The Southern Living™ Plant Collection, first introduced in spring 2008, provides gardeners with innovative new plants designed to solve specific landscape challenges. The collection is comprised of shrubs, trees, groundcovers, grasses, tropicals, bulbs, annuals, perennials and vines. Before receiving the honor, these plants are evaluated for years through plant trials and consumer research.
Since 2008, when the collection was first introduced, our nursery (Wilson Bros. Nursery & Garden Center) began testing these plants in our own trial gardens. You never really know what a plant will or won't do until you test it for yourself. So far, every plant we've tested has performed remarkably well...but, as usual, I have my favorites:-)
Based on my experience growing these plants here in Zone 8 of Georgia, below is a list of my personal favorites from the Southern Living Plant Collection...so far.
(Bulbs, vines, and annuals have been excluded from the list as I've yet to test these.)
Purple Pixie Loropetalum - Finally, a true dwarf, purple leaf loropetalum. This is one of my personal favorites in the entire collection. With its dwarf size and weeping habit, Purple Pixie is just the plant we’ve been looking for, for years. It grows only 1 to 2 feet tall by 4 to 5 feet wide. It’s a great choice for a ground cover, but it can also add vibrant color to hanging baskets, window boxes, and other containers. I haven't seen Pixie produce as many flowers as other loropetalums, but who cares...it's a gem on it's own. It's planted in three areas in our trial gardens and doing great in full sun or half a days shade. One word of caution: this variety especially hates wet feet so plant it in well-drained soils. It seems to do best on sloped ground or in raised beds or mounded areas. see more photos and details
Purple Diamond Loropetalum - I've been pleasantly surprised by this loropetalum. It, and it's little sister 'Purple Pixie' have the deepest purple, non-fading foliage I've seen on any of the purple leaf loropetalums. Unlike others, the purple foliage color goes all the way through the leaf, and does not fade to green during summer. Purple Diamond an excellent selection for foundation plantings. Unlike other loropetalums that can can swallow your house, Purple Diamond grows 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. Showy pink flowers appear in spring and sometimes in summer. see more photos and details
Confetti Abelia - This is one of the lowest maintenance plants in our trial garden. Confetti abelia is a vigorous, compact rounded shrub that displays outstanding variegated pink, white, and green foliage. During the warm season, the shrub appears near white from a distance. During fall and winter the foliage takes on a rosy, pink cast. In 3 years it has yet to "sprout" from the center as some other "dwarf" abelia do, so has required no pruning. It has shown excellent resistance to drought, disease, insects, and deer. The small white flowers produced throughout the summer are mildly fragrant and attract butterflies. see more photos and details
Emerald Snow Loropetalum - This is a green leaved loropetalum that has produced masses of pure white, frilly, spider-like blooms in spring, and sporadically through summer and fall in my garden. Lime green new growth through the warm season contrasts wonderfully with the deep green foliage. I've got this shrub planted on the front corners of a low porch and in two years it has reached about 2 feet in height with an equal spread. Mature height is listed at 3-4 feet with an equal spread. I'll be happy, but surprised if it matures at this height. If not, Loropetalums respond well to pruning, so will prune it once or twice a year after a bloom cycle. I've had absolutely no insect, disease or deer problems with this plant and have yet to prune it. see more photos and details
Flirt Nandina - One of the newest additions to the collection, and having just been released, at the time of writing this article, this one's only been growing in the garden for a year. So far, so good. Unlike other varieties of Nandina that turn color during the cool season, Flirt produces stunning, deep red, new growth through spring and summer. Don't ask me how the breeders did it. Winter color isn't quite as outstanding as with other varieties, but with red foliage in the summer, who cares? It's true dwarf habit makes Flirt is an excellent choice as a groundcover or in small to large patches almost anywhere in the sunny to partially shaded landscape. see more photos and details
Jubilation Gardenia - A charming improvement on a Southern favorite, Jubilation gardenia grows compactly (3-4 feet by 3-4 feet) and blooms heavily in spring; reblooming fragrantly through summer into fall. Double flowers are similar but not quite as large as those produced by August Beauty gardenia. I've got this one planted near the back deck, where the fragrance can be enjoyed from closer up. Wasn't sure if it would repeat bloom but, sure enough, it did. see more photos and details
Soft Caress Mahonia - When first laying eyes on 'Soft Caress' I didn't know it was a mahonia. Had it been in bloom I'd have instantly recognized the genus by the pretty citron-yellow blooms held upright in clusters of "candles" which are typical of mahonia. Unlike the poky holly-like foliage of other varieties, Soft Caress has elongated thread-like, soft-textured leaves that just beg you to touch or "caress" them. see more photos and details
Shrub Pick's continued on next page. Click on page link below