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Originally published Friday, April 11, 2014 at 11:03 AM

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New shrubs offer bright colors and seductive shapes

Out of the dozens and dozens of shrubs debuting this spring, here are a few tempting enough to trial in your own garden. One is a new hydrangea.


Special to The Seattle Times

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It would be really useful if such articles/columns included some of the requirements of the plants in it--in... MORE

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FOR FLOWER, foliage, structure and year-round beauty, nothing beats shrubs. And because they develop more quickly than trees, each spring there’s a fresh selection to choose from.

With untried plants, we’re always guessing a bit on hardiness, eventual size and especially garden-worthiness. Out of the dozens and dozens of shrubs debuting this spring, here are a few tempting enough to trial in your own garden.

Few plants are as all-around useful as dwarf conifers, especially when they have colored foliage. The brilliant yellow needles of the new Golden Duchess Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘MonKinn’) look dramatic grown in a rock garden, a pot or a woodland garden. Its form is low and mounding, with branches arching only 3 to 4 feet off the ground.

Want your garden to burn brightly this summer? Light the fireworks with the Scarlet Torch bottlebrush with its fuzzy, bright-red flowers that hummingbirds love. It grows 9 feet tall, blooms like crazy all summer and has gray-green foliage that persists through the winter. But every beauty has its drawbacks, and for this showboat it’s an ugly botanical name (Callistemon rigidus ‘RutCall’) and slightly tender nature. It’s only hardy to zone 8, so plant it in the sunniest, most sheltered spot in your garden.

Landscape roses, also called Knock Out roses, were introduced more than a decade ago, and have proved to be easy-care and long-blooming. The “Drift” series of these practical shrubs are so low-growing they serve as ground cover, and the new ‘Popcorn’ Drift (Rosa ‘Novarospop’) is one of the prettiest of the bunch. The flowers start out soft yellow and fade to creamy white, and ‘Popcorn’ blooms prodigiously from spring to fall.

New Zealand plants are all the rage for their modern looks and stunning foliage, but last winter’s deep freeze reminded us there’s reason for caution. They tend to be on the tender side, but, Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tasman Ruffles,’ hardy to zone 7, is one of the toughest. Collected by Dan Hinkley for Monrovia, it grows 10 feet tall, with jade-green leaves shown off by reddish-black stems. Hinkley collected an equally hardy pittosporum from Taiwan, also new on the market. P. illiciodes ‘MonToroko,’ aka ‘Formosan Fingers’ pittosporum, has surprisingly long, narrow leaves that give it an exotic look. It grows only about 6 feet high and wide, with creamy white flowers in spring and orange-red berries in autumn. This one is a stunner, with foliage so dissected it looks as if it could be closely related to a Japanese maple.

Enchantress hydrangea is small in stature yet huge in impact, perfect for both urban and suburban gardens. H. macrophylla ‘Monmar’ grows only 3 to 5 feet high and wide. It blooms on old and new wood, which means the flowers just keep on going all summer. The 9-inch-across flower clusters bloom blue in acid soils, pink in alkaline ones, fading to cream-splashed green. The sturdy stems are reddish-black, making for great contrast in the garden and in the vase.

Do we really need yet another new hydrangea? Always!

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.



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