A look at what’s growing in our gardens to be

Published 12:01 am Friday, January 27, 2017

I had the opportunity to attend the Green N Growin’ Show last week at the Greensboro Coliseum. The event is an educational program and “green” trade show designed to provide the latest information in the landscape and nursery industry for nurserymen, landscapers and other allied landscape professionals. This event is popular nationwide, drawing vendors from most of the United States and the Canadian provinces.

Sponsored by the North Carolina Nurserymen Association, the exhibition also allows those in the landscape and nursery industry the opportunity to share their wares and what’s in vogue for 2017. The trade show itself is a massive event held in the coliseum area, featuring everything from bedding plants to huge, 4-inch caliper shade trees with 1,500-2,000-pound root balls.

The show features almost everything imaginable in landscaping. Ask anyone in the landscape industry and they will be the first to admit that one of the most difficult aspects of landscaping is trying to determine the ever-changing desires of an often fickle consumer.

In a way, the industry is much like the fashion industry, trying to produce new and different plants each year that will appease consumers and adapt to both our climate and pest problems in the South. Unfortunately, with most nursery crops, it often takes years to reproduce interesting plant materials.

Distylium sp.is one of those plants that has captured the interest of landscapers and homeowners. It’s a low growing evergreen shrub that’s rapidly replacing cherry laurel and low growing hollies. It has become so popular that one eastern North Carolina nursery has this shrub booked until 2019.

Another landscape contractor lamented that many homeowners are growing very impatient and want larger trees and shrubs for foundation and screening plant materials for instant interest.

Groundcovers continue to be one of the key plants of interest in the landscape as well as raised container planters which feature a combination of both seasonal color and dwarf perennial shrubs. Many booths also featured new dwarf shrub types that fit well into today’s low maintenance landscape schemes.

Plant material with unusual leaf shape, color, fruit, flower and bark interest is always appealing and continues to be a very popular item for consumers. Homeowners tend to also appreciate tough plant materials able to withstand droughts, poor growing conditions and constant pest pressure. Limited irrigation and reducing pesticide usage to a bare minimum are benefits both homeowners and maintenance contractors seek from newly developed plant materials.

Years ago “Fall is For Planting” was the buzzword for nurserymen and garden centers. Now spring is considered the optimal time to plant. Look for new and improved plant materials at local garden centers and retail outlets in April. You may be pleasantly surprised at this year’s selections.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired county extension director with Cooperative Extension in Rowan County.