California Spring Trials (CAST) is an annual week-long touring event held at various locations throughout the mid-to-northern region of the state. The event is designed exclusively for those who are in the horticulture industry so they can learn more about the newest plant varieties, signage and packaging products, and merchandising programs and concepts.

This year, Proven Winners® will once again be setting up their display of annuals, perennials, and shrubs at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, CA...the garlic capital of the world!

I know not everyone can attend CAST, but I'm so excited about the plants we'll be showing, I wanted to give you a quick online tour of some of the Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs that we will have on display. Enjoy! - Natalie

Proven Winners® ColorChoice® will bring almost 30 varieties of gorgeous, new shrubs to CAST this year, so to avoid writing a blog that is far too long, I'm going to highlight four of my favorite new varieties that will be on display next week in Gilroy:

At Last® Rosa x

New to garden centers this year, At Last®  rose has a tidy, compact habit that reaches heights of about 3', with glossy green leaves and fragrant double-flowers that are deep apricot-orange fading to a light pink as the season progresses. 

Like all roses, At Last® likes to be planted in a site that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day and will do best with regular watering, but otherwise, like most shrub roses, it is very low maintenance. 

Why it's specialBecause it's a landscape rose, At Last® is a garden workhorse; the foliage is resistant to black spot and powdery mildew, and the petals fall off when the flower is done instead of drying on the plant, so no deadheading is required. But what makes it unlike a typical landscape rose is the spectacular fully-double, sweetly-perfumed flowers that rebloom all season. It's just gorgeous and really has to be seen, and smelled, to fully appreciate it.

Available in garden centers in 2019, Scentara Double Blue lilac's cool, purple blooms take on a blue tone in the spring sunshine. This very heavy bloomer will grow 6-8' tall/8-10' wide, and has a handsome, appealing shape that will look right at home in your landscape. Like all Proven Winners® ColorChoice® shrubs, Scentara Double Blue lilac boasts excellent disease resistance and like all syringa, is super-hardy, this variety withstanding temps down to USDA zone 2.

Why it's special: There are about 15 different species of lilacs found in nature, and Syringa hyacinthiflora is the queen of them all when it comes to fragrance - and this variety is the most fragrant we have ever developed. Not only do they smell heavenly, Scentara's purplish-blue blooms are made up of intricate doubled florets, presenting a delicate seashell-like effect that is unlike any other lilac. Plant it in full sun and it won't fail to knock your socks off every spring!
If you live in zone 7 or warmer, this is a handsome new evergreen for warm climate gardens! Though you might not have heard of it yet, Juke Box™ is a super-versatile, easy to grow landscaping plant. It has dense, very glossy foliage with a distinctive texture and grows well in sun or part shade.

Why it's special:  For those who live in areas affected by boxwood blight, this is the perfect alternative. You can plant it just like you would a boxwood: as a hedge, edging, specimen, or try trimming or training it as your heart desires. This thornless plant produces no flowers to speak of and is very resistant to pests and diseases. Available in garden centers in spring, 2019.
Of course, I had to include a hydrangea! We will be bringing eight varieties to CAST this year, so it was tough to choose just one, but this is a beauty, and it's brand-new.

A truly outstanding mountain hydrangea, the newest member of the Tuff Stuff series has massive dinner plate-sized blooms. Sterile florets are doubled and waterlily-like, taking on outstanding pink or blue coloration depending on soil conditions. Like all Hydrangea serrata, it has outstanding bud hardiness. 
Why it's special: At first glance, it would appear that we decided to introduce this beautiful mountain hydrangea solely for its waterlily-like double florets. But that's only part of the story - this is also one of the most prolific reblooming hydrangeas we've ever seen. All summer long, it devotes its energies to creating flower buds on its new growth so that you have a constant supply of fabulous blooms from early summer through frost. Tuff Stuff Ah-Ha™ hydrangea will bloom pink or blue, depending on soil chemistry and grows to about 2-3' tall. Available to garden centers in spring, 2019.

And that's it! I'll be blogging from CAST next week, so I hope to have some fun, new plant information and stories to share with you. Until then, happy gardening!

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