Seven of the best landscape plants for 2017

Cynthia Bee, Conservation garden park

To some, the start of the new year is about resolutions, but to plant geeks, it’s the time that the latest and greatest new plants are unveiled. The 2017 selections could take a year or two to make their way into mainstream production, so instead of unveiling those here, this article will focus on the best new(er) introductions that will actually be available at local nurseries this season.

1. ‘Kiwi Sunset’ Zelkova

Zelkovas are an underused tree that are an excellent replacement for non-native maple trees. The unique feature of the ‘Kiwi Sunset’ Zelkova is that the leaves are pink-tipped in the spring with the lime green leaves maturing to golden tipped. Orange fall color. Mature size: 30 feet tall by 18 feet wide.

2. ‘Emerald Sunshine’ Elm

There are a whole host of hybrid elms available that are exceptional landscape trees for Utah. These are not to be confused with the weedy Siberian Elm; they are entirely different. ‘Emerald Sunshine’ is an excellent shade tree (35 feet tall by 25 feet wide) for new yards where both quick shade and a quality tree are desired—a combination that rarely exists in the same tree.

3. ‘Purple Pillar’ Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon has long been a favorite for large landscape borders. New this year from Proven Winners is a columnar version of this tried-and-true Utah favorite that will enable those with smaller landscapes or narrow spaces to enjoy the tropical-looking purple summer blooms. It may be a little harder to find since it is a very new introduction, but worth the effort.

4. ‘Lemony Lace’ Elderberry

Elderberries are one of my personal favorite shrubs. Colorful leaves and huge flower clusters make for an intense show in the landscape. Most Elderberries are very large shrubs but the newer variety, ‘Lemony Lace,’ is a bit smaller, growing 5-6 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide. The leaves on this variety are vivid gold and lacy.

5. ‘Shiny Dancer’ Viburnum

This viburnum is a semi-evergreen shrub with gorgeous, glossy-green leaves tinged with red. Lovely white flowers appear in the spring, and leaves turn a burgundy-red fall color. 4-5 feet tall and wide.

6. ‘Wee One’ Lavender

Denver-based Plant Select recently introduced a new lavender that is more compact than other varieties. At a mere 10 inches tall and wide, this one can be grown at the front of a border or used as a perennial hedge along pathways where you may brush against it, releasing the lovely scent.

7. ‘Woody’s Peach Surprise’ Fire Chalice

Fire Chalice is a favorite late-season flowering perennial in hot shades of orange-red. ‘Woody’s Peach Surprise’ is a newer variety, found by Utah’s Perennial Favorites Nursery, that boasts very unusual peachy-pink flowers.

All of the above plants have been Utah-tested—some of them at the Conservation Garden Park. Your local nursery professional can help you with specific recommendations for your yard. Find more plants at