Friday, May 1, 2020

New Plant Introductions for 2020 from Proven Winners®

Even though a few provinces here in Canada are slowly reopening their economies, the shift back to any sort of normalcy has yet to begin in Ontario. There are still hundreds of new cases of COVID–19 each day. My life is always quiet, but I miss the treat of a meal out, a country jaunt to look for antiques or a visit to a local nursery. It doesn't truly feel like spring without a flat of pansies to fill the urns that dot my garden. 

Is it possible that nurseries will open for the May long weekend or maybe the first of June? Fingers crossed that the numbers of COVID–19 cases continues to decline and we can finally start to re-emerge from the safety of our homes. 

Given the serious blow to the economy, many gardeners will be hard-pressed to find the extra funds for new plants. But no matter what your present circumstances, it's always fun to dream up a wishlist of the pretty things we'd love to purchase when the time is right. With that in mind, I'm going to showcase a few new introductions for 2020 from the brand Proven Winners.

First up is a new Salvia. Planted in a drift of three or five plants, this would be a nice addition to any garden in June.

Salvia nemerosa 'White Profusion' has white flowers on a rounded plant that's easy to grow. Average garden soil and moisture conditions. Cut back after flowering to encourage rebloom. Resists deer and rabbits. Full sun. Height:16-20 inches, Spread: 16-20 inches. USDA zones: 3-8.

The heart-shaped flowers are dainty and sweet, but what interests me even more, is the fern-like, blue-grey foliage of this Bleeding Heart.

Fern-leaved Dicentra 'Pink Diamonds' has two-toned, heart-shaped, flowers in the spring. Well-drained garden soil is a must. Average moisture conditions.  Resists deer. Part-sun to full sun. Height:12-16 inches, Spread: 16-18 inches. USDA zones: 3-9.

For me, the main attraction of this Phlox is it's early bloom time. Last year, I bought the Phlox 'Opening Act White'. Sadly it never bloomed, but I look forward to seeing what it does this summer. New to this series is yet another early-flowering variety:

Hybrid Phlox 'Opening Act Pink-a-Dot' has white flowers with a star-burst of pink in the centre. The glossy green foliage is mildew resistant. This phlox grows best in consistently moist, well-drained soil. Full sun. Height:22-26 inches, Spread: 30-36 inches. USDA zones: 4-8.

Proven Winners has three new Yarrows this year. Yarrows are great plants for full sun and poor soil. Once established, they can handle dry summer conditions. 'Firefly Diamond' has white flowers, 'Firefly Peach Sky' has peachy-orange flowers and 'Firefly Sunshine' has canary-yellow flowers. (Sorry, for those of you who live in areas where Yarrows can be an issue, the PW website offers no details on self-seeding or how aggressively these new Yarrows spread).

Yarrow 'Firefly Amethyst' has cool pink flowers that fade to a soft pink. The fern-like foliage is sturdy and upright. Once the flowers fade, cut the plant back by half to encourage re-bloom. Drought tolerant. Full sun. Height:18-22 inches, Spread: 32-36 inches. USDA zones: 3-8.

Older 'Millennium' on the left and new 'Serendipity' on the right.

I do think you have to weigh the benefits against the cost of some 2020 introductions. Does the 'Serendipity' Ornamental Onion really differ enough from the older 'Millennium' (2000) to justify the price tag of the new introduction? Only you can answer that question.

Heartleaf Brunnera, Brunnera macrophylla 'Queen of Hearts'

Is it worth it to buy the new Brunnera 'Jack of Diamonds' or 'Queen of Hearts' just to take advantage of those huge 9-10" leaves? If you love the foliage and tiny blue flowers, maybe one of these new perennials is just what you want to add to your collection of plants.

A Few Older Introductions

As promised earlier in the year, I am also going to showcase some older perennials worth seeking out. In recent years, there have been lots of new Baptisia hybrids brought to market. One Baptisia I'd love to get my hands on is Decadence 'Deluxe Pink Truffles'.

Decadence 'Deluxe Pink Truffles' has soft pink flowers and blue-green foliage. This Baptisia is smaller than most and is perfectly sized for the average backyard. Drought tolerant. Full sun. Height:48-54 inches, Spread: 36-48 inches. USDA zones: 4-9.

 Last spring, I bought Catmint, Nepeta 'Cat's Pajamas'. New to 2019, it proved to be a great little plant that bloomed most of the summer. 

Cat's Pajamas' Catmint Nepeta hybrid has indigo blue flowers. This long-blooming perennial has a nice compact shape and fragrant foliage. Heat and drought tolerant. Full sun. Height:12-14 inches, Spread:18 - 20 inches. USDA zones: 3-8.

Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa 'Hello Yellow' forms an upright clump of narrow green leaves with clusters of yellow flowers. Attractive to butterflies. This plant requires well-drained, somewhat sandy soil. Full sun. Height: 16-20 inches, Spread: 20-23 inches. USDA zones 4-9.

Hosta 'Shadowland Hudson Bay' is an improvement on older 'Eskimo Pie'. This hosta forms a large mound of tricolour leaves that have a blue margin with a cream centre accented by apple-green. Hostas' need moist, well-drained soil. Part to full shade. Height: 24-26 inches, Spread: 24 inches. USDA zones 3-9.

New Annuals for 2020

I try not to be a plant snob, but it's hard to get excited about petunias and impatiens. Though they are useful plants, I prefer to buy no-name annuals and invest in name brand perennials and shrubs. A couple of new introductions did, however, catch my eye.

Salvia farinacea 'Unplugged® So Blue' has blue flowers on a mid-sized plant that loves the heat. Deadheading is not necessary. Long-blooming and drought tolerant. Full sun or light shade. Height: 14-24 inches, Spread: 12-16 inches. 

Salvia hybrid 'Rockin'® Blue Suede Shoes' is a continuous bloomer with light blue flowers and a black calyx. Heat and drought tolerant. Full sun or light shade. Height: 30-40 inches, Spread: 18-24 inches. 

I like the way Sweet Potato vines trail from containers, so this new annual also caught my attention.

Sweet Potato Vine, Ipomoea batatas 'Proven Accents® Tricolor has green leaves streaked with cream and rose. Full sun to full shade. Trails up to 72 inches, Spread: 24-36 inches.  

New Shrubs for 2020

The Cotonus in my friend's front garden.

The Smokebush, Cotonus you typically see has rounded burgundy foliage, but there is also a Cotonus with bright green foliage. Last summer, I really admired the chartreuse Smokebush a friend of mine had in her garden. It's a big shrub though, so I thought I'd never have the room for one. Enter the more modest-sized version from Proven Winners:

Smokebush, Cotinus coggygria 'Winecraft Gold®' has round waxy leaves that emerge a sunny-orange and become chartreuse as they mature. In early summer, clouds of tiny green flower clusters cover the shrub (the 'smoke' to which the name refers). The beauty of this new shrub is its size. Part sun to full sun. Height: 48-72 inches, Spread: 48-72 inches. USDA zones 5-8.

There are a number of new Rose of Sharon for 2020. For me, this one stood out over the others:

Rose of Sharon 'Magenta Chiffon' offers more flowers and an extended bloom time. It has a rounded habit that differs from older, more stiffly upright cultivars. A low seed set means no nuisance seedlings. Full sun. Height: 96-144 inches, Spread: 72-120 inches. USDA zones 5-9.

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners®

The Proven Winner's website says this Pagoda Dogwood is new for 2020, but I already have one in my garden, so I'm sure how it is "new" (I even double-checked my plant tag). The flowers on my 'Golden Shadows' are insignificant, but the foliage is fresh and vibrant in spring. Birds seem to enjoy the berries that appear mid-summer. I love my 'Golden Shadows' enough to entertain purchasing a second.

Pagoda Dogwood, Cornus alternifolia 'Golden Shadows' has distinctive horizontal branching and variegated yellow-green foliage. In the fall, the leaves take on a pinkish cast. The flowers are lacy-white. This is a shrub that thrives in light shade. Height: 120-144 inches, Spread: 120-144 inches. USDA zones 3-8.

I am partial to this apple-blossom flower form, so even though this rose probably has no scent, I might consider getting one.

Rose, Rosa 'Oso Easy Peasy' has apple-green foliage and magenta-pink flowers. Resists mildew and black spot. Continuous rebloomer even without deadheading. Full sun. Height: 30-40 inches, Spread: 30-40 inches. USDA zones 4-9.

I have seen Weigela 'My Monet' in so many gardens I have to assume it must be a bestseller for PW. Now they're introducing a Weigela that has cream and mint foliage that takes on purple tones. It can handle extremes of heat and cold better than the original 'My Monet' and has the bonus of larger numbers of flowers. 

Weigela florida 'My Monet Purple Effect®' has lavender-pink flowers on a small shrub with a mounded shape. The foliage is cream and mint with purple tones. Sun to light shade. Height: 18-30 inches, Spread: 18-30 inches. USDA zones 4-9.

With the start of a new month and the promise of sunshine and warm temperatures on the weekend, I feel that the gardening season has begun in earnest. Hopefully, the new normal will include some plant shopping (with the proper social distancing of course).

This is not a sponsored post. The selection of plants is my own. Photos are courtesy of Proven Winners®


  1. What gorgeous selections! Thank you for sharing these. Hope you and your family are keeping well. Take care!

    1. Lovely to hear from you Anne. I hope you too are keeping well out there in B.C.

  2. Its fun to see different foliage and flower colors. I wonder if the yellow milkweed will attract monarchs in the same way. I have a smoke bush with green leaves that I purchased at a garden show a few years back and have no idea the cultivar name. On a side note, our plant nurseries are considered essential because they sell edible plants/seeds so they have been open. They are doing quite the business since more people are getting out in their gardens and planting.

    1. I have the orange butterfly weed in my garden, but oddly enough, I don't find it really brings in the Monarchs. They seem to prefer the Swamp Milkweed I grow instead. The peachy-orange flowers are so pretty I'd grow them wether or not they attract butterflies. I admired the yellow form of butterfly weed in a local garden, but have not grown it myself, so I can't comment on wether it would bring in the Monarchs.
      Here in Ontario, most business are still closed (we seem to be taking a more cautious/conservative approach to the virus). Earlier this week, the government finally opened nurseries for curb-side pickups. I like to choose my own plants, so I have as yet to take advantage of this service. Hopefully nurseries will be fully open soon.
      Yes, the new interest in gardening is one positive that has come out of the COVID-19 situation. Gardening is one of those things that people seem to turn to in times of hardship.

  3. Nice and informative post Jennifer. I am always like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to new introductions and Proven Winners just keeps on producing new cultivars! Stay safe and well.

    1. I always feel like a kid in a candy shop when I purchase plants in the spring. I want them all, but the fact that I don't have the money or the space fortunately reigns me in! Stay safe and well too Lee!

  4. Thank you so much for this great selection of flowers and shrubs..So good to think about gardening these days..Nurseries here are doing curb side pickups..But maybe soon we will be able to get into a green house?? Take care.

    1. I really like to shop in person, so I have been holding off. It's always such a pleasure to find oneself surrounded by plants trying to decide which ones you are tempted by the most. Take care of yourself too Betty!

  5. Hi Jennifer .. I just spent most of the day in my gardens trying to tidy up and transplant (OK .. I had a few lily bulbs to plant as well .. phew ! things are late this year!)
    I love these selections ! I always wanted Golden Showers pagoda dogwood .. haven't been able to find one yet.
    I love all smokebush and this new one Winecraft Gold looks gorgeous .. I have 2 of the purple ones in Winecraft already ..The fern leaf dicentra "Pink Diamonds" is beautiful .. I really want that too ! OK .. you convinced me the new yarrow "Firefly Amethyst" is another one on my NEW list as well .
    I almost wish I hadn't read this ... but you do too good a job and I can never resist when you do a new list ! Well Done !
    I have heard Loblaws garden center is open this Monday .. but we will see .. the weather has jumped right into summer here in Kingston .. it was 20 degrees and beautiful to work in the garden, though exhausting ? LOL

    1. Always so nice to hear from you Joy! I am so glad you enjoy my lists of new plants. So many temptations, eh? I think I got my Golden Shadows on clearance of all things. The foliage is just beautiful in the spring. They were unpacking the plants at my local Loblaw's store. I was thrilled to get a David Austin rose for $30. Usually they are so very pricy. Take care Joy!!

  6. I love Proven Winners, I got a few Opening Act White Phlox last year, I love the white flowers, and they are coming back again this year. Another Phlox I got last year was Cloudburst, its a beautiful purple and it bloomed until frost. Phlox have come a long way in the last few years. I love the Baptisia, even the foliage is beautiful. Nepeta Cat's PJ's is another one I have and its starting to come back this year. The weather here in Nova Scotia has been very cold so everything is very slow. These are really strange times we are living in these days so its important to stay safe.

    1. It's so nice to hear from Nova Scotia (the provence where I grew up). From the plants you mention, I can tell you must have a very nice garden. I must watch for a Cloudburst Phlox as phlox is a favourite. It has been very cold here as well. What worries me even more is the lack of rain. I sure hope we are not in for a really hot, dry summer. Please come back to see a garden by another Nova Scotian in an upcoming post.


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