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New flower varieties

The catalogs are arriving daily now that the holidays are over. I have also noticed that the days are starting to get longer - all signs that spring will be here before we know it. I have to find some time to sit down and look through the catalog...

The catalogs are arriving daily now that the holidays are over. I have also noticed that the days are starting to get longer - all signs that spring will be here before we know it. I have to find some time to sit down and look through the catalogs, as I have several gardens to rebuild after last year's drought, so I am interested in what is new on the market.

Fortunately, I received the National Garden Bureau, www.ngb.org , new varieties for 2008 report. This organization represents a number of companies that breed and release new varieties each year. Some of the flowers they list are available retail as started plants or listed in seed catalogs. Their Web site has digital images of these new varieties so you can get an idea of how they may fit into your garden scheme. Let me highlight a few flowers that caught my attention.

A begonia named "Nonstop Mocca Pink Shades" is a new color in the nonstop series. The pink flowers lighten up the chocolate leaves, creating a nice contrast. The large four-inch double flowers sit on a 12-inch upright plant. Look for it in your favorite catalogs.

A dianthas called carnation "Sunflor Bianca" caught my attention as I paged through the photos. This unique, compact 15-inch tall plant can be used indoors and outdoors and is said to withstand temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. I liked the ruffle look and the nice white edges on the red flowers. It is said to have a very nice fragrance also.

The last several years there seems to have been a number of celosia develop. A new one this year is celosia "Spiky Purple" that has unique, deep red-purple clusters of spikes two to three inches long displayed on red stalks. The plant will get to be 15-20 inches tall and would work in a sunny garden.

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If you are looking for a mix of colors, check out the zinnia "Distance Mix." This is an early blooming mix of heat-tolerant plants that would fit in a container or garden spot. There is a nice range of colors from yellow, orange, pink, cherry and white in double and semi-double two- to three-inch flowers.

One plant that I have taken notice of lately is lavender. A new variety called "French Perfume" caught my attention because it could be grown in a container. It is vase-shaped, growing only 12 inches high. It is said to be intensely fragrant and a hardy plant. I am thinking of trying it as a potted plant and bringing it indoors next fall.

I have a perfect spot for pansies and violas. They have done well in the early spring, bringing color to my entryway. I am glad to see there have been several new varieties released the past couple of years. A couple of varieties that caught my attention include pansy "Designer Collection Midnight Sun." This is a stunning looking flower but would be lost in my shaded afternoon spot because of the almost black cap. I like the bright yellow lower portion of the flower, especially the whiskers that stand out against the yellow. Another variety that might work better is pansy "Matrix Morpheus" that has a vibrant blue cap with yellow lower whiskers. This plant only gets eight inches tall but will have flowers three inches in diameter. This matrix series has 16 colors and comes in six different mixes.

Next week we will explore several more new releases.

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