Top (L-R): “Bee You” beebalm, Brunnera “Alchemy Silver” and “Summer Crush” hydrangea. Bottom (L-R): “Flip Side” chastetree, “At Last” rose and “Golden Dreams” coleus.

Top (L-R): “Bee You” beebalm, Brunnera “Alchemy Silver” and “Summer Crush” hydrangea. Bottom (L-R): “Flip Side” chastetree, “At Last” rose and “Golden Dreams” coleus.

Here are 6 must-have spring plants that are new for 2019

Columnist Steve Smith picks his favorites from a long list of plant breeders’ introductions.

Let’s face it, we all love new stuff. We are driven to have the latest version of… you fill in the blank.

Every spring, automobile manufacturers tempt us with new models of cars that have all the bells and whistles and cutting-edge technology in hopes that we won’t be able to resist trading in our old junker for a new and improved model.

Well, guess what? Plant breeders do the very same thing to us gardeners — only their new features are usually things like more compact growth habit, fragrance, disease resistance, longer blooming periods, double flowers or new and unusual colors and tastier fruit.

Here are some of 2019’s new introductions I will be hoping to add to my garden this spring.

“Flip Side” chastetree (Bailey Nurseries)

“Flip Side” chastetree (Bailey Nurseries)

“Flip Side” chastetree. The genus Vitex is rarely seen in the Northwest, primarily because it is a heat lover and doesn’t bloom until late summer. “Flip Side,” however, is a hybrid that should perform well in our cooler climate and provide some spectacular color in late summer, much like butterfly bushes but without their noxious self-sowing tendencies.

Plant this chastetree in a very sunny location and plan on cutting it back hard every spring, or you can let it grow into a small 10- to 12-foot- tall tree.

Here is what our grower Bailey Nurseries has to say about it: “This beauty is cloaked in 8-inch panicles of fragrant, deep-purple flowers that attract a non-stop parade of pollinators. It’s also a strong rebloomer. “Flip Side” got its name because the grayish olive-green leaves are dusky purple on the lower surface.”

“Summer Crush” hydrangea (Bailey Nurseries)

“Summer Crush” hydrangea (Bailey Nurseries)

“Summer Crush” hydrangea. There has been a proliferation of new hydrangeas in the last several years, and this spring will be no different. Bailey Nurseries has a doozie called “Summer Crush” that is a must for my garden. It is part of the repeat blooming series called Endless Summer and you can recognize them by their distinct blue pots.

“Summer Crush” is described as follows: “With a profusion of big raspberry-red or neon-purple blooms, ‘Summer Crush’ brings floral quality blooms to your garden or patio container. Not only is it drop-dead gorgeous, but it is compact so you get a neat, tidy look throughout the summer.”

These big-leafed hydrangeas should be planted in morning sun and afternoon shade, although my wife has managed to get them to perform in full sun in our garden.

“At Last” rose (Proven Winners)

“At Last” rose (Proven Winners)

“At Last” rose. Shrub roses like “Knock Out,” “Drift” and “Floral Carpet” have been around for decades. They are very hardy and easy-to-care for shrubs with rose-like flowers that repeat bloom all summer. But they rarely have fragrance. Now you can have durability, easy care and fragrance with “At Last” rose from Proven Winners.

Here is their sales pitch: “It’s the dawn of a new day for roses: ‘At Last’ combines all the romance of a fragrant, fully-petaled tea rose with the no-nonsense practicality of a disease-resistant landscape rose. No spraying is required to enjoy a non-stop display of large, sweetly perfumed sunset-orange blossoms from late spring through frost. Handsome, glossy foliage and a vigorous, rounded habit makes it ideal for use in the landscape or the flower garden.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

“Bee You” beebalm (Monrovia Growers)

“Bee You” beebalm (Monrovia Growers)

“Bee You” beebalm. One of our major suppliers, Monrovia Growers, is featuring a new compact Monarda or beebalm called “Bee You.”

Monrovia describes it as follows: “Deep-maroon buds that cover the lush, minty-basil-scented, dark-green foliage open to show-stopping, electric violet-purple blooms. This carefree, naturally rounded plant with a uniform habit is truly mildew free.”

I might add that Monarda will grow in sun or shade, and is a total hummingbird magnet.

Brunnera “Alchemy Silver” (Blooming Nursery)

Brunnera “Alchemy Silver” (Blooming Nursery)

Brunnera “Alchemy Silver.” From Blooming Nursery comes one of my favorite shade perennials, Brunnera. Last year, I purchased one called “Alexander’s Great,” and for this year I am lusting after “Alchemy Silver.” Brunnera have heavily textured, showy silver foliage with forget-me-not flowers in early spring. They grow well in shade along with hostas, ferns and bleeding hearts. Best of all, they are slug-resistant.

“Golden Dreams” coleus (ColorBlaze)

“Golden Dreams” coleus (ColorBlaze)

“Golden Dreams” coleus. I have been so smitten with all the new introductions of the former genus Coleus that can now grow in sun or shade, and look fabulous in containers where they provide vivid colors from their leaves. Best of all, the new introductions don’t bloom as much, so you don’t have to pinch them all the time. From Proven Winners is my newest favorite called ColorBlaze “Golden Dreams” It sports colorful chartreuse foliage with red veins and will be a must in most of my containers this summer.

This list of new must-have flowers for 2019 is truly just the tip of the iceberg. I will share many more new plants in my next few columns, so you can be on the hunt once spring breaks.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Looking ahead to summer

Attend two free classes this weekend at Sunnyside Nursery: One on summer-blooming bulbs is 10 a.m. March 9 and another on growing dahlias is 11 a.m. March 10 at the garden center, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, visit

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