Learn about the best new plants for 2014 – The Journal News / Lohud.com

After this winter, surely everyone will want to be a gardener when the snow pack finally melts and the landscape begins to come alive.

Whether you’re a relative newbie or an old hand in the garden, there’s something magical about that first visit to your local nursery or garden center every spring. All those plants! And every year, there are dozens of new pansies, perennials and hydrangeas to check out. Which ones are winners and which are duds best left in the nursery yard?

To help us make sense of it all, Barb Pierson, the longtime nursery manager at White Flower Farm in Morris, Conn., is coming to the John Jay Homestead in Katonah on Wednesday morning to give a talk on “Exciting and New Varieties for 2014.”

Pierson’s lecture is part of the annual Home Gardening Lecture Series sponsored by the master gardener volunteers of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester. Advance tickets are $15, with walk-ins priced at $18.

Before her arrival, we asked Pierson a few questions about what’s new in the wide world of gardening.

What new plants are you really excited about this year?

Lots of new breeding and exciting new varieties this year! As nursery manager, I am able to see the vigor and flower power of the new plants in our greenhouse production, and then they are planted out in the display gardens where we test them for overall garden performance, hardiness and ease of maintenance. Two of the biggest trends in breeding are plants for small spaces and low-maintenance borders. Here are three of my favorites:

Hellebore ‘Golden Lotus,’ a beautiful double-flowered yellow hellebore with pink edging. This variety flowers profusely and is a strong grower. Grow hellebores in part shade for best performance.

Kniphofia ‘Mango Popsicle,’ an amazing red hot poker plant with a bright yellow-mango color. It flowers from July into fall and has clean grassy foliage. Likes full sun and attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

Clematis ‘Mayleen’ — Light pink flowers with a vanilla fragrance! This clematis has an abundance of flowers in May and June. Try this on a tuteur for a beautiful focal point in your garden.

So many home gardeners have relied on impatiens for shady spots, but it was wiped out by a downy mildew last year. Will we see any on the market this year?

Impatiens downy mildew surprised everyone in 2012 and wiped out much of the bedding impatiens in many areas of the country. In 2013, most people avoided planting them so we didn’t hear a lot about the disease. The progress of downy mildew is very weather dependent, so every year you will see different results. Most growers will continue to grow them using preventative fungicides so that the material goes to the consumer in good condition. Breeders in the meantime are working on disease resistance. The best advice for anyone like myself who love bedding impatiens (Impatiens walleriana) is not to plant them in the same area where you have a problem in the past. It is possible that the disease spores will overwinter in that area.

Any suggestions for impatiens replacements?

The best bets are coleus and begonias. Coleus will give you continuous color and the same for begonias. It is important that they receive some bright indirect light or better yet at least some dappled sun. Some people are suggesting New Guinea impatiens, but they will not flower like bedding impatiens in the shade.

What’s new in tomatoes this year?

In tomatoes the new craze is grafted tomatoes. The popular beefsteak varieties that are generally late to come into fruit are benefitted by a strong rootstock that is quick to take up water and nutrients. Also the rootstock is disease resistant so if you have had problems with your soil this will give you an advantage. I think people are interested in sun-dried tomatoes, and one of the best varieties for that is Tomaccio. Of course, we all know the best tomato for eating from the vine is Sungold — little orange cherry tomatoes that are so sweet!

What about the new boxwood blight? Should we avoid buying new ones?

For boxwood blight information, the best advice is to contact your local agricultural extension agent to see how and if the disease is progressing in your area — there are localized outbreaks and in some areas it isn’t present at all. I don’t think there are definitive results on this disease and where it will be five years from now.

Any plant recommendations for first-time vegetable growers?

I would recommend growing one or two tomatoes in containers in full sun to get used to growing. I suggest containers because you start with fresh potting soil — add compost for best results — and you can see when the soil is dry. I like to grow what I like to eat, regardless of whether they get large. It is imperative that good support be provided for the plants; putting your stakes or cages in at planting time is the best way to go. If I were to pick two plants for first time veggie growers I would choose a Sungold tomato and Cucumber ‘Spacemaster 80.’ Again, grow the cucumber in a pot with support.

What is your favorite hydrangea?

‘Blue Billow.’ This is an old-time favorite here at White Flower Farm. It blooms on old wood in the shade and it is blue — this is what surprises me every year. It blooms here in Connecticut around the 4th of July and holds its flowers for a long time. The lacecap flowers are a clear blue — delicate and beautiful. It is a very hardy easy-care plant. No special pruning or fertilizers needed.

Any must-have perennials, ones that will provide color all summer?

The best perennial, in my opinion, is Geranium ‘Rozanne,’ the 2008 Perennial Plant of the Year. It flowers from May until frost — gorgeous purple-blue flowers with a white eye. It likes part to full sun and is a low-maintenance perennial, coming back every year and flowering like crazy.

And what about ornamental grasses? Any favorites?

I love ornamental grasses for their variety in foliage and flowering types and the great movement they have in the wind. It is hard to pick a favorite, but right now I am big on Hakonechloa aureola, the Japanese fountain grass that is for small spaces and enjoys shade. Combine it with hellebores, hosta and pulmonaria.

Twitter: BillCaryNY

If You Go

Wednesday: Excitingand New Varieties for 2014, with Barbara Pierson, nursery manager at White Flower Farm. 10 a.m. to noon. $18 walk-ins. John Jay Homestead, 400 Route 22, Katonah. 914-285-3590.

Other upcoming Cornell-Westchester lectures

April 16: Flourishing Gardens vs. Plant Diseases. Plant pathologist Margery Daughtrey will highlight new diseases affecting ornamental plants, including impatiens, boxwood and roses. 10 a.m. to noon. $15 in advance, $18 walk-ins. Send checks to Cornell Cooperative Ext. of Westchester, 3 W. Main St., Suite 112, Elmsford, NY 10523. Info: http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/westchester/ 914-285-3590, Scarsdale Library, Olmstead Road.

May 14: Organic Sustainability in Action, Lecture and Tour. Jack Algiere will talk about organic farming techniques at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. 10 a.m. to noon. $15 in advance, $18 walk-ins. 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills.

June 18: Tour of Margee Falk’s Garden. 10 and 11 a.m. (arrive half-hour early). $15 in advance, no walk-ins. Parking only at Greenville Community Church, 270 Ardsley Road, Scarsdale.

• White Flower Farm’s annual Great Tomato Celebration, with more than 100 varieties for sale, runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 16 to 18. 167 Litchfield Road, Morris, Conn. www.whiteflowerfarm.com, 800-503-9624

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