Tony's Top Picks for the Fall Plant Sale: Week 1

Our Fall Plant Sale has begun! Every week this season, we will have three types of plants on sale. Tony is here to provide us with his top picks each week.

This week 9/10 - 9/16 we’re serving up 30% savings on: Dogwood (Cornus), Spirea (Spiraea), Lilac (Syringa). In the case of Dogwoods and Lilac that includes both the shrub and tree forms. Spirea is a shrubs-only set of choices. Tony has selected three of his top picks from each category to give you a bit of info to make your saving decisions easier. 


Dogwood, Arctic Fire Redtwig

Arctic Fire™ is a compact selection of the popular Bailey Redtwig dogwood, much enjoyed for its intense maroon-red stems in winter snow. Compact in this case means matures at 4’ tall and 4’ wide since “compact” is all relative. Flat-topped white spring flowers become white berries later in the season. This is a selected variety of a native shrub! Oh, and at this time of year how could I fail to mention the potentially great maroon-purple fall color when grown in the sun it really prefers?

Dogwood, Cardinal Redtwig

‘Cardinal’, the dogwood, intrigues. It grows rapidly to 6-8’ tall and wide. White flowers, white berries as Arctic Fire™ above. Reddish-purple fall foliage color. What’s cool to me is the fact that when the temps drop to a certain threshold (and I’ve been told it’s a tad less than 30°) the season-long, yellow-green stems make a Cinderella-like transformation to salmon-pink. I know other sources say cherry red, but mine have never done that even though they’re sited in full sun. I have to call it the way I’ve seen it. They will tolerate partial shade, too.

Dogwood, Irish Setter Gray

Irish Setter™ stood out among a group of dogwood seedlings, perhaps a hybrid, as a rapid grower to 8-12’ tall and equally wide. These proportions and rapid growth make it a great candidate for economical deciduous screening. Leaves emerge with a definite mahogany cast before greening off. White flowers, white berries that birds LOVE! One of the standout things about Irish Setter™ is its resistance to Septoria leaf spot, a common bugaboo with some dogwoods after monsoon-like spring rains. Reported to have up to a month of deep maroon fall color. And second-year stems can be bright red. Is there anything this shrub can’t do? 


Spirea, Double Play Big Bang®

Double Play® made the cut because in a sea of gold-leafed competition it literally out-sparkled all the other varieties for the entire growing season. It forms a predictable 2’ tall, 2’ wide mound that does well in least 5 or more hours of direct sun. Hot pink flowers in late spring on new growth. Hummers love them, deer not so much. And it’s a Spirea so you can pile snow on it and it’s none the worse for that kind of abuse.

Spirea, Little Princess

‘Little Princess’ is typical of all Spireas. It’s hard to imagine how you could kill this plant- whether you were trying or not. It grows into a short 24” mushroom silhouette, perhaps 3’ wide….. eventually. Medium-green leaves make a fitting backdrop for the plentiful late spring, rose-pink buds that open to a dusty, heirloom pink. ‘Little Princess’ can be an adventure seeker seeding around the garden. Otherwise, hardy, low maintenance and tough would be great adjectives to describe “her”.

Spirea, Neon Flash

‘Neon Flash’ is another great choice for those that want no/low-maintenance and iron-clad hardy shrubs inhabiting their garden. It’s an improved variety of ‘Anthony Waterer’, meaning it grows 30-36” tall, 3’ wide. The new spring growth has a purplish-red(?) cast to the tips before settling to respectable dark green. The flat-topped, silver-dollar sized rose-red flowers are very long-lasting. Burgundy-purple fall color in the full sun sites it likes. Mass or staggered groupings.


Let’s preface this group by saying they like sun, lots of it, and a well-drained site. Any desired pruning should be accomplished within a month or so of the time they finish blooming. In the case of the repeat-blooming Bloomerang® touch them up (should you desire to prune them) after that heaviest first flush of flowers. And I love all three below because they have the charming habit of keeping their ankles covered to the ground with foliage unlike the “grandmother Lilacs” that can show 3’ of limb before the first leaf. 

Lilac, Bloomerang Dark Purple

Bloomerang® series has multiple colors including Dark Purple and Purple. Why is it special, you ask? Bloomerang® has the potential to bloom spring, and again light crops in summer and fall. One nurseryman shared that his experience was cooler summer nights increased the likelihood of a summer crop. They have beautiful, glossy foliage that is mildew-resistant (an aesthetically annoying fungal issue common with Lilacs). The lustrous dark-green foliage hits gold/purple notes in the fall. Neat and tidy at 4-5’ tall and wide at maturity. And, of course, the reason for planting lilacs- the wonderfully fragrant, rounded flowers in the afore-mentioned colors. 

Lilac, Dwarf Korean

Dwarf Korean is a personal fave of mine. I love the naturally roundy-moundy shrub shape (with really minimal pruning) to 4-5’ tall and 5-6’ wide. The flowers are deep pinkish-purple, and, of course, fragrant in the extreme. Summer foliage is petite in size, an attractive glossy dark green that glows gold/purple come fall.        

Lilac, Miss Kim

Dwarf Lilac ‘Miss Kim’ is a larger scale (but still dwarf) shrub maturing at 5-7’ tall and wide. The flower size is closer to that of a standard lilac with 4-6” long flower spikes that open from ice-blue buds to sky-blue flowers. Fragrant? Of course. And unlike most lilacs ‘Miss Kim’s’ handsome heart-shaped green leaves have burgundy-purple fall color potential.       

Shop the our Fall Plant Sale collection of Dogwoods, Spirea and Lilac online or come in to shop the entire collection. Stay tuned for next week's Plant Sale Top Picks!

Tony Fulmer

Chalet's Chief Horticulturist Officer