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    Chicagoland Grows Introduces Three New Plants

    By By Donna Dawson
    January 10, 2013, 9:32:18 AM EST

    The Chicagoland Grows plant introduction program will introduce three new plants at the Mid-Am American Horticultural Show in mid-January: Forever Pink Phlox, Phlox ‘Forever Pink’; Beijing Gold (Syringa pekinensis ‘Zhang Zhiming’) Peking Tree Lilac and Crescendo™ (Acer saccharum ‘Morton’) Sugar Maple. The Chicagoland Grows Plant Introduction Program is a nonprofit corporation of the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Morton Arboretum and the Ornamental Growers Association of Northern Illinois (OGA).


    Forever Pink Phlox, Phlox is a compact, carefree and long-blooming garden plant flowered that for three weeks in June and then repeat bloomed with coverage as great as 15 percent of the plant until the end of October in trials at the Chicago Botanic Garden (USDA Zone 5b.) “I can say with confidence that in nearly twenty years of developing and testing plants for Midwest gardens, this is the best home garden plant that I have developed,” said Dr. Jim Ault, Director of Ornamental Plant Research at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Phlox ‘Forever Pink’ is an herbaceous perennial plant that forms a dense, uniform clump with consistently upright stems. Two and three-year-old plants remained uniform in size and habit. The basal foliage remains evergreen most winters. Two-year-old plants measured 13 inches tall in foliage and 16 inches tall in bloom and were 18 inches wide. Two year-old plants were within an inch of the same size as three-year-old plants. The plant is quick to mature and form a dense clump with numerous stems in its second year from rooted cuttings. The peak bloom of attractive purplish-pink flowers in June comes at a time when the spring moss phlox are finished blooming and the summer-flowering phlox have yet to start blooming. This plant will repeat-bloom well into October, truly living up to its name. The selection appears to be sterile, which explains why it stays in bloom for so long. There is no energy wasted in seed production and no bothersome seedlings to contend with in the garden. Phlox is mildew-free and no other disease or insect problems were observed during the trail at the Garden. The strong yellowish-green foliage is attractive all summer and into autumn. Phlox grows best in full sun and well-drained, medium-moist soil. It is drought-tolerant once established; performs admirably in the heavy clay, alkaline soil at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The plants never need staking and after a four-year trial, no dividing was necessary. The strong yellowish-green foliage is attractive all summer and into autumn. Phlox ‘Forever Pink’ should be planted in full sun and toward the front or middle of a perennial border. Home gardeners can take advantage of this phlox’s uniform size and mass the plants for a striking display. Forever Pink Phlox also makes a good container plant. Chicagoland Grows will also introduce Crescendo (Acer saccharum ‘Morton’) Sugar Maple. This sugar maple tree that is heat and drought tolerant; has durable dark green summer foliage and outstanding orange-red fall color. It is an excellent specimen or shade tree for residential lawns, parks and golf courses. A native plant selection, Crescendo could make an excellent replacement for trees lost to Emerald Ash Borer. This tree was discovered as a spontaneous sapling growing in a hedge row at The Morton Arboretum. The Arboretum’s landscape architect noticed the tree for its consistent fall coloration. Over the years, Crescendo proved to be attractive and uniform in habit. Its well-balanced branching gives this tree a broadly oval habit that will reach 20 to 25 feet in height with a 15- to 20-foot spread in 10 to 15 years. In maturity, it reaches 40 to 45 feet in height and is 30 to 35 feet wide. It is considered to have a moderate growth rate. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 7, Crescendo grows best in full sun on moderately moist, rich, well-drained soil. Once established, the tree is has superior heat and drought tolerance. In fact, it is more drought-tolerant than other Midwestern grown sugar maple selections. In addition to environmental adaptability, there are no significant disease or pest problems. Like most sugar maples, do not use on sites with compacted, poorly drained soils or in areas with significant deicing salt spray or runoff. The third entry for Chicagoland Grows is a superior lilac tree called Beijing Gold (Syringa pekinenesis ‘Zhang Zhiming’) Peking Tree Lilac. Recognized for its multiple seasons of interest, Beijing Gold boasts attractive fragrant, primrose-yellow flowers in early summer and clean, dark green foliage that turns an eye-catching apricot-yellow in fall. The ornamental, cherry-like cinnamon-colored bark is attractive year-round. “Everything is gold about this tree lilac,” says Joseph Rothleutner, Tree Improvement Specialist at The Morton Arboretum. “From the unique yellow flowers to the outstanding golden fall color, when it comes to tree lilacs the Beijing Gold takes first place.” Native to northern China, the selection was made by Professor Zhang Zhiming of the Beijing Botanic Garden, People’s Republic of China, and introduced into the United States through the North American-China Plant Exploration Consortium. A small, deciduous tree, this selection can be grown either single- or multi-stemmed. It is more upright and less coarsely branched than most tree lilacs. Since its branching habit is better than most tree lilacs, Beijing Gold requires less corrective pruning. Hardy to USDA Zones 4 to 7, this tree grows to 20 feet in height with a 15-foot spread. Beijing Gold has a moderate growth rate of around one foot per year. This variety grows best in full sun on well-drained soil. Once established, this tree lilac is drought-tolerant. Beijing Gold is also not bothered by bacterial blight, powdery mildew, scale and borers that often plague lilacs. Tolerant of both soil and aerial de-icing salt, this tree is well adapted for difficult urban sites. The Beijing Gold will stand out in your landscape when featured as a specimen plant or in groups in the lawn. Beijing Gold is also an appropriate choice along drives and parkways or for use under utility lines. This exceptionally rugged flowering tree will add year round beauty and interest wherever it is used. The Chicagoland Grows Plant Introduction program is dedicated to the evaluation, selection, production, and marketing of recommended and new plant cultivars. Plants selected for the program have proven to be adaptable to the Midwest and are made available to the commercial and retail landscape industry through an international network of growers and propagators. *Chicagoland Grows, Crescendo, and Beijing Gold are active trademarks of the Chicagoland Grows, Inc. Plant Introduction Program. The Chicago Botanic Garden, one of the treasures of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, is a 385-acre living plant museum featuring 26 distinct gardens and four natural areas. With events, programs and activities for all ages, the Garden is open every day of the year. Admission is free; select event fees apply. Parking is $20 per car; free for Garden members. Located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, IL, the Garden is smoke free. Opened to the public in 1972, the Garden is managed by the Chicago Horticultural Society, accredited by the American Association of Museums and a member of the American Public Gardens Association (APGA). Visit , or call (847) 835-5440 for seasonal hours, images of the Garden and commuter transportation information. The Chicago Botanic Garden offers classes for students from ages preK through adulthood through the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School. The hands-on learning programs are for people of all ages, abilities, interests, and backgrounds. Adult education classes include horticulture, garden design, nature studies, and botanical arts for all levels of interest. Other programs bring the wonder of nature and plants to children, teens, and teachers. The Garden’s community gardening programs provide access to fresh produce in Chicago’s food desert communities and training in sustainable urban agriculture for youth and adults. The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center provides laboratories and teaching facilities for more than 200 Ph.D. scientists, land managers, students, and interns whose research is critical to fulfilling the Garden’s efforts to save our planet by saving our plants. The Science Career Continuum serves minority students from Chicago Public Schools and throughout the region, mentoring them as they prepare for science studies in college and beyond. In conjunction with Northwestern University, the Garden offers a graduate program in plant biology and conservation with Northwestern University. The Garden is host to Botanic Gardens Conservation International-U.S., and a member of the Center for Plant Conservation. About The Morton Arboretum The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized outdoor tree museum on 1,700 acres. Plant collections, scientific research, and education programs support the mission to plant and conserve trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Throughout natural landscapes are specialty gardens, 16 miles of trails, and nine miles of roads. Other offerings include tree-focused events, activities, and services for adults, children, professionals, and communities. The Arboretum welcomes 800,000 visitors annually and serves 34,000 member households. Located 25 miles west of Chicago in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open daily 7 a.m. until sunset. More information is available at www.mortonarb.org.

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