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The Best of Both Worlds!

Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary

Earliest blooming Hellebore!

I never thought I’d live to see the day that we were able to grow a true PINK flowered Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger), but famed English hybridizer David Tristram has finally accomplished his goal!

After many years of careful hand-crossing Helleborus niger with Helleborus x hybridus, David was finally successful in creating a true inter-specific cross.

It was originally thought that these two different species would never cross with each other, however Mr. Tristram has proved this theory wrong.

Helleborus Winter Thrillers Mix

Vast flower colors of Helleborus x hybridus

As you can see from the picture on the right, Helleborus x hybridus comes in a wide variety of flower colors, shapes, and sizes. Whereas the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger is a pristine, clear white in color.

Walberton’s Rosemary Hellebore is a superb hybrid between these two that now gives gardeners the “Best of Both Worlds”! We get the rich pink flower color from the xhybridus parent and the 3 month earlier bloom time from the niger parent.

Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary, superb deer proof shade plant

Deer proof shade plant Walberton's Rosemary Hellebore

We’ve just finished Halloween here in western Michigan and our plants of Walberton’s Rosemary are coming into full bloom! WOW! I’ve never seen another Hellebore bloom this early in the year.

As you can see from the picture on the left, the hybridization process has also produced a plant with superb vigor! Christmas roses can be a bit tricky to grow in the home garden, but when Mr. Tristram crossed it with the vigorous x hybridus, he greatly improved its garden vigor.

Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary

Tremendous flower power of Walberton's Rosemary Hellebore

As you can see from the image on the right, this new hybrid has tremendous flower power! I shot this picture at Skagit Gardens before this plant had been released several years ago. I was simply amazed at the huge number of blooms on these 2 gallon specimen containers!

Congratulations to Mr David Tristram for all his years of dedicated hard work! His new Walberton’s Rosemary Hellebore brings another new realm of great garden possibilities to our favorite and Colorful Deer Proof Shade Hellebores!

First-Ever, PINK Reblooming Annabelle Hydrangea

Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirit from www.GreatGardenPlants.com

Reblooming Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea

This breeding breakthrough is one of the most exciting new Flowering Shrubs of the past decade! It’s a PINK flowering form of America’s favorite Annabelle Hydrangea.  Rare, pink-flowering Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea boasts giant 8-10″ flowers of bright pink that will color your garden for over 4 months!

For decades, the giant white flowered globes of Annabelle Hydrangea were the only Hydrangea that would reliably bloom in the coldest regions of the country. However, Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea has changed the landscape with her bright pink flowers that thrive in the coldest Zone 3 gardens!

Hydrangea Annabelle from www.GreatGardenPlants.com

White blooms on Annabelle Hydrangea, Hardy in Zone 3

It took nearly 10 years for hybridizer Dr. Tom Ranney to successfully produce this pink-flowered form of Annabelle and we consider this one of the most exciting breeding breakthroughs in Hydrangeas of the past decade!

Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea lends itself to a multitude of uses in today’s home garden including magnificent large pot specimens on the patio as shown in the above photo. She also makes a wonderful long-blooming Hedge Plant as shown in the picture below. What other hedges will grow quickly and give you over 4 months of flowers…which make long-lasting cut-flower bouqets!

Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea from www.GreatGardenPlants.com

Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangea used as a Long-Blooming Flowering Hedge

Each stem produces a large flower measuring 8-10″ across and a dark pink in color. Cooler temperatures seem to intensify & darken the pink coloration. As the main flower emerges, other flowers begin appearing up & down the stem, thus prolonging the flower show for up to 4 months!

And we saved the best part for last! Dr. Ranney has teamed up with Proven Winners to launch this plant with a special goal of raising $1 MILLION dollars to be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to help in the fight against this dreaded disease! One dollar for every plant sold will be donated!

Our hats (and garden gloves) off to our good friend Tom Ranney and we wish him much success with this new Great Garden Plant!!

Fast, Colorful Drought Proof Groundcovers!

One of the most frequently asked questions we get from fellow gardeners is what are the best, fastest growing, and most colorful groundcovers for sunny locations.

Well, here’s 4 of my favorites that fit the bill!

Delosperma cooperi – Ultra hardy, extremely fast growing and a dazzling display of brilliant 1″ pink flowers all summer long!

Sedum Angelina – Vivid yellow foliage thrives without water for weeks on end! Rapidly forms a colorful matt up to 2′ across. Perfect along hot asphalt driveways where it shines!

Sedum Voodoo – Another vibrantly colored and highly drought-proof Sedum. Voodoo has wonderfully dark red foliage that remains showy from spring thru frost. Dark pink-red flowers top the plant in early fall.

Aster Wood’s Light Blue – This is a great groundcover that puts on a burst of much-needed blue flowers in the fall. Each plant is covered with 100’s of azure-blue flowers that are visible from 300 feet away!

So, there’s my top picks for ultra-hardy, fast-growing, & colorful groundcovers!

5 Month Blooming Hedge Plant – Endless Summer Hydrangea

Hydrangea Endless Summer

Long-blooming Endless Summer Hydrangea

Our pick for Best New Shrub of the Decade! Hydrangea macrophylla Endless Summer brings a wealth of great features to gardeners nationwide.

Blooms in Zone 4 gardens! Finally, a mophead Hydrangea that will bloom in Zone 4 gardens across the country! This giant mophead Hydrangea was selected at Bailey Nurseries in Minnesota for its ability to bloom on new growth! Other mophead or macrophylla Hydrangeas bloom on last year’s growth (old wood), but Endless Summer Hydrangea blooms on both old AND new growth. So, in areas of extreme cold which can damage the old growth flower buds, you’ll get an entirely new flower show in mid summer & fall.

Endless Summer Hydrangea

Useful as a Long Blooming Hedge Plant

Months of GIANT 10″ flower heads! Endless Summer Hydrangea begins its flower show in early summer & continues for over 5 months with its heavy reblooming flower display.  Mid-November of last year we STILL had flowers on our Endless Summer Hydrangea.

Best long-blooming flowering Hedge Plant we’ve found! Hydrangea Endless Summer makes a superb and long-flowering Hedge Plant growing to 4′ tall and 5′ wide. Used as a flowering hedge you get garden beauty as well as bouquets of fresh-cut Hydrangea flowers that last over 2 weeks in the vase!

Hydrangea Endless Summer

Flowers can be either Pink or Blue depending on soil pH

Flower color changes with soil pH. As with all mophead Hydrangeas, the flower color will change according to your soil pH. Flowers are pink if you have more alkaline soil with a higher pH and are bright blue if you have more acidic soils with a lower pH.

Endless Summer Hydrangea

Fall foliage display on Endless Summer Hydrangea

Don’t forget the fall FOLIAGE show! Many gardeners forget that the foliage of Endless Summer Hydrangea also changes color in the fall taking on fiery colors of orange & red before the leaves finally drop off.

You won’t be disappointed with this long-blooming Hydrangea which combines wonderfully with colorful Heucheras, bold-foliaged Hostas, & lacy Hardy Ferns!

Double Coneflowers – Meet the Breeder!

Arie Blom & Echinacea Hot Papaya

Breeder Arie Blom & his Hot Papaya Coneflower

I’d like to introduce you to the man behind many of the very BEST double-flowered Coneflowers currently in American gardens. He is our very good friend, Arie Blom of The Netherlands. Arie studied advanced plant breeding at the University of Florida and after receiving his graduate degree, he worked in a tissue culture laboratory in California before returning to Holland.

Arie is an extremely friendly guy and is passionate about his breeding work with Echinacea. I’ve had many opportunities to sit down and talk with Arie and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to visit his seedling fields this summer!

Arie began breeding Coneflowers in 2002 and started in his backyard. A few of his initial goals were to breed for very sturdy, vigorous garden plants with a heavy flowering tendancy.

Echinacea Pink Double Delight from Great Garden Plants

Echinacea Pink Double Delight

Echinacea Pink Double Delight was Arie’s very first introduction and he hit it out of the ballpark!

This bright double pink Coneflower has multitudes of large 2-3″ flowers held atop very strong stems that don’t flop in the dirt. Plants are very well branched and produce a flower show from mid-June until September!

Echinacea Coconut Lime from Great Garden Plants

Echinacea Coconut Lime

Arie’s second introduction was Echinacea Coconut Lime. His breeding goal was to produce a full double-white coneflower and he greatly succeeded!

Coconut Lime Coneflower is extremely floriferous with large 3″ flowers of white which turn a pleasant lime-green as they age. Its strong stems and heavy flower count make it a perfect subject for cut-flowers.

Many people don’t realize that DOUBLE Coneflowers will last over 2 weeks as cut flowers indoors. And, many are highly fragrant…which adds to the show!

Echinacea Hot Papaya from Great Garden Plants

Echinacea Hot Papaya

Then along comes the FIRST-EVER DOUBLE Orange Coneflower with Arie’s Echinacea Hot Papaya! WOW!

When I first saw Hot Papaya Coneflower, I could not believe how tremendously STRONG the stems were! They were like thick pencils! This interspecific cross (a cross between 2 species) has produced this amazingly colorful hybrid with its giant 3″ flowers of brilliant orange and fully double.

Hot Papaya Echinacea also has wonderfully fragrant flowers and I had them last over 18 days as CUT FLOWERS in our offices of Great Garden Plants.

I have the extreme privilege of calling Arie Blom my friend! He is a very passionate plantsman with a willingness to share with others!

Stay tuned NEXT WEEK when I’ll show you his BEST new Double Coneflower for 2011!!! You won’t be disappointed! Chris

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