New varieties and new garden retail products were the talk of this year’s Farwest Show in Portland, OR, which was back as an in-person event after a year off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Voter interest in the new selections was strong, as it always is,” says Allan Niemi, Director of Events for the Oregon Association of Nurseries, which produces the Farwest Show. “People were excited to see what’s new on the market and can give them better performance or new design options.”
The New Varieties Showcase at Farwest was capped by awards for People’s Choice favorites, chosen by all show attendees, as well as Best in Show selections made by a panel of judges.
In the People’s Choice voting, the overall winner was Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Kimono’, hybridized in the Netherlands by Kolster BV and introduced by Curoplant Co., was chosen by voting attendees as the People’s Choice winner in the 2021 Farwest Show’s New Varieties Showcase. Kimono Hydrangea offers a unique combination of heavy reblooming, compact size, dark foliage, and flower coloration. It has dazzling blooms of white and pink florets with red margins sitting atop dark green foliage, all wrapped into a compact 2- to 3-foot package, suitable for the modern outdoor space. It prefers part sun and is suitable for Zones 5 to 8. It is available from Van Belle Nursery, Walla Walla Nursery Co., and GardenScape Nursery Inc.
Kimono was one of 74 outstanding new selections on display at the 2021 Farwest Show. In addition of the People’s Choice award, the runners-up in the voting received Awards of Merit:
- Coleus ‘ColorBlaze El Brighto’, introduced by Proven Winners. This fiery, frilled coleus has purple and red centers with yellow margins and works well in containers. It works as a houseplant as well. It prefers sun or shade and will perform outdoors in Zones 10 to 11, growing to 24 to 40 inches tall by 18 to 36 inches wide.
- ‘Cascade Sunburst’ Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), discovered by Briggs Nursery in Elma, WA, and introduced by Briggs. This huckleberry offers distinctive, variegated foliage. The finely serrated leaves are vivid coral when they emerge, gradually turning green with creamy variegations. Its racemes of pale pink, urn-shaped flowers bloom in spring, followed by glossy purple-black, edible berries in the summer, providing multiple seasons of interest. The plant does well in shade or sun and tolerates most soil types but prefers acidic soil. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies and is deer resistant. It grows to 4 feet wide and tall and is suited for Zones 7 to 9.
- ‘Serendipity’ Allium Ornamental Onion, discovered by Eric Sal at Walters Gardens Inc. in Zeeland, MI, and introduced by Walla Walla Nursery Co. and Proven Winners. This new selection is a sport of the popular Allium ‘Millenium’, and has similar qualities, but with attractive blue foliage. It has globe-like, rosy-purple flowers that appear profusely in mid to late summer. It likes sun exposure best and grows well in Zones 4 to 8, reaching a size of 15 to 20 inches tall by 10 to 15 inches wide.
Best in Show Awards
For the Best in Show competition, ‘Sensational’ Lavender (Lavandula intermedia) was chosen as the overall winner. The plant, discovered by Lloyd Traven and Richard Grazzini and introduced by Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, PA, is available from Walla Walla Nursery Co. It is described as “the next generation of Lavender Phenomenal.” The plant boasts incredibly large and think flowers and sturdy stems, along with broad silver foliage that is thick and tough, and a thick floral aroma. Other attributes include a dense habit, heat tolerance, humidity tolerance, and cold tolerance.
In addition of the Best of Show award, judges also gave Awards of Merit at the Farwest Show:
- ‘Heart to Heart Burning Heart’ Sun Caladium, introduced by Proven Winners. This is a bronze, fancy leaf variety with pink to orange spots, representing a completely new color for caladiums, according to the company. It is intermediate to tall in height, and works well in combinations, patio planters, and landscapes, either in full sun or shade. The color is best expressed in the sun. The plant is available in quart, 6½-inch, and 8½-inch containers.
- ‘NewGen Independence’ Boxwood, discovered by a boxwood enthusiast in the Williamsburg, VA, area and introduced by NewGen Boxwood, Saunders Genetics LLC. Independence was chosen for the NewGen brand based on very high tolerance to boxwood blight and strong performance in boxwood leafminer trials. It has a habit similar to Buxus microphylla ‘Green Beauty’, but with more elongated leaves. It has rounded habit, deep-green color, and medium sized plant, and can be used in formal plantings where a medium sized round plant is desired. The branching structure is very strong, so it withstands snow loads. It is also deer resistant. The plant is available from Bountiful Farms, Woodburn Nursery & Azaleas Inc., and Sidhu & Sons Nursery.
- ‘SunFern’ Olympia Russian Wormwood (Artemisia gmellinii), hybridized by Christa Klevit in the Netherlands and introduced by Darwin Perennials. This novelty evergreen shrub with fern-like textures can be used as an accent plant in containers or as a groundcover in the landscape. It is low maintenance, tolerates drought, and does well in full sun. The plant is available from Ball Seed.
Retailers’ Choice Awards
Also back this year was the Retailers’ Choice Awards, in which a jury of volunteer garden retailers roamed the floor and highlighted seven different products that particularly piqued their interest. The awards as chosen by these judges were presented at the show in a presentation emceed by Christina Salwitz, The Personal Garden Coach. Both live goods and hard goods were eligible.
The awards winners were as follows:
- Biological Controls from Biobest USA. Biobest has available a large variety of biological pest management tools, including beneficial insects, mites, and nematodes. The company had an eye-catching display at the show with live bees in a secure container.
- Biodynamic Compost and Potting Soils produced by SeaCoast Compost. SeaCoast Compost offers a line of extremely high-quality biodynamic composts and potting soils created from composting fish carcasses, crab and shrimp shells, cow manure, and red alder. The products in the line include a variety of compost preps, including Yarrow, Chamomile, Stinging Nettle, Oak Bark, Dandelion, and Valeran.
- Biodynamic plants available from Suncrest Nurseries. Suncrest Nurseries, located near Watsonville, CA, offers a new Biodynamic and Organic Eco-Conscious Beauty line, featuring edible medicinal, habitat, and native plants. Suncrest is the first certified Biodynamic commercial wholesale nursery in the U.S. Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition, according to the Biodynamic Association.
- C Bite Clips from Thriving Design. These patented clips are made for trellising and are designed for use in various garden applications, such as trellising, plant supports, tomato cages, and more. They can connect to each other in as many as three different directions, and operate like Tinker Toys for the garden. In addition to stakes, one can attach ropes or fabric to them. They are made of UV-resistant, non-virgin plastic for many seasons of use.
- Gard-N-Hook from Zaydoe Creative. Zaydoe Creative is an Oregon-based company that creates and manufactures tools for the garden, vineyard, and horticulture industries. Its Gard-N-Hook is a multipurpose tool specifically designed to lift and retrieve flower baskets and bird feeders, drag heavy or cumbersome nursery pots for easy placement, and wrangle thorny bushes and tree branches for pruning without touching them.
- Kent’s Big Dig shovel from Gerard’s Nursery. Nursery owner Kent Gerard got tired of shovels that break, so he developed a strong, durable, all metal digging shovel with a 15-inch uncoated blade and a hollow steel handle for strength and durability. The shovel was field tested by a digger with 30 years of experience and is American made. It weighs just 8 pounds and has steps on both sides of the handle.
- Protective Sleeves from Farmers Defense. The company makes moisture-wicking, lightweight protective sleeves with a polyester blend fabric, to protect farmers and gardeners from the elements. It’s available in all sorts of colorful, artistic designs, or can be custom made with company logo for the buyer.