Get Growing: New year, new plants

Erica Browne Grivas

Erica Browne Grivas

It’s hard to resist the allure of the new – especially when it comes to plants. For a recovering plant collector like me, who has vowed to be more deliberate about my choices, I have to put the brakes on before I zoom off to the nursery each time I fall in love at first click.

After reviewing 2024’s latest and greatest releases, here are some highlights. I am focusing on plants that exhibit environmentally friendly benefits like being water-wise once established, or supportive of pollinators, with a few boasting pure wow factor.

Let’s start with the one I’ve been seeing the most buzz about among fellow garden writers and prominent plant lovers. It’s non-native, and is probably a water hog, but I can see making room for this beauty in your water budget. (Of course, unless an explorer just “found” a plant, you’re unlikely to come across many natives on new plant introduction lists, though you may find a “nativar,” a cultivar of a native plant.)  

We’ve got everything from shrubs to feed the birds, nectar for bees and butterflies, and a crunchy snack for humans too.


First Editions Hydrangea Eclipse

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Eclipse’

3-5’ x 3-5’

USDA Zones: 5-9

There’s good reason with increased summer heat to shift to more drought-adapted and pollinator-supporting plantings, so hydrangeas whose name comes from the Greek for “water vessel,” are not the first plants you think of. This would be a lovely exception, however. It claims to be the first bigleaf hydrangea with dark leaves that hold color throughout the season, even in warm climates like Seattle’s. You might grow it for that foliage accent alone, but the flowers are hot pink with chartreuse centers. It should prefer afternoon shade here, and it will repeat bloom during the summer.

First Editions Decadence Blueberry Sunday Baptisia

Baptisia ‘Blueberry Sunday’

2.5’-3’ x 2.5’-3’

USDA Zones: 4-9

Baptisia are wonderful, tough, long-lived plants that bring fantastic floral verticals to naturalistic plantings. Their long taproot sustains them during drought after being established. This one, more compact than the species at 3’ tall, has indigo blue flowers that will complement every other color. In fall, the black seedpods feed the birds. Plant it where you want it, though, because you’ll have to dig deep to move it.

Orange Glow Knockout Rose 

Rosa hybrid ‘Knockout Orange Glow’

4.5’ x 3’

USDA Zones: 4-11

The Knockout series from Star Roses is known for reliable roses that can thrive in harsh conditions, even in the black-spot prone Pacific Northwest. This is a bit taller than “groundcover” types you may have seen and will light up a border with hot coral flowers that will make your day. Said to be a free-flowering repeat bloomer from spring through first frost. After being watered well the first few seasons, you should be able to taper off hose sessions.


Monarda Balmy Lilac Bee Balm

Monarda didyma ‘Balmy Lilac’

1’ x 1.5’

USDA Zones: 4-9

Offered by Jackson & Perkins, this purple-flowered bee balm is petite enough to fit in any sunny spot you have. A cultivar of M. didyma, a Northeast/Midwest prairie native, it brings the bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies to its cool-looking flowers. However, it jumpstarts the monarda season by blooming earlier. As a bonus, the leaves make a fragrant tea. Balmy Lilac is said to be highly mildew-resistant, a good thing in monardas.

Evolution Fiesta Coneflower

Echinacea p. ‘Evolution Fiesta’

20” x 18”

I love echinaceas, and orange, so this one is a no-brainer. I also like the compact size and two-tone appearance of the flowers ranging from vivid orange to softer amber. While not native to the NW, many of our local pollinators typically flock to coneflowers, especially the single-flowered ones like this.



Sunbelievable Golden Girl and Brown-Eyed Girl Sunflowers

Helianthus annuus ‘Golden Girl’ and ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’

32” x 40”

These are compact, super-floriferous annuals for summer color. These are pollenless, so they will not protect the bees from mites as studies have indicated sunflower pollen can do, but they still provide nectar to bees and other pollinators.

Purple Magic Broccoli F1

Brassica oleracea ‘Purple Magic’ 

30” x 20”

Zone: N/A Annual

You can tell your doctor you are eating your rainbow and your veggies. As a crucifer, broccoli is already packed with nutrients, but Purple Magic adds the powers of anthocyanins, which have antioxidants and phytonutrients for days.  And the green stems look like they are wrapped in purple ribbons! A judge described this All-American Selections Winner as “the nicest purple I’ve ever seen.” 100 days to harvest from sowing.