Sunday, March 27, 2011

New Introductions for 2011 from Proven Winners

I recently attended the Seattle Outdoor Living Extravaganza organized by plant growers Proven Winners; what a party! Great speakers, generous gifts and yummy food, all with fellow gardening enthusiasts.

Mecardonia 'Gold dust' tumbles over the edge of this
container, beautifully planted with deep red million bells
and coleus. Great color combo.
Rick Shoellhorn, Director of new plants, is one of those wonderful charismatic speakers that you could listen to all day. Knowledgeable as well as highly entertaining, he had us salivating over their newest introductions and laughing at his stories.

Proven Winners has trial sites worldwide so varieties are tested for both cold and heat tolerance. After all it’s no good if something looks pretty for a month and then is merely a “soil amendment”! Their goal is to produce plants which have an extended performance and they do this is by using tissue culture rather than seed propagation. Put simply, when plants aren’t trying to produce seed, they flower for longer.
I'm always on the lookout for great foliage plants and this
 one definitely gets my vote; Pearl millet 'Vertigo'

There are so many must-have plants that Rick introduced that I’m hard pressed to choose which ones to showcase in this short article, so I’m going to focus on the more unusual varieties to look out for.

Pearl millet ‘Vertigo’ (Pennisetum purpureum); a monster of a grass! This may only be an annual in frost prone areas (zones 8-11) but talk about making a statement. Growing up to 4’ tall and almost as wide this variety has broad blades in rich burgundy. A serious ‘thriller’ for container design and a dramatic focal point in the landscape.

Heliotrope ‘Simply Scentsational’ – I bet you haven’t seen a heliotrope like this before. Unlike the usual purple or white varieties, this fragrant beauty is a delicate lavender with a white throat and yellow eye. An annual for most of us (zone 9-11) it is drought tolerant and likes full sun. This will form an attractive mounding filler for containers, attracting the attention of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and envious gardeners.
'Simply Scentsational' heliotrope - a new color

Mecardonia ‘Gold dust’ – I wish it had a better name; this sounds like a nut! Despite that, this annual forms a brilliant yellow carpet all summer or spill nicely over the edges of containers and baskets. An annual outside zones 9-11.

Alyssum ‘Snow princess’ - this is old fashioned alyssum on steroids! Plant it and stand well back lest you be swallowed in its froth of fragrant flowers. This is more open in habit than traditional alyssum and considerably more heat and humidity tolerant. Use it in BIG pots or as a groundcover as it will grow just 4” tall but 3-4’ wide according to Rick (despite what the label says)! Now that’s what I call a groundcover.

A fragrant bad hair day; the award 
winning 'Snow princess' alyssum
Phlox ‘Intensia Blueberry’ – This is unusual in that it is a hybrid between an annual and a perennial creating an annual with an extended bloom time. The burgundy flowers fade to blue on this 12-18” tall plant making it ideal for containers or well drained garden soil. Tolerant of light frosts, this is going to make a useful addition to my plant palette.

Written up your wish list yet? I’ve got more exciting news for you. To help you find these beauties Proven Winners has got a feature on their website to help you locate your nearest nursery that carries their brand. If you still can’t find your ‘must have’ plant you can order direct from their website. 

Live in England? No problem – I thought of all my British readers and while enjoying lunch with Rick asked him how you could find these plants. Kernock Park Plants sells the Proven Winners varieties and can be mail ordered. Here are the full contact details; Address; Kernock Park Plants, Pillaton, Saltash, Cornwall, PL12 6RY Phone: +44 (0)1579 350561, Fax: +44 (0)1579 351151 or Email

Yes this really is a phlox! This is an extended blooming
annual introduction; Phlox 'Intensia Blueberry'

While you’re on the Proven Winners website be sure to look at their other great plants, especially under the ‘new for 2011’ tab - but be warned your shopping list will undoubtedly get longer! As for me I’m both honored and excited to be asked to trial some of the 2012 introductions for you and trust me there are some really exciting perennials on that list as well as annuals. I can hardly wait!

Note; the Milwaukee event in April 8th has sold out! Tickets still available for Toronto on April 15th. Book TODAY.

All photos courtesy of Proven Winners

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