Posted on: December 12, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster |
Every year we see new and interesting plants introduced. It’s exciting to see what gardening professionals are interested in growing this season.
Cultivate ’19 is a trade show spanning eight acres at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. During a visit to Cultivate over the summer, those pros showed what they were most excited about.
Brie Arthur was literally hugging a deep green, tall basil plant on the floor of Cultivate ’19.
“The flavor is superior to Genovese,” she says of ‘Everleaf Emerald Towers’ basil, which was displayed in an area earmarked for new introductions. “The difference is, the leaves aren’t as thick, so when you chew them, especially when eating them with tomatoes, they break down at the same rate and you’re not left with a mouthful of basil.”
The garden author and personality grew this new basil last season holding a taste test with 15 other varieties paired with heirloom tomatoes.
“Everyone chose this basil as their preferred basil,” she says.
It grows tight and columnar with no hint of flower production, Arthur added. She grew the cultivar in the ground and in containers, and they both looked great.
The cultivar is also bred to be resistant to basil downy mildew. One more trick Arthur shared: she uses basil as an edging around her garden to deter deer.
“It’s truly the best basil introduction; everyone needs to grow it,” she says laughing.
It’s fun to watch fellow plant geeks exploring this area of the show. Kelly Norris is director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, and you may have even seen him on TV selling plants from Cottage Farms on QVC. The author and renowned iris expert gets a lot out of attending the trade show annually.
“This is a big family reunion,” he says smiling. “I love Cultivate. It’s sort of the fraternal order of horticulture in a way.”
Norris and his colleagues are exploring the new plant showcase, comparing notes and having fun discovering cool plants. He’s standing in front of a stunning salvia called ‘Red Roman.’
“I think salvias are having kind of a moment,” he says. “We’re talking a lot about pollinators, the deer-resistant aspect, these sort of resiliency conversations we’re having about the landscape. There’s a lot of great breeding work that has happened in the last four or five years.”
The plant is something called an interspecific hybrid, which is created using conventional breeding techniques and would be grown as an annual in most parts of the country. ‘Red Roman’ can get about three feet tall and wide, flower all summer and will bloom in either full or part sun. A decade ago, there weren’t that many choices when it comes to salvias, Norris adds, but that’s changed.
“Now you’re seeing all the richness of the genus to deliver high impact plants with lots of flowers, color, loves heat, loves humidity and they attract pollinators,” he says.
I walked right by Kurt Dramm, chairman of Dramm Corporation, while looking for a friend who works for the company. Jessica Reinhardt, their public relations and marketing manager, got quite a laugh after I explained that I had asked Dramm where I could find her.
The company makes a wide range of gardening products including watering tools, cutting tools, apparel and much more. Dramm was excited to tell me about their organic fertilizer.
“Everyone knows that fish is fantastic fertilizer,” he says confidently.
The company liquefies fish scraps from commercial fishermen that might otherwise go to a landfill. He quickly showcases his salesman chops while praising Drammatic Organic certified organic fertilizer.
“Some people will say, well there’s a little smell to it,” he says. “It’s like the ocean breeze,” he adds with a laugh.
The cold hydroslate process used on the fish assures nothing positive is lost during the procedure, making it a highly nutritious, natural product. It can be used both indoors and outdoors on ornamentals, vegetables and even the lawn.
“This fertilizer will grow a plant as good or better than a 20-20-20,” he says, “and it’s environmentally friendly.”
There is some evidence the fertilizer will retard fungal issues, too.
“You’ll get bigger leaves,” Dramm says of using the product. “It raises the brix (sugar) level in the plant and offers some degree of drought resistance.”
Russ Bedner, owner of Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse in McDonald, attends the show to search for new varieties and learn what’s trending in the industry.
“It’s hard to judge off the sample plants that are set out,” he says about looking over the multitude of new cultivars. “It’s going to be a trial for us for the first year we’re actually growing it.”
He loves a new variety of dianthis called ‘Rockin Pink Magic.’ The perennial plant is hardy to Zone 5a and is filled with pretty pink flowers on stems two feet tall. The ‘Zesty’ zinnia series has him interested, too. (pictured below in the gallery)
“It’s the color,” he says. “That’s a pretty standout color, that purple for a zinnia.”
He also saw the plant in a trial garden and observed that it had very little leaf spot and was one of the better-looking plants in the beds.
He thinks helichrysum ‘Silver Ribbon’ will make a great accent plant.
“It looks like it’s going to climb through your other plants within the garden,” Bedner says. “It has a nice silvery leaf.”
‘Heart to Heart’ caladiums offer some sun-tolerant versions of the plant, which is normally a full shade plant.
“They’ve got some really neat colors,” Bedner says. “There’s more and more requests for varieties that can take sun.”
Barbara Wise handles sales and marketing for Crescent Garden, which was displaying its lightweight decorative planters and other gardening items at its booth.
“We basically set the standard for good-looking, durable, lightweight planters,” she says.
The TruDrop self-watering version uses capillary action to get moisture to the plants. Wise, who lives in Nashville, can travel for a week, even at mid-summer, without concern for watering her containers.
“The longest I heard was 58 days that somebody went before they needed to add water,” she adds with a laugh.
One of the unique features allows gardeners to see the water level inside the pot via an indicator on the outside of the container. The pots can be used inside or out and have a drain on them to make moving easier.
Dennis James runs DJ’s Greenhouse in Transfer, Pa. He travelled to the show with a group that helps him at the business and found some interesting plants for the greenhouse. He’s fascinated with coleus from the Under The Sea series. ‘King Crab,’ ‘Bonefish,’ ‘Fire Coral’ and ‘Lemon Coral’ all have interesting foliage and colors. He’s also under the spell of ‘Pink Tuna.’
“The combination of the dark and the light colors combine really well and will work with other colors,” he says.
Plants of all the varieties mentioned will be for sale locally and online in 2020.
Doug Oster is editor of Everybody Gardens, a website operated by 535Media, LLC. Reach him at 412-965-3278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See other stories, videos, blogs, tips and more at everybodygardens.com.