This gardening season seems to have an air of excitement to it.

The spring started warm and people were eager to get out. The economy seems to be turning around, so people have money to buy plants. Traveling can be a pain, so people want to make their yards nice.

And, to finally get to the point, the industry is putting out a lot of new plants that will add interest to the garden. And again this year, a lot of them are hydrangeas.

Deb Bedard of Springvale Nurseries went right to the Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea when asked about new plants.

“It’s a paniculata with the actual name ‘Renhy’ and the blooms are supposed to be pink and white variegated, and the huge triangular shape of paniculatas.”

Another one she likes, also pink and white but heavier on the white, is Tickled Pink. This one is shorter, at 4 to 5 feet, with a lacier blossom.

Ginny Moody of Moody’s Nursery in Saco is excited about the Quickfire hydrangea.

“That one starts blooming in June and blooms all summer long,” she said. “It’s in the PeeGee (paniculata) family and has white flowers that move to pink.”

She also said there is a lot of interest in Invincibelle Spirit and Incrediball hydrangeas, both in the arborescens family. Invincibelle Spirit has bright pink flowers, while Incrediball has huge white flowers that stand up straight on thicker stems.

Tom Estabrook of Estabrook’s in Yarmouth, Scarborough and Kennebunk also mentioned Invincibelle Spirit.

“It’s a pink Annabelle, and it’s nice because you can cut it to the ground and it will bloom that same year.”

Jeff O’Donal mentioned two hydrangeas that are so new they aren’t listed in his 2010 catalog, and one of them won’t show up at the nursery until mid-summer.

“We’re going to be getting a selection of the dwarf Limelight hydrangea,” O’Donal said. “They are calling it ‘Little Lime’ and it will be available in two or three months. People are going to like this. It is a very compact version of the green panicle hydrangea.”

The other one he already has, and it was in bloom until his nursery got hit with a frost earlier this month. It is a dwarf version of Penny Mac, a macrophylla hydrangea that is a virtual twin of Endless Summer.

“They are the blue one, and they are kind of cool,” O’Donal said.

O’Donal has three other woody plants that excite him. One is a maple that is a cross between a palmataum, or Japanese maple, and a pseudosieboldianum, or Korean maple.

“The great thing about this is that it is hardy enough to grow in Orono,” he said. “It has a nice fall color, but nothing in red yet.”

O’Donal said he got 10 of them from J. Frank Schmidt in Oregon, and they have the look of a green Japanese maple with the hardiness of a Korean maple. It is a step toward creating a plant that looks like a red, cutleaf Japanese maple and is hardy for Zone 4, he said.


Also not in the catalog is a variegated river birch called Shiloh Splash.

“Being variegated, it is slower growing, but it has the same peeling bark as river birch,” O’Donal said. “It can be grown as a low-branch trunk form or clump form, but you will want to limb it up so you can see the bark as well as the foliage. It is a really striking, almost white plant.”

Fothergilla major ‘Red Licorice’ was rated as one of the best fothergillas in a university study, and got its name because of its fall color. It grows wide and has typical fothergilla white flowers and grows 6 to 8 feet tall.

Moving to smaller plants, Estabrook singles out the Pretty Much Picasso supertunia.

“The blooms are a bright color purple with a lime green edge to it,” he said. “It seems to be really popular.”

Another plant catching people’s eyes is a David Austin rose called Golden Celebration, which has a double yellow bloom.

And Estabrook said there have been some big improvements in clematis, mentioning ‘Anna Louise,’ ‘Sugar Candy’ and ‘Liberation’ as especially good.

“They range from purples to pinks to whites, a real nice broad spectrum of flowers, 6 inches across, and they are all in bloom right now.”

One other woody Estabrook is high on is Bloomerang lilac, which will rebloom later in the summer.


Moody is trying some interesting things with fruit trees.

“We have sold, for a while, three apple varieties on one tree,” she said. “A new one for us is three-in-one cherries. That solves the problem of cross-pollination for people who don’t have a lot of room. You have several varieties grafted on one tree.”

They also sell different varieties of blueberries potted together, and married male and female blue hollies, so people actually get berries.

Others she mentioned are Hosta ‘Sun Power,’ which has gold-colored leaves and does swell in the sun; the red and purple versions of the Stella d’Oro reblooming daylily and Coppertina, a smaller-than-average, copper-leaved physocarpus or ninebark.

Bedard said Kelly Tarbox, who owns Springvale Nurseries, wanted to make sure she mentioned Supertunia Citrus.

“It’s a new color, with a deep yellow throat going to lime green and a paler yellow, ruffled edge,” she said. “It’s really been a hot seller.”

Glowing magenta Oenothera, or evening primrose, jumps out in the nursery, Bedard said. It is a mounding variety with vivid, bright pink flowers

And finally, she likes the perennial Mukdenia.

“I might have mentioned this last year, but I grew it myself and I like it even more,” Bedard said. “It is hardy in sun or shade, has a beautiful white flower, and an interesting shaped leaf that turns bright red in the fall. It is a true three-season perennial.”


Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

[email protected]


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