Check out what’s new in plant cultivars and varieties. Some old favorite popular plants are back. And they’re better than ever!
Gardening goes through fashion changes much like our clothing. Some plants become so overused that they become boring and fall out of favor. But just like clothes, fashions tend to return after a number of years, only with an updated look.
Callistemons, known as the bottlebrushes due to their flower forms, have been favorites in warmer winter climates. Most species come from Australia and were very popular for years. In fact, they became so popular that landscapes became cluttered with these small trees. You could find them dangling sloppily over fences, squished between walls and buzz-trimmed into sizes and shapes that were embarrassing. Over time, they became used less as other small tree options came into style. The bottlebrush trees have always been brightly-flowering, well-behaved handy-sized trees that could handle heat, wind and a fair amount of drought. The bottlebrush flower form is eye-catching and showy in brilliant red, with the occasional find of a white or pink variety. Callistemon varieties were grown as large shrubs or trees.
Plant breeders decided to give these deserving trees and shrubs another chance. The same showy flowers have been bred into neater, more glamorous forms that are much smaller and adaptable to the garden itself. There are purple-reds and mauves and even a variety called C. ‘Austraflora Firebrand’ that is semi-prostrate shrub.
One of the earlier small cultivars C. citrinus ‘Long John’ grows 3 – 4 feet tall and about 5 feet wide. There are handsome trees back to claim their rightful place in front yards. And now there are smaller varieties to grace garden beds or form hedges. You can find some with yellow and green blooms, too. And they all have the decency to be evergreen.
I am currently testing out a new cultivar, Callistemon ‘Slim’ that should grow up to 10 feet high and 4 feet in width. It has been bred to be an outstanding, flowering hedge. in my garden. So far it’s a handsome little red devil that has put up with dreadful soil and erratic and unkind weather conditions from frosts to triple-digit heat.
Check into some of these showy plants to find the perfect variety for your garden. These offer more flexibility in growth habit than ever before.
Osteospermum is another plant that wore out its welcome by being splattered all over the sides of freeways (which is how it acquired its common name, Freeway Daisy) and open areas. Because of its easy care, groundcover growth habit and continuous flowering properties it has a lot to offer low maintenance gardens in warm climates. When originally used by cities to cover tough areas of full sun, fast-draining water and exposure to pollutants, wind and dust, the available colors were white and pink. But today growers have produced a full rainbow of colors and plants that are thicker, bushier and altogether showier. They are still low maintenance, tough and adaptable, but glamorous enough to grace the most fussy garden. And they are appearing in even some of the snobbiest of landscape designs.
Look what’s happening to our simple, old-fashioned cabbages and their cousins from the Brassica family. We’re talking about going frilly, becoming celebrities and dressing in outrageous colors. Suddenly, the lowly kale is taking over as a super-food. Cabbages blend from yellow greens to hot pinks, icy whites, frosty blues and luxurious lavenders. Some had already escaped the vegetable patch and insinuated themselves into the annual flower garden as ornamental cabbages. Now the lines are blurred. Cauliflower glows in pure white, orange or lime green. Broccoli grows on plants from dwarves to giants. Many of these now come in varieties less likely to bolt even when weather is unpredictable. There’s no limit to the brazen performances these vitamin-packed vegetables are willing to do in our gardens. They have no shame nor should we gardeners – in showing them off anywhere in the garden!
These are only three of the old fashioned favorites that have fallen out of favor only to return with more pomp and circumstance than a valedictorian at graduation. Check out some of the popular plants that are back from the past. They’ve kept all the good qualities of their past, but have added new skills and are likely to be just gorgeous in your garden.