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What “new to you” plant did you grow and absolutely love this year? Why did you love it so?

Who doesn’t like discovering a new ‘must-have’ plant for their garden? Sometimes that new plant is brand new to the market and other times it’s a “new to you” plant that just crossed your path. Either way, every gardener loves successfully selecting something new for their garden. Since it’s the end of the year, we decided to ask several industry friends and colleagues what “new to them” plant they fell in love with this year  Not to mention, I’m planning to make ‘my new love’ a part of my garden for years to come. I hope you can find a gem or two for your garden as well.

Contributors: Kerry Meyer

Kyra Back – Cincinnati Zoo

This year we tried Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus). I had seen it in other gardens and loved the look. So this year we grew some on from seed. It seemed easy to grow and adds beautiful color, texture, and amazing architecture to the garden! We were not lucky enough to see it bloom, but when last I looked, it still was looking good at the end of November. Now we have had a hard freeze I will check it again.

Laura Robles – Walters Gardens

The first is Allium Serendipity – while I’ve grown this in the greenhouse, I never had it in my yard before.  I hadn’t even had Allium ‘Millenium’ because we sold our last house just after I had planted ‘Millenium’ in my old landscape.  I love ‘Serendipity’ for the massive amounts of flowers, for the fact that it’s deer and rabbit resistant, and for how much of a pollinator magnet it is.  It provided a great opportunity for me to show my daughter all the different types of pollinators that came to the flowers, and enabled me to give her a little lesson on how we were able to work at pulling weeds right next to them and the bees were not at all worried about us!  A few days later she had a neighborhood friend over and I overheard her telling her friend not to be scared of the bees and that they won’t bother you if you just leave them alone. 

The second is Gomphrena ‘Truffula Pink.’  I had used this with some other Proven Winners annuals (including Calibrachoa ‘Lemon Slice’ – one of my favorites) in some combo planters at our church in 2019 (the 7-18-19 photo) and was so impressed with it I wanted it in my own containers this year (the 7-6-20 photo).  I love how it just keeps blooming all season and how it has a different look for an annual than many of the more widely used varieties – it works great in combination planters!

Norman Winter – the Garden Guy

Truffula Pink may be the finest pollinator plant of the last decade. This was the first year I grew it and there was one Halley’s Comet type experience after another. By that, I mean a once in a lifetime experience. I challenge anyone to match my images of butterflies on Truffula Pink. In fact, here I am on November 24 in Columbus GA and it is still bringing the butterflies in. Anytime you feel it is a little too tall or leggy it rewards you tenfold when you cut it back. It is an annual but mine returned beautifully! It is an elegant, stately leader in a backyard habitat.

Kendra Odelia Hutchins – Cornell

The "new to me" plant that I absolutely loved this year was Colocasia "Coffee Cups." In the sunshine, this cultivar has a stately elegance, with long dark stems supporting cupped leaves that look like offerings to the sky. In the rain, the plant comes to life, collecting rainwater until the weight of it upturns the leaves, turning them into waterspouts. It is mesmerizing to watch...and having them in the garden was like having a built-in water feature! They fit right in next to our Ensete, adding to the tropical feel of the bed. But they would also shine on their own as a lovely foliage accent in a bed of shorter annuals. Definitely one of my new favorite plants.

Kamoya McDowell – Garden Addictz

The plant that was new to me was Angelface Blue Angelonia. The color was vibrant. The texture and height was everything.  It’s very drought tolerant and gorgeous. What won me over the most, was the fact that deer didn't bother this plant at all and it bloomed profusely! A must-have in the garden.

Karen Chapman – Le jardinet

Heptacodium m. ‘Tianshan’. Total plant-lust heaven

From the glossy bright green leaves to the fragrant blooms, red calyces, fall color, and attractive bark this larger shrub/small tree is spectacular. Add to that drought tolerance and deer resistance and I’m seriously dancing the plant happy dance. I’ve already specified it in several clients' gardens for next year! The species is too large for many gardens and can also be rather gangly – this is a better form and more manageable stature.

Dave Konsoer – Proven Winners

I live just outside of Chicago and fell in love with the new High New Euryops this year.  This genus is a staple in the Southern U.S. but I had never experienced it for myself as a life-long Chicagoan.  High Noon flowered non-stop from May until…well, it’s November 12 as I type and it’s still flowering.  It thrived in the heat of Summer as expected, but what has really surprised me is how well it has performed after multiple frosts and low temperature nights this Fall – this photo was taken in late October.  I never once had to deadhead it or do anything to maintain the shape of the plant and it flowered and flowered and flowered.  I love High Noon and will plant more next year!

Chris Sabbarese-North America Corona Tools

New to me this year was Color Blaze Lime Time coleus. What I love about it, well first the color is so vibrant. I can spot it across the yard and it just stands out. What I love most…I live in dry hot 9B and coleus has never done well here. Even the shade is way too hot. But this one has survived and thrived in 110F+ temps in the shade and stays looking lush and amazing!

Kerry Meyer - Proven Winners

I grew Heat it Up® Yellow Gaillardia in my garden for the first time this year and it was awesome.  It has the prettiest clear yellow flowers you could hope for. It blankets the plant with color, so you don’t really see the foliage. As the flowers age, they disappear and leave behind the nice yellow centers, which eventually get buried by new flowers. Did I deadhead?  No, I did not and it didn’t need me to. This plant loves heat and humidity and bees adore it. There was seldom a time when it wasn’t mobbed by bees and it bloomed deep into fall. It’s an annual and gave a huge bang for my buck in the garden. I combined it with Heart to Heart® ‘Scarlet Flame’ Caladium and Whirlwind® Blue Scaevola.  I do love a red, yellow and blue color scheme!


Putra Bonaccorsi – Good Path Garden

This is a tough question for me because this has been a year of stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new in the garden. Out of the annuals that I planted in the garden this season, I would have to pick the Rockin' Playin' The Blues Salvia. This plant is a beast in the garden! This annual produces nectar-rich deep blue tubular flowers that are attractive in our garden, however, most importantly it attracts all sorts of pollinators and one I haven't seen before in our garden. Just a bit of context about our garden we currently situated in a development that has houses behind us and we don't see a lot of animals showing up unexpectedly. The addition of the Rockin' Playin' The Blues Salvia this season really drew hummingbirds and I'm just so thrilled to have captured their sighting this year. I couldn't recommend this plant enough if you're looking to bring in different pollinators to your garden!

Sandy Wentworth – Proven Winners

LOVE! LOVE! LOVE the new Double Delight Begonia!

Great part shade/shade plant! Always looks good, low maintenance. Gorgeous yellow color stayed looking great all season!

Jenny Simpson – Creekside Nursery, Inc

My favorite “new to me” plant this year were the caladiums.  They were such fantastic performers for us in all applications of gardening! I will be using them even more next year!

Jessica Cloninger – Boerner Botanic Garden

Many years ago I used to help plant the conservatory's seasonal display, and there were many plants that I had never seen before that they would use there. One plant that shocked me was a relatively unknown plant everyone referred to as the 'Juris' plant (at the time there was a fellow Horticulturist by that name/I just figured this was his favorite plant). I had not seen or heard of this plant since; until I looked at my 2020 Proven Winners plant list and saw Euryops on the list. I had to look this genus up and sure enough, my coworkers were not saying Juris but Euryops...

So I thought E. 'High Noon' was like a walk down memory lane, super excited.  Its performance was average, but 2020 trials were kinda a mess for so many reasons. For example, we had the 10th hottest June on record.  Nothing performed the way I expected it to, and I hope this plant gets a '2nd chance' to trial again in the future here. 

Angie Salazar – Garden Obsessions

Truffula Pink Gomphrena, it's fast growth and abundance was amazing. A huge pollinator magnet that brought tons of fun watching bees and butterflies. A great plant to have in such a humid climate and although it is a drought-tolerant plant it did amazing in a rainy climate and wonderful to have as a cut flower. Never-ending, lasting all the way to frost!

Ambrose Salazar – Garden Obsessions

Mojave Red Portulaca was an exciting plant for me to watch grow and spread on a sloping garden. The best part was the morning blooms that looked like a bouquet of red roses glistening with the morning sun. Far exceeded our expectations as a drought-tolerant border plant on a slope.

Natalie Carmoli - Spring Meadow Nursery

This year I grew a few Jack of Diamonds Brunnera and I'm in LOVE. I have always had a plain, green generic Brunnera in my back yard that came with the house and I thought it was sweet with its little blue spring flowers, but these make me giddy every time I go out to my new (part) shade garden...and I haven't even seen them flower yet! The huge, variegated foliage is gorgeous, thick, and leathery - and it never wilted or looked sad in the heat of summer. When you're planting a shade garden, you are quite reliant on interesting foliage, and this is perfect. I'll never be without it again. I attached some pics.

This winter, my guess is I'll be fan-girling over the Arctic Fire Cornus I planted this summer. I planted two of the new Arctic Fire Yellow Cornus in the spring, and it had beautiful white flowers followed by white berries. I added an Arctic Fire Red Cornus later in the summer, and you can see they will be just stunning once we have a blanket of snow out there.

I wanted to create a natural screen in front of a cement clock retaining wall with something that, even in the winter, was beautiful to see out my back window - and these will fit the bill. I can't wait for them to reach their full size, it should be quite spectacular.


Tracy V. - plaids.and.poppies

This question is so easy for me! By far my favorite, new to me plant was Suncredible Sunflower. It feels like a no-fail plant, always blooming and very eye-catching. The height was perfect, it filled in easily, there was no trouble with bugs and these blooms easily stood out in my garden. Later in the season I cut the blooms and kept them in an old watering can, they easily went 3 weeks as a cut flower. Bonus!

Jeanine Standard, Proven Winners

This year I added Rockin’ Blue Suede Shoes to my collection of plants that bring the hummingbirds into my backyard. I have planted Rockin’ Fuchsia and Rockin’ Deep Purple before, but the ice blue blooms of Blue Suede shoes was a color I have never had in my landscape before—quite striking! And the two hummers who visited throughout each day approved! They feasted from the blooms until late September before heading south.

Brent Pemberton - Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University System

Begonia Double Delight Blush is not a new species to me, but a new variety of the tuberous type that I really enjoyed growing.  I am seeing more and more heat tolerance in this group and this is a great example of it.  Lost a small percentage, but most looked great with nice foliage and flowers that maintained their form and color through the heat.  What I have also learned is to keep these in the shade and also DON’T OVERWATER!  A shady porch with an overhang to protect from rain would be ideal.

Jeb Fields, Louisiana State University

I just absolutely loved Heart of the Jungle Colocasia.

These were absolutely amazing. Typically we don’t lush over Colocasia, but the cool-green color was a delight in the hot and humid summer garden. Anything that catches the breeze in the sun garden like Heart of the Jungle definitely brings a false sense of coolness on the hot summer day.

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