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Plants We Dig

February 3, 2014

Posted in : Plants We Dig

Every spring I am asked “what’s new, what’s different?”  I think about the new plant introductions that we will be bringing in and I offer up some suggestions. It seems I struggle with this procedure every year. I suppose it’s like the latest iPhone or the newest technology. We’ve got to be hip. Anyone who knows me would not use hip to describe me, but it doesn’t prevent me from trying new plants. I just don’t bring them in to be hip. I visit nurseries, read articles, talk to salespeople, customers, and employees to try to ferret out which plants we should experiment with. Yearly there is an onslaught of new plant introductions. Google Hydrangea and your head might explode. Roses, buddleia, redbud, heuchera and on and on and on….

Of course HGTV, Proven Winners, Better Homes and Gardens etc. hype the latest and greatest, often times before production even allows for us to procure these wonders. Customers come in and ask “Do you have?” often times we know the questions coming. Somewhere around April 20th when we literally can’t fit another plant in this place someone will ask me for a plant we don’t have.

We at Plant Detectives, are biased just as everyone is. We have our favorites and our not so favorites. We truly try to evaluate the merits of both new and old and decide what we should carry. Surely demand dictates a portion of our mix as does current trends, but every once in a while I remember why I went into this industry. I love plants and so I visit, touch, feel, talk and sometimes I just find myself saying “that is wicked cool”. Clearly those plants make it to the nursery. So why am I rambling? (its what I do) I would like to present a regular feature on “plants we dig" these will not always be new and hip. They could be stalwarts of the landscape, tried and true or they could be problematic plants that are under utilized in the landscape and yes sometimes they could be new and cool. We just want to be sure that the newest is really worthy of all that press and attention.


A newcomer to the horticultural world is a plant we are excited about. Deutzia Nikko “blush”. Nikko deutzia is a 3-4’ mounding shrub that is covered with white flowers in late april/early june. It is a relatively carefree plant that shows great deer resistance. It responds well to pruning, likes full sun or light shade, and well-drained soil. “Blush" is a pink hybrid with the same flowering and growth characteristics. This plant is new, different, and in our estimation it appears to be a winner. Here we are hawking it when in fact we have a mere 24 plants Chester bound this spring, so if your interested get'em early.


With all the hydrangea cultivars out there and our feelings about them it seems hypocritical that we highlight a hydrangea, but this one really caught our attention.

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Hydrangea Paniculata ‘Great Star’ is truly a unique paniculata. The plant reaches a height of 6/7’ with a comparable spread. This hydrangea features white star like clusters of flowers in mid summer through frost and is truly unlike any other hydrangea we have seen. As with most paniculatas the plants will thrive in full sun or part shade and prefer well-drained soil although they like it moist. The flowers are well suited for cutting.


The last of this trifecta is an oldie. This plant might be under utilized because it is hard to get, because it is finicky to get established, or because it simply is not widely known.

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Franklinia Alatamaha is a small tree that seldom reaches 20’ in our neck of the woods. Generally it is grown as a multi-stem plant and you can anticipate about 15’ in height and 10/12’ in spread. It is one of the few trees that bloom in late summer with large white flowers and a yellow center. The flowers can be fairly prolific and showy. Additionally, Franklinia has magnificent red fall color, as red as any fall color we have seen. The biggest issue with Franklinia is getting the plant established, but in our opinion it is so worth it.

Light shade and well drained soil are growth requirements, although it will grow well in full sun. Now for the “indulge me” footnote to franklinia. The plant was discovered on the banks of the Alatamaha River in Tennesee by one of our first horticulturists, John Bartram. He named the plant for his good friend Ben Franklin. After collecting this plant from the wild it was never found in it’s native habitat again. The plant you purchase this spring is a long lost descendant of the first plant discovered by Bartram. Pretty cool.

We’ll be back at you with more in the upcoming weeks.

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