Every February I get a nice preview of most of the new things that will show up at our local nurseries by attending the NORCAL trade show in San Mateo Event Center. This one-day program is intended for all the wholesale vendors and suppliers to show their products to retail outlets. Naturally the most important visitors are the buyers from retail nurseries and some of them will place orders on the spot. As a landscape designer, I am also a potential customer and I get to see a lot of cool new garden products such as fountains, containers, tools, etc. However, the plant nut in me is always attracted to those star plants making their debut, and this year we have several noteworthy newcomers.
First from Ball Hagawa Growers comes Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt’ (image from their catalog). I have used the regular Acacia cognata in several clients’ gardens and it is a wonderfully fine-textured evergreen small tree to about 20′ high and across. For quite some time, I have also read about many new dwarf cultivars that are making waves in their native land Australia. From the pictures, these small beauties look like perfect plants for California Gardens with their manageable size (six feet or less), beautiful form and texture (compact domes with fine leaves rivaling weeping lace-leaf Japanese Maple), and also good drought tolerance. I have been asking several specialty nurseries in hope of someone bringing them over the Pacific Ocean. At times, it seems that there is some kind of ban of introducing new Acacias into California, but I am glad that Cousin Itt has finally made through. This is one of the smaller cultivars that is about 3′ tall by 3′ across. Hopefully we will soon see more of its cousins such as Green Mist, Limelight, Mop Top, Fettuccini, and some of their tall siblings such as Lime Magic and Copper Cascade.
Thanks to Ryan from Pacific Plug and Liner, I am now the proud caretaker of two hot new Cordyline cultivars. The first one is Cherry Sensation, shown in one gallon black pot on left in the photo above. Ryan suspected that this is just a renamed Cordyline Sunrise, which was a hot plant first offered last year by Monterey Bay Nursery. A side-by-side comparison was made and my one-year-older Cordyline Sunrise is shown on right. It seems that Cherry Sensation is darker in color and has slightly more recurved leaf form, but these could be just from cultural differences (greenhouse vs. open) or maturity levels (less color when older). Close-up shots of crown areas are shown below and you can make your own judgements. To me, they are equally gorgeous, and seem to be interchangeable for design purposes.
The other Cordyline I got is a seedling of C. Pink Passion. Its color is a deep pinkish purple which will probably fade toward pinkish red when it gets bigger as I saw in a few five-gallon sized plants Ryan brought to my local Western Horticultural Society meetings last year. Not too long ago, it seems that one can only find Cordyline australis Red Sensation in nurseries, and now it is an arms race of the most colorful Cordyline with many heavyweight contenders. As a designer I welcome this prosperity and selection. However, I can not help thinking about the similarity with the high-tech industries where neck-breaking speed of innovation means fierce competition and a lot of waste due to the very short lifespan of products. In any case, I’d like to thank Ryan again for his generosity and I am sure his company will continue to be a prominent trend setter for many exciting new plants.