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Some surprise sightings

If you haven't gone garden shopping in other parts of the country, you might not realize the depth and breadth of our green industry in Western New York. We have multiple sources for a wide selection of trees, shrubs, perennials and locally grown annuals, as well as tropical or houseplants.

Our certified nurserymen and greenhouse professionals constantly pursue education about new plants and horticultural practices and compete among themselves to provide superior service and the best of the new plant selections each season.

We have specialists in Japanese maples, Bonsai, roses, peonies and water gardens, as well as plant hybridizers, especially in Hostas. There are associations and clubs if you choose to follow a particular plant passion. We have experts in media -- such as Ken Brown on Saturday mornings -- lecturers, teachers and several resident horticulture experts. And we have a world-class Botanical Garden.

This past weekend I was among many who were impressed by this horticultural wealth, as so many of the educators, growers, sellers and organizations were gathered in one place for the Fall Garden Faire. As in Plantasia (the spring flower and landscape show of the Nursery and Landscape Association), vendors present a representative sampling of their best plants and ornamental or hard goods -- without knowing what each other will offer. I'm still amazed at the plants and collections. Here are just a few:

> Plants in containers

There was a wide range of styles in decorative containers for outside -- both in the pots' design and the plants chosen. Of course there were mums, ornamental kale and hardy pansies (also called winter pansies, and most are winter-hardy now). Containers held pineapple lilies, Cannas and ornamental grasses, including an unusual dwarf Miscanthus zebrinus. The biggest trend is the addition of perennials to containers, such as Lobelia (blues, reds, pinks), Gaura, Heucheras (Coral Bells) and asters used in surprising combinations.

> Hardy perennials and more

A perennial grower commented how pleased she was to see Angelica gigas (giant Angelica), and the ground-cover Plumbago (Ceratostiga plumbagoides). There were also rare ferns, toad-lilies, gold-leaved Spiderworts (Tradescantia 'Blue and Gold'); lots of pink plants including Japanese Anemone and Chelone (Turtlehead), and Hostas. I thought the best take-home treasure was a plant now showing off beautifully in my own garden: Lespedeza thunbergii 'Gibraltar,' sometimes called Bush Clover. It has abundant rose-pink blooms on long draping stems 3 feet long.

I haven't touched upon the unusual trees and shrubs. If you're thinking of adding to your landscape this fall, be assured you don't have to settle for the same old predictable selection. Take a drive to a nursery, and ask what plants are special. Take a chance on the unknown. You may be surprised what a columnar Hydrangea, dwarf Chamaecyparis or gold-leaved Dawn Redwood might do for your yard -- and spirits. Enjoy the wealth of Western New York.

Sally Cunningham is a garden writer and former Cornell Extension educator.

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