Fertilizers Garden shows and expositions New plants

Discoveries From the GardenComm Conference

Photo: Janet Carson, www.arkansasonline.com

Every year for over 30 years, I’ve been attending the annual GardenComm* show and conference, held in 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. And every year, I come away with some great new plant and product ideas for my own use and to share with my readers. These are all either already on the market or scheduled for launching in the coming year.

*Garden Communicators International, formerly the Garden Writers Association.

Here are some of my discoveries for 2020:

Iceberg Alley™ Sageleaf Willow
(Salix candida ‘Jefberg’)

Iceberg Alley™ Sageleaf Willow. Photo: www.baileynurseries.com

This low-growing, rounded, silver-leaved shrub is unique, not the least of its attributes being its extreme hardiness (USDA zone 2). It will slowly reach from 3–4 feet (90–120 cm) in height and diameter (it will be at its tallest in milder climates). A male plant, it also bears attractive silvery catkins with colorful stamens in early spring. 

The silvery catkins pick up further color as the stamens appear. Photo: www.baileynurseries.com

It’s extremely well adapted to harsh conditions and does best full sun or, at least, no more than very light shade. It naturally grows in somewhat moist soil, but adapts well to dry conditions once established. It comes from limestone areas of northern Newfoundland, so it’s well adapted to alkaline soils (Prairie gardeners will love it!), but also seems perfectly happy in more acid ones as well. It does like a cold winter and won’t be happy in a hot climate. It’s southern limit appears to be about zone 6.

The shrub was discovered in Newfoundland by Todd Boland of Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.

‘Redarling’ Brussels Sprouts 
(Brassica oleracea gemmifera ‘Redarling’)

‘Redarling’ Brussels Sprouts. Photo: www.syngenta.com

Here’s a brilliant red-purple hybrid Brussels sprouts with a slightly sweeter flavor than most green varieties. The plump, jewel-like 1½ inch (3.8 cm) buttons mix the typical Brussels sprouts bite with mild sweetness. Color-fast buttons are scrumptious steamed, broiled, or roasted—and excel as conversation-starting canapes. Easy-growing, prolific plants. And maybe its attractive color might make it more acceptable to young children!

Dimensions: 30–40 inches (75–100 cm) x 20–30 inches (50–75 cm). Maturity: 140 days.

Poprocks™ Petite Japanese Spirea
(Spiraea japonica ‘Odessa’)

Poprocks™ Petite Japanese Spirea. Photo: bloomineasyplants.com

This is probably the most compact and dense Japanese spirea ever introduced. Reaching only 3 feet (90 cm) tall and wide, it features a tidy, compact mature form and eye-catching candy-pink button flowers that pop against rich green foliage. And it blooms non-stop right through the summer: no deadheading required. It will need full sun and average garden soil and is hardy from zones 3 to 8. Use it as a border plant or low hedge.

Wild Valley Farms Wool Pellets

Wild Valley Farms Wool Pellets. Photo: www.wildvalleyfarms.com

Certainly, the most original fertilizer product I’ve seen in years, these wool pellets are made from waste wool, fleece from the underbelly and tags that can’t be utilized to make clothes and is usually thrown away. Used in the garden, though, the pellets provide a 9-0-2 fertilizer to your plants that lasts all summer (in fact, more than six months), but that’s not all. They also increase the porosity and water holding ability of the soil. In fact, they can reduce watering needs by up to 25%! And here’s a secret: they tend to repulse slugs and snails!

Wool pellets can be used in the garden and indoors as well (use them to replace perlite when you prepare your potting mix). If you can’t find them in local stores, contact the supplier directly: www.wildvalleyfarms.com.

Beacon™ Impatiens 
(Impatiens walleriana Beacon series)

Beacon™ Orange garden impatiens. Photo: www.panamseed.com

Yes, the garden impatiens is definitely back. After 2019’s Imara™ XDR series impatiens by Sygenta, PanAmerican Seeds offers its new line of mildew-resistant impatiens, Beacon™, for 2020. 

These plants are pure Impatiens walleriana, with all its shade resistance, but will not die from impatiens downy mildew (Plasmopara obducens), the devastating disease that practically wiped the garden impatiens off the market in 2013. The new series comes in 6 colors and 2 mixes, so you can once again fill baskets, window boxes, and shade landscapes with confidence.

Try these new mounding impatiens (10–12 inches/25–30 cm x 12–14 inches/30–36 cm) everywhere you used to grow garden impatiens, that is from sun to deep shade. You can grow your own by seed or buy young plants in the spring. 

Garden impatiens adapt to most soils, but do keep them watered. Although these impatiens are usually treated as annuals, you can bring cuttings indoors for the winter if you want.

Everleaf Emerald Towers Basil
(Ocimum basilicum ‘Everleaf Emerald Towers’)

Everleaf Emerald Towers Basil. Photo: www.panamseed.com

Certainly not Grandma’s basil!

First of all, its upright growth habit with multiple short branches and short internodes make a nearly columnar plant (24–36″/60–90 cm x 8–12″/20–30 cm), ideal for small spaces. And also makes it highly ornamental. Even so, it has that traditional Genovese flavor, perfect for eating fresh in caprese salads or chopped fresh in recipes.

Better yet, Everleaf Emerald Towers basil rarely flowers! Experienced gardeners know that basil goes into decline when it blooms and pinch off flower buds as they see them, but you won’t need to do so with Everleaf Emerald Towers Basil! This is the first basil bred for season-long performance, flowering 10 to 12 weeks later than standard varieties (i.e. not at all in short-season climates like mine), so no flowers to remove. 

In my opinion, though, its best attribute is its excellent disease resistance.

For years, nurseries have been playing the ostrich about the ravages of two diseases of the basil they sell, downy mildew and fusarium, as if they think their customers won’t notice. But we did (how can you miss plants that die only weeks after you purchase them?) Well, with this new disease-resistant basil, you won’t need to worry about losing your plants in mid-season! 

Everleaf Emerald Towers basil is already offered in seed catalogs everywhere for the 2020 season. Check and you’ll see!

Peppy Le Pom Dwarf Pomegranate
(Punica granatum ‘SMNPGMF’)

Peppy Le Pom Dwarf Pomegranate. Photo: www.provenwinners.com

OK, so don’t expect to be eating the tiny, seedy, rather sour pomegranates this dwarf variety produces, but it is a step above the old ornamental “dwarf pomegranate” (Punica granatum ‘Nana’) that many of us have been growing over the years (mea culpa!). It has smaller, greener, denser leaves than the old-fashioned dwarf pomegranate, but the same bright orange dangling flowers appearing from through summer and into early fall, making it a most attractive plant. Plus, its habit is much denser and you can prune it to shape, even turn it into topiary (at least, if you’re more into pruning than I am). 

With a hardiness range of zones 7 to 10, this will only be a permanent outdoor shrub in milder climates. Elsewhere, bring it back indoors in early fall and enjoy it as a houseplant over the winter. 

Some of the flowers will produce small fruits. Photo: www.logees.com

Best in full sun. You can keep a bit on the dry side, but never let the rootball dry out completely. Eventual dimensions: 36–48 inches (90–120 cm) x 36 inches (90 cm).

You can learn more about growing dwarf pomegranates in the article Dwarf Pomegranate: Beauty Indoors and Out.

Of course, I saw much more than that at the GardenComm show: maybe I’ll show you more plants and products in the months to come!

4 comments on “Discoveries From the GardenComm Conference

  1. Are the ‘Beacon’ impatiens indistinguishable from those that are susceptible to the mildew? Someone at work brought some in, but knows that they are only impatiens. He did not document their varieties. I was surprised that they were even available. They performed well. (I do not know if the mildew is a problem here though.)

  2. TY! I’ll be looking for Poprocks spirea.

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