Here come the new shrubs | Tom

This year’s “Fire Light” hydrangea.  - Courtesy of Proven Winners
This year’s “Fire Light” hydrangea.
— image credit: Courtesy of Proven Winners

It seems there are endless things breeders can do with pansies, petunias or million bells. There is a brighter, softer, more disease-resistant variety every year. Every so often, new shrubs are introduced; but this seems to be happening more frequently. Plant breeders are getting the message that homeowners need plants sized to fit the scale of their smaller yards. Some are now small enough for containers.


Making a sweet splash last year was Lemon Candy Ninebark (Physocarpus “Lemon Candy”) — a golden ninebark that achieves 3-by-3 feet slowly and is easily pruned. Or, just let the deer do it — they’d be happy to. Well-suited for small lots, it is a welcome spot of light in early spring.

Want slightly smaller? The Proven Winners plant brand introduced “Tiny Wine” Ninebark last year. You may be seeing this plant in nurseries now. Achieving 2.5-by-2.5 feet in 10 years, it’s one for containers or the foundation planting.

Since “Black and White,” a very compact Weigela (18 to 24-by-18 to 24 inches), there has been a small rest. Now we have “Wings of Fire” and “Merlot Rose,” both with handsome coppery, bronzy foliage and like all Weigelas, have bright pink trumpet-shaped blooms that make these plants easy to love. Both of these new introductions will be in the 3 to 4-by-3 to 4-foot size range in 10 years. After two years of root development, these plants can make it through our harsh Augusts handsomely.

Abelia “Sunshine Daydream” with its pink-yellow-green foliage pushes beautiful pink, fragrant flowers. This is a good container plant while blooming, lending color and aroma on warm summer days.


Hydrangeas are hot. Hydrangea paniculata “Fire Light,” introduced by Proven Winners, blooms slightly after July 4 with our cooler summers. But it is worth the wait. Starting out cream, it will slowly start to change to pink, then a deep rosey-magenta by fall, putting on a show as the season progresses. The stems and large upright bloomheads are great for tablescapes as we sneak in our late summer evening get-togethers on the patio. Small for this variety of hydrangea, “Fire Light” gets to be 4 to 6-by-4 to 6 feet. Hydrangeas are easily pruned, and if you do prune them, will stay vigorous for many years. See a good pruning guide for tips.

Want a smaller hydrangea? “Tiny Tuff Stuff” stretches to 18 to 24-by-18 to 24 inches. Developed by Proven Winners for 2014, this re-bloomer sports double lacecap blooms; here the exterior petals are purple and the interior petals pale lavender — almost white.

Proven Winners has been refining deutzias these past few years. “Crème Fraiche” is a cream-and-green 2014 intro that flowers white in early spring. A mini-deutzia, its 1 to 2-by-1 to 2-foot size makes it perfect for containers. I see them in a pot by the front door combined with golden cosmos, a summer bloomer, or Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), which blooms summer through fall.

More next time … buddleia, deutzia and yes, more hydrangeas. Until then … happy gardening!

Nancy Tom is Redmond resident and environmental horticulturist.

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