Saturday, September 3, 2011

TNLA 2011

'Emerald Choco Zebra.' Yeah, I'm serious--that is its name. A zebra that is made of chocolate and also of emerald. That makes sense.
Matt's company went to the 2011 Texas Nurseryman and Landscaper's Association convention in Dallas a couple of weeks ago and very kindly let me come too.

I saw some of my old favorites from previous TNLAs, like 'Summer Chocolate' mimosa, 'Teddy Bear' magnolia, weeping atlas cedar, and 'Emerald Choco Zebra' curcuma (above). I have no idea how they perform (except for the Atlas cedar--we can't grow that one here). But I noticed a hell of a lot more grasses this year than previously. Not sure if that's because I'm in a more grass-receptive mood, or if there is a turn within the industry this year toward drought-tolerant/nativey sorts of plants.

If so I sympthize. All the plant pain in my garden distresses me (we've lost my new funky 'Wedding Cake' rose to a faulty irrigation valve, 'Autumn Damask,' a rose I nurtured along in a pot for eleven years after A&M and that has been in the ground happily for four, is on the brink, and it looks like Serenoa repens is succumbing to transplant shock + heat stress + drought after we planted it (idiotically) in July. Ths is despite getting water 3 times per week.) And I hate the amount of watering we're doing--I hadn't expected to water more than once per week during the heat of the summer, but we'd be living in a desert if I kept to that schedule these days.

So. Grasses.

We've got 3 varieties in the Grass-n-Roses bed:
  • Big muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri)
  • 'Mexican feather grass (Nassella/Stipa tenuissima)
  • the new blue grama grass, 'Blond Ambition' (Bouteloua gracilis).
And we're looking for more.

This appears to have been the year for 'Dwarf Hamlin,' a Pennisetum alopecuroides cultivar. It was all over the place, along with 'Little Bunny' a particularly compact and adorable cultivar of the same species.

Pennisetum alopecuroides cvr. Hameln AKA 'Dward Hamlin'

Pennisetum alopecuroides cvr. 'Little Bunny'

That dramatic purple millet from a couple of years ago (or one like it) was also everywhere. Very stylish, but it doesn't look drought-hardy.

This specimen of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium--how's that for an orthographically challenging mouthful?) made a compelling case for use in the garden--so dense, vertical, and strikingly colored.
Schizachyrium scoparium
And this yucca with the painstakingly coiffured trunk--wouldn't that be a wonderfully sculptural addition to the garden? I love the buff-colored trunks against the grey-green leaves.

Yucca,  Can't remember genus offhand

I also saw quite a lot of both green and silver Carexes this year. They're pleasingly tufty and soft-looking. We might try some in the shade garden as a ground cover, if the heat ever breaks and we ever plant anything again.

Mexican blue palm and Carex flacca/glauca

Other than grasses & friends of the grasses, there were also some interesting new Echinacea cultivars. It's a lousy picture, but I love the pale lemon of the 'Sandy Yellow' Echinacea in the Sombrero series (poorly named--it's not the color of sand at all). And, while not to my taste, the I-am-a-PRINCESS! frills of 'Double Scoop Bubble Gum' would add variety and pizzaz to a nativey perennial bed. (But who comes up with these names? My mouth feels sticky just reading it.)

Echinacea 'Double Scoop Bubble Gum' and Echinacea Sombrero 'Sandy Yellow'

I also really liked two more cultivars in the Sombrero series: 'Hot Coral' and 'Salsa Red'. How well all of these fellows perform down here is an open question, but I do love their looks, and their slightly unusual proportions for an Echinacea--great chubby disc flowerheads with adorably stubby little ray flowers (the "petals"). Kind of the opposite of a sombrero, really, but what the hell.

Echinacea Sombrero 'Hot Coral' and 'Salsa Red'

In other trends, the industry seems very interested in new redbuds. In addition to the lovely 'Forest Pansy,' which has been around for a while, and the 'Hearts of Gold,' which I remember from last year, they're also selling 'Ace of Hearts,' 'Rising Sun,' and the stunning if slightly coarse 'Ruby Falls.'

(A) Hearts of Gold, (B) Forest Pansy, (C) Ace of Hearts, (D) Rising Sun, (E) Ruby Falls 
Apologies for the atrocious picture!

(A) Hearts of Gold - chartreuse leaves
(B) Forest Pansy - purple leaves
(C) Ace of Hearts - compact form, dense small leaves
(D) Rising Sun - newest foliage is orangey-pink, with older chartreuse leaves behind and mature dark green behind that
(E) Ruby Falls - weeping purple

Magnolia grandiflora appears to be undergoing similar diversification. There were several cultivars that appeared to be 'Little Gem' competitors--large, columnar evergreens. However, the only one that was really compelling at first glance was 'Teddy Bear' (so cute! so fuzzy!), which is several years old.

In a completely different vein, TNLA always has at least a few lovely things trucked in by hopeful vendors from Florida or Tennessee or Oregon that would never do here, like this wonderful strangeness: a Black Bat Tacca. I've never seen anything quite like it. Sadly, it's incredibly prissy, so I'll just have to admire it from afar. If I ever become a vampire, however, I'll have to have a whole garden of these.

Tacca chantrieri "Black bat flower"

Finally, I rather fell in love with these pots this year. I love the blue and the old fashioned French-looking patterns.

Some nice pots


Katie said...

If you ever become a vampire, you'll have oodles of money and minions, so you can have whatever gardens you want!

Elgin_house said...

Even as a vampire, I think I'd still have to pay off my student loans... :-(

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