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Great New Plants Coming
by Daryl Pulis

I've been doing a lot of traveling over the last several months, visiting horticultural research and trial gardens, and attending some great lectures. One of the most interesting has been the Southern Plant Conference, held a few weeks ago.

The Southern Plant Conference is held every two years and draws horticulturists eager to hear about what's new and hot in plants. Speakers from all over the world were there to show slides and discuss the best of their plant introductions. Shouts of delight were heard when something spectacular was shown, such as Clematis 'Piilu' from Estonia that flowers all season with rich purple flowers with a deeper purple band, or the brilliant Leyland Cypress from the Netherlands, 'Gold Rider'. Oohs and ahhhs continued as we looked at the huge variety of variegated Dogwoods that will soon be released.

Gasps were heard as Ozzie Johnson showed slides of his recent trip to the mountains of China where they often had to dangle over the side of a cliff to retrieve a rare specimen. And we collectively groaned as he described a breakfast of lily scales, fern stems and chicken foot soup served in one village. With luck we'll soon see some of his finds in garden centers, such as a yellow Impatiens or the Begonia with maple-like leaves.

Ted Stephens from Nurseries Caroliniana brought back a variegated Kudzu from Japan. Will it be named 'White Trash' as some suggested?

Dan Heims from Terra-Nova had the longest plant list. His topic was "New Perennials for the Shade" and he had a great collection. He showed several new Coral Bells (Heucheras) and Foam Flowers (Tiarellas), some great painted ferns and Hostas. To give you an idea of a Heims lecture, here's a description from his catalog, "Come see my etchings", begs Hosta 'Strip Tease'. Between a rich, velvety green border and a chartreuse gold center, are the most unique "etchings" of pure white."

You can find many of the latest Terra-Nova introductions locally at Love's Greenhouse (770-442-3935). A great combination for your shade garden would be 'Ursula's Red' Japanese Painted Fern, a dark red-leaf Heuchera, and Corydalis 'Blackberry Wine'. Corydalis can be tricky for the new gardener, so if you're a beginner, one of the Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra exemia) could be substituted. Add a Hellebore (Lenten or Christmas Rose) for winter bloom and you'll have year-round color.

The last speaker of the conference had us howling with laughter even after several exhausting days. If you've ever read Plant Delights catalog, you'll know why. Tony Avent exhorted us to ban boring landscapes and promote fun plants. And how can anyone be bored when his catalog has such fascinating plant names as 'Nancy's Revenge' Elephant Ears, or 'Squash Casserole' Hosta?

With all the new plants coming, it will be impossible to be bored. Check them out in your favorite nurseries, and see where they might fit into your landscape.

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