Well, the seed and plant catalogues have been pouring in since Christmas. One noticeable trend over the last few years is that almost all catalogues include substantial offerings of native plants and heritage or organic seeds or seedlings.
If you went back 10 years you would be hard pressed to find such offerings in any but specialist garden catalogues. I haven’t seen such a major shift in an industry since Hula Hoops and women’s “big hair” styles came on the scene.
Such a change is quite good. Not only do these new offerings bring us healthier foods, more sustainable garden selections and more interesting species, they also serve to increase the biodiversity in our landscapes. This in turn supports improved sustainability for ecosystems across the state and country.
The 2014 Winter Olympics starts in Sochi in less than a month, so I guess it’s time to talk about gold medals. Allow me to clarify, I mean Gold Medal plants, not athletic awards.
Every year the University of Georgia, the Georgia County Extension Service, the State Botanical Gardens and the plant/garden/landscaping industry come together to name Georgia’s Gold Medal Plant winners. They have been doing this since 1994. After 20 years they have put together an outstanding list of 95 plants for Georgia gardeners to consider.
According to the University of Georgia, the criteria for section of these plants are…”pest tolerance, ease of maintenance, survivability, seasonal interest and availability.”
Winners are announced for several categories including annuals, natives, perennial, shrubs, trees and vines and groundcovers.
If I had adhered to this list instead of some of the goofier plant selections I have tried, I’d have saved a lot of money and frustration.
The Gold Medal Plant winners for 2014 are:
Annual: Cleome hybrids Senorita Rosalita and Senorita Blanca.
Native: Rain Lily (Atamasco Lily)
Perennial: Red Hot Poker
Tree: Chinese Pistache
You can find more information (including pictures) about these Gold Medal winners and lists of all the Gold Medal Plant winners since 1994 at botgarden.uga.edu/explore/goldmedalplants.php.
In the coming weeks keep your eyes open for announcements about plant sales. It is time to plant cold hardy vegetables and to think about any new plant offerings you may want to use when spring planting time comes.
Most plant sales are offered by non-profit garden-related groups and serve as a major funding source for these worthy organizations. Your support of these sales helps them to continue to serve the gardening community and promote good environmental practices. Trees Atlanta, Georgia Perennial Plant Association, Georgia Native Plant Society, Dunwoody Community Garden and Orchard and various Master Gardener groups all hold plant sales usually every year and will appreciate your support.
Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 30 years and has probably killed at least one of each kind of plant he has tried before getting another one to thrive. He is a gardening volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. He can be reached at email@example.com.