April 10, 2011

Maine Gardener: What's new? Experts pick some fresh beauties

By Tom Atwell tatwell@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Nancy and I have been looking out at our yard a lot this winter and early spring, mostly because it has been too cold and windy to go outside.

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“Black Velvet” petunias

Courtesy photos

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Flowering quince “Iwai Nishiki,” which attracts hummingbirds and has deep-red double blooms

Additional Photos Below

We have to replace some plants -- a false cypress (chamaecyparis) that has outgrown its space, a Japanese maple that is failing and a witch hazel that simply has been disappointing. So I have been looking forward to making the calls for the new-plants column I do about this time every year.

I'm interested in a variegated Japanese red pine called "Golden Ghost" that Jeff O'Donal of O'Donal's Nursery in Gorham mentioned during a program for landscapers in February. It has yellow and green needles, is most vibrant in summer and fall, and grows 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide.

The idea of the plant sounds great, but I am going to have to convince Nancy -- not only because it costs about $180. And I am going to have to see it in person to make sure it doesn't look like a regular white pine that looks just a little sick.

Enough about me.

The other sources for this year's column are Tim Bate of Skillins Greenhouses in Falmouth; Tom Estabrook and Jim Masse of Estabrook's Farm and Gardens in Yarmouth, Scarborough and Kennebunk; Hammond Buck of Plants Unlimited in Rockport; and Steven Palmer of Plainview Farms in North Yarmouth.

And there are four new shrubs that lead the list: the "Bella Anna" hydrangea; two double-flowering quince called "Double Take Orange Storm" and "Double Take Pink Storm"; and, although it was available as a limited release last year, the "Bloomerang" lilac.

"Bella Anna" is marketed by Bailey's Nurseries as part of its "Endless Summer" series, even though "Bella Anna" is an arborescens hydrangea like the older, white "Annabelle." The other "Endless Summer" hydrangeas are macrophylla.

For those who don't speak plant Latin, the arborescens have elongated blossoms and traditionally have been white, while the macrophylla are spherical and typically blue or pink. "Bella Anna," introduced by Michael Dirr, is reported to be pinker than "Invincibelle Spirit," a pink arborescens introduced last year in the Proven Winners line.

The two "Double Take" quince (Chaenomeles, although that is a Latin name almost no one uses) are double-flowering, deer resistant, early blooming and striking. They have neither thorns nor fruit, and they are described as looking like camellias.

The "Bloomerang" lilac sold out quickly when it was introduced last year. It is fragrant and a bright lilac color, but instead of blooming only in April, it is supposed to bloom throughout the summer.

O'Donal didn't mention the "Double Take" quince, but did mention two others: "Iwai Nishiki," which attracts hummingbirds and has deep-red double blooms, and "O Yashima," which has large white double blossoms. He said "Iwai Nishiki" is "thick, thorny and salt-tolerant," and ideal for a hedge at the edge of a street.

Tim Bate is high on a native honeysuckle vine called "Major Wheeler."

"It has an orange-red, trumpet-like flower that will rebloom, although it is heaviest in the early summer," Bate said. "The thing that really caught my eyes is that it is very disease-resistant and really one of the best honeysuckle vines."

He said it will probably grow 8 to 10 feet if supported on a fence or trellis and is striking.

If you have read that honeysuckle is invasive, don't worry. The invasive one is a Japanese shrub, while this is a native vine.

Estabrook also likes a Japanese maple that was a hit in the garden he created at the Portland Flower Show last month.

"Acer 'Orange Dream' is a nice Japanese maple that starts orange in the spring, turns a lime color and then turns back to orange again in the fall," Estabrook said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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The stunning “Blackberry Punch,” which is a new Calibrachoa

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Papaver “Place Pigalle,” a member of the Oriental poppy family


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