What’s that rosy glow in the distance? It’s the dawn of a new gardening year. The long trudge of winter may seem to go on forever, but the days are getting longer, and it’s time to start dreaming and planning.
Here are some bright new plants you may want to add to your wish list. It’s too soon to know which retailers will be selling most of these, but search for them online and in catalogs or ask for them at your local garden center.
Sundiascia diascia: A tender perennial in the South, Diascia is usually grown as a cool-season annual up North. This selection from Suntory has been bred to tolerate summer heat longer and to have its bright flowers densely packed on sturdy upright stalks, perfect for a pot. It comes in six hues under the “Upright” moniker, including Upright Bright Pink and Upright Peach. suntorycollection.com
Berry Timeless coral bells: It’s their foliage that has made perennial coral bells, Heuchera villosa “Berry Timeless,” a shade garden mainstay; their wispy flowers are easy to overlook. But this new selection from Walters Gardens (http://waltersgardens.com) is a much bigger bloomer, with flowers in pink to rosy red that arrive early and keep coming back all summer. Zones 4-9. gardencrossings.com
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The Lady Gardener rose: The abundant, fragrant, fluffy roses of Rosa “The Lady Gardener” are a rich apricot that fades to cream, with a strong scent of vanilla and cedar. From David Austin Roses, this shrub can grow 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 1/2 feet wide; it will flower heavily in June and repeat bloom all summer. Zones 5-9. davidaustinroses.com
Lemony Lace elderberry: Enjoy this attractive shrub, Sambucus racemosa, for its feathery chartreuse foliage, touched with red. You’ll also get white spring flowers and red berries in fall that are good for birds but not for people. Zones 3-7. provenwinners.com
Bounce hybrid impatiens: Do you miss the impatiens blooms that used to brighten your shade garden before downy mildew mowed down these popular annuals? The Bounce line of hybrid impatiens from Ball Horticultural Co. (http://ballseed.com), which includes several colors, has a similar habit and flowers of the older impatiens but resists the disease. The Bounce Pink Flame is an All-America Selections winner. all-americaselections.org
Forever Pink hybrid phlox: Masses of vivid violet-pink flowers bloom on Phlox “Forever Pink” in June and return all summer on a compact clump only about 16 inches tall and untroubled by powdery mildew. This perennial hybrid from the Chicagoland Grows Plant Introduction program was bred at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Zones 4-8. chicagolandgrows.com
Tiny Tortuga turtlehead: Turtlehead Chelone lyonii is a U.S. native perennial that blooms in late summer to early fall and performs well in shade. Tiny Tortuga is a dwarf version, with dark green leaves and deep pink blooms on short 16-inch stalks. Try it in a container. Zones 3-8. waysidegardens.com
Pretty N Sweet pepper: The sparkling array of small, sweet (not hot) peppers on Capsicum annuum “Pretty N Sweet” covers a compact plant that is both attractive and edible. Just 18 inches high, this new hybrid from Seeds by Design can fit into the ornamental garden or a container. It’s an All-America Selections winner. all-americaselections.org
Litt’l Bites Cherry tomato: Solanum lycopersicum “Litt’l Bites Cherry” is a lovely little tomato for container gardens, small plots, large window boxes or even hanging baskets. A fast-growing, mounding plant available from Renee’s Garden seed company, it produces plenty of cherry-size tomatoes until frost. (Seed packets available at reneesgarden.com.)
Ruby Glow romaine lettuce: The deep burgundy and green color of Lactuca sativa “Ruby Glow” will enliven a salad bowl, and the leaves have that satisfying romaine crunch. The breeder says the red color means this lettuce has an extra dose of the antioxidant anthocyanin. Another bonus: Cool-season lettuce is one of the easiest crops to grow from seed in spring. Days to maturity: 70-80. burpee.com
Diamond Ball clematis: Elegant ice-blue flowers with many petals are abundant over a long bloom time on Clematis “Diamond Ball,” a shrubby vine from Proven Winners. Send it up a trellis or fence in a sunny area to add height to the garden. Zones 4-9. provenwinners.com
Godzilla Japanese painted fern: The folks at Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina did a double take when they spotted this outsize hybrid of a fern, Athyrium “Godzilla,” that is a shade-garden workhorse. This one grows twice as tall, up to 36 inches. Zones 5b-8. plantdelights.com