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Best New Plants for Your Garden, Patio and Balcony

From long-lasting hydrangeas to long-flowering roses to tasty hybrid tomatoes –– these plants are your best bet if you're looking for something new.



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Every year, plant breeders introduce a dizzying array of plants. Billed as having bigger flowers, longer bloom times, new colors, compact growth for small spaces, disease resistance and vigor — you name it — these new varieties are trotted out at trade shows like runway models.

For plant geeks like me, it’s Christmas. I love seeing all of the introductions and trying them in the garden.

But there’s a dark side to the hype; some plants are rushed to market before they’ve been thoroughly trialed and don’t perform as advertised. So what’s an unsuspecting gardener to do when faced with all of the choices at the nursery?

Happily, there are many standouts that settle into our clay soils and perform like champs with minimal care from us. There are even a few that are — dare I say it? — fairly deer-resistant. 

So come with me for a stroll through an imaginary nursery aisle and I’ll tell you about some of my favorites. I’ll sneak in a few older varieties too, because they’re just too good to pass up, and because the newest standouts can be tricky to find.
 

Sheer flower power

Who doesn’t love flowers? The bigger the better, right? Few plants conjure visions of beautiful, long-lasting blooms like hydrangeas. Here are some that will actually bloom in your garden
 


PHOTOS COURTESY OVENWINNERS.COM, JEFF LAFRENZ-J. FRANK SCHMIDT & SON CO., BALL HORTICULTURAL COMPANY
 

My favorite hydrangeas are Little Lime and Limelight panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata). Little Lime grows to about half the size of Limelight, which tops out at 10 feet tall and wide. Both bear loads of cone-shaped blossoms that start out lime-colored in mid-summer and gradually turn pink with fall. They’re terrific in fresh or dried arrangements and the dried tan flowers persist on the shrub, adding beauty to the winter garden.
 



If white hydrangeas aren’t your thing, there’s Incrediball Blush smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). As the name implies, this hydrangea offers giant globes of pale pink flowers from summer through fall. The no-fuss plant grows 4 to 5 feet tall in full to part sun and appreciates some moisture during the hottest days of summer. 
 



In my neighborhood, it seems there is a saucer magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana) in most front yards, and they’re a sight to behold in spring with their huge pink flowers. Unfortunately, late frosts often spoil the show. But a new magnolia, Mercury, avoids that problem by flowering a month later, when frosts are less likely. The magnolia grows to about 25 feet tall in a tidy pyramidal form and blossoms start out as deep pink buds then open to pale pink on the inside and lavender on the outside. 
 



Many gardeners stopped planting impatiens as a shade bedding plant because of the one-two punch delievered by downy mildew. Then SunPatiens entered the ring and it’s a whole new match. Mildew-resistant SunPatiens provide non-stop flowering in shades of pink, white or red all summer. The vigorous plants take full sun to part shade.
 



Petunias are a traditional summer-flowering annual, and there are so many colors to choose from. Night Sky offers something new: a pattern of white flecks on a deep purple background, reminiscent of a starry sky on a warm summer night. Give it plenty of sun and enjoy the show.
 

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