HomeGardenandHomestead.com Picks the Best New Vegetables and Flowers for This Year's Gardens

Dr. Jane Goodall Rose

Each spring brings the anticipation of a new gardening season — and the promise of a bountiful crop of new vegetable varieties and gorgeous flowers to grow in the garden. This spring is no exception, with lots of new seed and plant varieties to entice beginning and experienced gardeners alike.

“Seed companies and plant nurseries strive to introduce varieties that put a new spin on garden favorites,” said Randall D. Schultz, content editor for HomeGardenandHomestead.com, a website that covers trends in gardening. “Sometimes these new varieties offer bigger harvests and better hardiness. Sometimes the appeal is a different flower color or a new variety designed especially for container growing.”

The new vegetable varieties and flowering plants selected as outstanding new varieties by the Home, Garden and Homestead website are sure to be among this year’s popular favorites.

Best New Vegetable Varieties

The first-ever beefsteak tomato for porches and patios

Beefsteak tomatoes are always a popular choice for backyard gardens. These large, meaty tomatoes deliver excellent taste and lots of deep-red fruits. Now there’s a new beefsteak variety called "Atlas" Hybrid Tomato that is designed to grow in smaller spaces such as on porches, patios and decks. That means gardeners can grow tasty beefsteak tomatoes in a container right outside their kitchen door.

The bushy, compact "Atlas" tomato plants produce a bountiful harvest of one-pound tomatoes in any sunny spot. The ripe tomatoes deliver old-time flavor with a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. A packet of seeds sells for $6.99 or three starter plants sell for $16.99 from www.burpee.com, 1-800-888-1447.   

‘Gateway’ to a new, delicious cucumber

Full-sized, slicing cucumbers are a wonderful garden crop because they are delicious, prolific and easy to grow. Gateway Hybrid Cucumber is sure to become a favorite variety. (Park Seed, which introduced this new variety for 2018, likes Gateway cucumber so much that the company featured it on its 150th anniversary mailorder catalog.)

Gateway Hybrid Cucumber is a long, dark green cucumber that stands up to downy mildew, powdery mildew, target leaf spot, angular leaf spot, anthracnose and other diseases that can plague other varieties of slicing cucumbers. These eight-and-a-half- to nine-inch fruits are delicious, holding well on very adaptable plants. Direct-sow the seeds in a sunny garden spot after all danger of frost is past, or start the seeds indoors and transplant the seedlings when the first true leaf appears. Cucumbers can be allowed to grow on the ground, but for longer, straighter fruit and to save garden space, grow them in a cage or on a trellis, allowing one foot between plants. A packet of 20 seeds sells for $3.50 from www.parkseed.com.

Enjoy the homegrown taste of Blue Belle potatoes

Homegrown potatoes offer a delicious taste, texture and freshness that simply can’t be duplicated by store-bought potatoes. This popular vegetable is a culinary staple, and yet it is overlooked by many backyard gardeners.

Blue Belle Potato is a new, mid-season potato with pale yellow skin and purple splashes around the “eyes.” The tubers are oval-shaped and have medium yellow flesh. Blue Belle is a wonderful culinary potato that tastes great when roasted, boiled, baked or mashed. The plants are resistant to powdery scab and silver scurf, and they store well. A two-pound bag of seed potatoes sells for $9.25 exclusively from irisheyesgardenseeds.com. Every order of Blue Bell Potato seeds comes with a free recipe book filled with colorful photos and delicious French-inspired recipes by chef Jason Bayes including Blue Belle Millefeuille and Blue Belle Flower. Irish Eyes Garden Seeds also sells garlic, vegetable seeds, gardening supplies and natural pest controls.

A whopper of a bell pepper

A garden favorite for many years, Park’s Whopper Bell Pepper returns this year as Park’s Whopper II Hybrid Bell Pepper with better disease resistance, higher yields and even more delicious fruit. The fruits measure four inches across and four inches long, and this giant summer-season bell pepper is unsurpassed for appearance as well as taste. The fruits have very thick walls and a sweet, juicy and tender flavor perfect for raw or cooked eating.

Park’s Whopper II Hybrid Bell Pepper plants bear excellent yields, and the foliage effectively shields the fruit from sunscald. As the peppers mature, they turn from bright green to red — and the flavor sweetens still further. Resistant to tobamo po virus and bacterial leaf spot, Whopper II received top ratings from trial growers from Florida to California.

Start seeds indoors when all danger of frost is past. Then set seedlings out in the garden, spacing them about 18 inches apart in a sunny garden spot. Peppers will be ready to pick about 70 days from setting out transplants. A packet of 15 seeds sells for $4.95 from parkseed.com.

Best New Flowers and Flowering Plants

2018 Perennial Plant of the Year

Take one look at an Allium "Millenium" in full bloom and it’s no wonder this stunning plant was selected the 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. The globe-shaped lavender flower heads, arising by the dozen, last for a month or more. Millenium is a splendid late-summer bloomer, ready to deliver outstanding garden color just when many flowering plants are giving up their show for the season.

The flowerheads are perfectly round and reach about two inches in diameter, studded on all sides with purple florets tinged with red. Like all Allium, the plant has a scent (it’s an onion, after all), which keeps away nibbling rabbits, deer and other hungry creatures. On the other hand, butterflies and bees find the blooms enticing.

This ornamental onion reaches about a foot high and wide, with a dense bouquet of dark green stems topped by bobbing blooms. Unlike older varieties, it won't scatter seed all over the garden; it concentrates all its energy on setting flowers instead of going to seed — and the results are magnificent. Just give it plenty of sunshine, well-drained soil on the light side and wait for the flowers. A one-quart plant sells for $16.95, or buy six or more for $13.95 each at Wayside Gardens, www.waysidegardens.com, 800-845-1124.

Gorgeous multi-color zinnias, all summer long

The forecast is for zinnias all summer long with a new variety of seeds called "Forecast" Zinnia. This long-lasting zinnia blooms almost endlessly, and the plants are tenacious enough to thrive in virtually any growing conditions. Forecast Zinnia boasts mildew resistance that makes it a great choice for cut flowers in damp, cool areas like the Pacific Northwest and Canada — and everywhere else, too.

The annual plants bear purple, pink, orange, salmon, yellow or cream petals that surround bright-yellow stamens for a bloom that measures two to three inches across. The flowers reach up to 30 inches tall and the plants can reach a spread of 24 inches. A packet of 50 seeds sells for $5.99 exclusively from burpee.com.   

Dr. Jane Goodall honored with a new rose 

The legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall has been honored with a beautiful new rose. The aptly named Dr. Jane Goodall Hybrid Tea Rose is just the right mix of strength and loveliness that any rose lover will enjoy.

Each shapely five-inch bloom is reminiscent of a sunrise with its pink petals above a sunny yellow base. The pink hues are lighter on the reverse so the roses are gorgeous from any angle. Typically, each fully double flower opens on its own long, cut-worthy stem, but sometimes the bush produces clusters of enchanting blossoms.

The Dr. Jane Goodall Rose boasts a well-branched, attractively bushy habit that’s neither too big nor too small in the landscape. Its leaves are dark and glossy, forming a dramatic backdrop for its dawn-kissed flowers. Once open, the blossoms release a spicy fragrance that is distinctive yet not overpowering. This hybrid tea rose simply overflows with grace, and it's almost impossible not to become instantly smitten.

Dr. Jane Goodall Hybrid Tea Rose is available at www.jacksonandperkins.com and (800) 292-4769 as an ownroot rose for $34.95, a two-quart potted plant for $34.95 and as a bareroot patio tree for $49.95. In addition to its many valuable traits, $3 from the sale of each Dr. Jane Goodall Rose goes to benefit the many great works of the Jane Goodall Institute.

Add some 'Sunset Magic' to southern gardens

A crape myrtle shrub in full bloom is a focal point in any garden. A new variety called Sunset MagicTM Crape Myrtle has true red flowers — not “deep red-pink” or “violet-red” or even “reddish.” In full bloom, the large, crinkled, ruffled flowers cover the entire shrub, and Sunset Magic blooms more heavily than most other dark-leaved crape myrtles. The dark, purple-black leaves hold their deep color late into the summer. The leaves are flatter and more lustrous than other crape myrtles, too, so the red flowers really “pop.”

Sunset Magic is an easy-to-grow, disease-resistant variety. It responds well to pruning, but it naturally stays a manageable size (five to 10 feet tall and four to eight feet wide) so it will fit nicely into smaller gardens. For a stunning garden effect, plant this variety with white-flowered crape myrtles or yellow daylilies. 

Sunset MagicTM Crape Myrtle thrives in USDA zones 7-9. Give it full sun in well-drained soil and it will delight year after year with stunning color. Each plant in a one-gallon container sells for $39.95 from http://www.naturehills.com/sunset-magic-crape-myrtle.

Hibiscus ‘Pinot Noir’

Hibiscus are flowering plants that love the growing conditions found in their native tropical climates — sun, warm weather, regular watering and rich soils. Hibiscus plants are perhaps best known for their colorful, huge dinner-plate-sized flowers. "Pinot Noir" is a new variety that has exceptionally large, eight- to nine-inch flowers that are light lavender with maroon centers. The flowers have a hint of pink in the petals.

"Pinot Noir" is easy to grow and forms a nice, upright bush. Like all hibiscus varieties, it grows best in full sun with plentiful water and fertilizer to optimize its blooming potential. This plant is cold hardy to USDA zone 10, so it should be grown outdoors in a container and brought inside during the colder months in most climates. A plant in a four-inch pot sells for $19.95 from www.logees.com.

A new floribunda rose that soars to glory

Floribunda roses are popular year after year because the bushes produce prolific clusters of gorgeous flowers that sit atop long, upright stems. To honor 70 years of service by the brave men and women of the United States Air Force, Jackson & Perkins is proud to introduce the Soaring to Glory Floribunda Rose.

Soaring to Glory floribunda provides a bright and stunning display in the garden, turning heads with its large, sunny-yellow blooms and enticing everyone who passes by with its moderately spicy fragrance. This floribunda grows in a tidy, upright form up to three-and-a-half feet in height and three feet in width. Each bloom is packed with up to 30 petals, and the plant thrives in full sun. Soaring to Glory is a wonderful choice for a rose bed, perennial border or even in large containers.

This rose is a wonderful way for any gardener to honor a service member, especially since $3 from each Soaring to Glory rose bush sold will be donated to the Air Force Association to support both active duty and retired Air Force members. Soaring to Glory Floribunda Rose is available from jacksonandperkins.com as an ownroot rose for $28.95, a bareroot budded rose for $29.95 and as a two-quart potted plant for $29.95.

Source: HomeGardenandHomestead.com


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Randall Schultz
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