For plant people, the fun of spring is shopping. Yes, there’s the joy of designing and planting and transforming a space, but there’s nothing like the dopamine surge you get when discovering a new plant. I’ll never forget how excited I was when I first saw a Spider Azalea (Rhododendron linearifolium). It, of course, looked nothing like a rhody or an azalea but rather a shrub framework with tiny ribbons for leaves. It was sooo cool. I also remember Diamond Heights Ceanothus (Ceanothus ‘Diamond Heights’) and how in love I was with that variegated, flat plant. New plant introductions often depart from their known characteristics in delightful ways. Here are six exciting new shrubs for 2018.
Seaside Serenade® Cape Cod Hydrangea
All of the Seaside Serenade® hydrangeas have a more compact form than other hydrangeas. This is handy for city dwellers who have limited space. For instance, Cape Cod grows to about four feet tall and then slows down considerably. Last year, I had an opportunity to check out this series in person and I was impressed by how stiff the stems were. If you’ve had problems with hydrangea blossoms flopping in the past, you won’t run into that problem with Cape Cod. Likes part-shade. Hardy from zones 4 – 9.
Double Take Peach™ Quince
I had an orange Quince at my old house and it made me so happy. The bright color lit up the cloudy early spring landscape in a way the red and pink ones didn’t. It really cheered my soul. When I saw this new cultivar Double Take Peach Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa ‘NCCS4’), I was mesmerized by its color. It’s a long-blooming shrub that’s a touch smaller at 4-5 feet wide and high than usual Quinces. It’s deer resistant and attracts hummingbirds. The best feature though is its lack of thorns! I love Quince but I hate any plant with thorns (yes, even roses). It flowers better in sun so make sure to plant it somewhere open. Hardy from zones 5 – 9.
Yellow Dwarf Jasmine
This is a lovely miniature shrub from Far Reaches Farm, sporting lightly fragrant flowers. Their soft yellow color glows against the dark green foliage. Jasminum parkeri blooms continuously all summer and stays evergreen in winter. The 12″-24″ height is ideal for a city gardener with scant room to spare. From Himachal Pradesh in India, this little guy is deer resistant and tolerates dry conditions. Hardy down to zone 7.
Curly Lady Camellia
I’ve never seen a Camellia with twisting branches before and now I need one! The form of Camellia japonica ‘Curly Lady’ reminds me of a Contorted Filbert. It blooms from mid-March to mid-April, and is a big plant at 5-8 feet tall by 2-5 feet wide, but then again that’s typical of Camellias. An extra bonus is the leaves also slightly curl. Nice to have an interesting new choice for the shade garden. Pretty semi-double red bloom. Hardy from zones 7b – 11.
Virtual Violet® Lilac
This is a dreamy plant. Syringa ‘Bailbridget’ or commonly named Virtual Violet Lilac is a new lilac with purplish new leaves, purplish stems, and deep violet blooms. I have a ‘Frank Klager’ lilac, which has dark purple flowers, and it’s enchanting. It’s hard to find though. So this is a fantastic answer to those who want a deeper purple lilac color. It grows 6 -7 feet by about 5 -7 feet so it’s big but that means there’s more to enjoy! Hardy from zones 3 – 7 though I’m confident it will do just fine in the Northwest’s zone 8 as well.
Orange Torch Barberry
I just mentioned I don’t like plants with prickly stuff but some people do so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this cool new Barberry. Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Torch’ is similar in form to ‘Helmond’s Pillar,’ it grows one foot wide by about 4 tall, but features bold yellowy foliage tinted with red-orange. Very alluring. It also has red stems, adding interest. With compact upright growth, it makes a nice choice for a snug space. The foliage turns pink and orange in autumn. Drought tolerant. Hardy from zones 5 – 9.
Availability of New Shrubs for 2018
Most of these shrubs are available at local nurseries in the Seattle area. If you’re not in the Northwest, you can probably order them through a local nursery. Here’s a rundown of who is or was carrying the plants as of May, 2018:
Cape Cod Hydrangea & Double Take Peach Quince: Sky Nursery, Seattle, WA
Dwarf Yellow Jasmine: Far Reaches Farm, Port Townsend, WA (does mail order)
Curly Lady Camellia, Orange Torch Barberry: Swanson’s Nursery, Seattle, WA
Virtual Violet Lilac: Molbak’s Nursery, Woodinville, WA