New Plants for Sale at SBBG

by Virginia Hayes

There’s nothing new under the sun only if you’re referring to
human perfidiousness and treachery, but plants are really good at
coming up with new ideas on a regular basis. This inventiveness is
built into the genetic code and is one of the main methods we have
exploited to find plants that produce more colorful flowers or
tastier fruits, or trees and shrubs that have more interesting
foliage, colors, or shapes. This genetic variability doesn’t always
confer a desirable trait, but starting with the earliest
agronomists who found a way to encourage rice and wheat to hold on
to their seeds long enough for them to harvest the majority of the
crop and the creators of corn, a cultivated variety of a species of
grass that now cannot survive without human intervention,
horticulturists have been on the lookout for the next, and best,
variety of plants from all over the world.

Some of these new introductions are hybrids created by devoted
growers who invest the time and experience to cross-pollinate one
plant with another in the hope that the new creation will have one
or more of the most desirable characteristics of its parents.
Others will be the result of selecting one out-of-the-ordinary
plant that was a natural mutation or “sport” and multiplying it
through vegetative methods. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (SBBG)
has been involved in using these techniques to introduce new
varieties of well-loved California native plants for many years.
This year they are releasing four selections that will be sure to
find a following among gardeners dedicated to designing and
planting gardens that grow happily in our unique climate.

The latest offerings are all flowering plants. Two are new
cultivars of the native California iris, Iris douglasii. Iris
‘Canyon Bliss’ combines the genes from one of SBBG’s early
introductions that has pure white petals with central yellow zones
and the clear blue of a cultivar from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic
Gardens. The result is a flower with an overall blush of violet
with purple veins and the telltale yellow spot that is tinged with
turquoise. The late Dara Emory, a longtime SBBG horticulturist and
plant breeder, created this cultivar as well as another lovely
Douglas iris named ‘Canyon Sunshine.’ As its name implies, it is a
sunny yellow. California irises grow well in sun or partial shade
with no additional water other than our seasonal rains. They are
good candidates for planting under coast live oaks (Quercus
agrifolia). Two more floriferous offerings this year are from the
family of asters. Aster chilensis, or coast aster, is also very
adaptable, growing in sun or partial shade and needing little care
once it is established. Many asters bloom in the fall, making them
great choices for perennial plantings that need a little color late
in the season. The new selection is called ‘Purple Haze’ and its
flowers are a deeper shade of purple than its progenitors.
California aster, Lessingia filaginifolia, is another member of
this daisy family and it, too, provides inviting flowers for
butterflies and other insects and beauty in late summer and fall.
The silvery foliage forms a three-foot mound topped with one-inch
lavender flowers that have characteristic yellow centers.

All these new introductions as well as other drought-tolerant
native and non-native plants suitable for our Mediterranean climate
will be on sale at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden’s annual Fall
Plant Sale. The sale runs for a whole month this year in
celebration of the garden’s 80th birthday. Members will be admitted
at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 14, to have first pick; at 2 p.m.,
the public is invited to select from this wonderful collection of
plants. The sale continues through Saturday, November 11. Members
of SBBG are also invited to a preview party for the sale on Friday,
October 13, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a champagne reception and a
10 percent discount on purchases. David Fross, owner of Native Sons
Wholesale Nursery, will present the lecture, Ceanothus: Gardening
with a California Classic at 6:30 p.m. Fross is the co-author of
the lovely and informative new book, Ceanothus and the essential
California Native Plants for the Garden. Fross is an experienced
nurseryman and also has a great eye behind the camera lens; thus,
his lecture will be lavishly illustrated with his photographs. Take
advantage of one or more of these events that celebrate our special
climate and the plants that thrive here. Call SBBG for pricing and
details at 682-4726 x102.


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