Gardening Matters

It’s that time of the year again.

Plant catalogues are arriving almost daily at my house. I’ve sworn off new plants for this year. Yet here I am again dreaming and planning about new specimens from the catalogues. I’m like the alcoholic that swears he can quit any time he likes, but never seems to like to quit. It’s a pernicious disease and I am seriously afflicted.

Recently a number of gardening organizations have announced their picks for Plant of the Year. These are good plants to consider if you are not sure what you want or if you are planning to add plants to your garden but are unsure of what will thrive for you.

The Georgia Gold Medal Plants of the Year have been announced. Their native Plant of the Year is the wonderful Dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea. This is a much smaller version of the larger Oakleaf Hydrangea. It grows to about 30 inches tall and wide. This dwarf plant fits into garden schemes more easily yet still retains the beautiful aspects of its larger brother; great white blooms, red leaves in fall and interesting bark in winter.

By the way, and just to keep you fully informed, calling a plant a ‘dwarf’ doesn’t always mean that it is a smaller version of some larger plant. It can also mean that some aspect(s) of the plant are smaller, but that the whole plant is the same size as its larger relative. For example, the individual leaves may be smaller, but the overall plant is as big as the larger-leafed version. Don’t be fooled by the ‘dwarf’ designation. Go ahead, guess how I learned this.

Other Gold Medal winners for 2015 include Vinca ‘Cora’, Euphorbia ‘Spurge’, Drift roses and the ‘Empress of China’ dogwood tree. Any of these are worthy picks and will suit any garden well. The Drift roses are a great way to add a ground cover to a sunny spot and get a nice rose plant at the same time.

The national Perennial Plant Society has named the Cranesbill Geranium ‘Biokovo’ as its Plant of the Year. This low growing groundcover has pink to white flowers, foliage that turns reddish in fall and will grow into a nice mat in sun to part shade.

The Georgia Native Plant Society has named the Georgia Aster as their Plant of the Year. It has large starry-spiked blue flowers that turn a dusky purple after being pollinated. It forms a medium sized bush and will bloom well into fall when other plants are fading fast.

The latest All American Selections (AAS) awards for vegetables give us a great variety of goodies for the veggie patch. These include Lettuce ‘Sandy’, Pak Choi ‘Bopak’, Radish ‘Roxanne’, Squash ‘Bossa Nova’, Squash ‘Butterscotch’, Tomato ‘Chef’s Choice Pink’ and Brussels Sprouts ‘Hestia’ among others.

More information about each of these plant selections can be found by googling the name of the awarding organization.

For those of you who are adhering to organic gardening principles, there are several great seed sources for our area that offer organic seed and organic heirloom seeds. The Southeaster Seed Savers organization and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange offer comprehensive catalogues in both online and print versions. These catalogues are a great resource for anyone trying to learn about organic gardening as well as to learn about resources for organic seeds and garden products.

Finally I want to give everyone a ‘heads up’ alert about the Dunwoody Nature Center’s Spring Plant Sale. The list of plants being offered will be posted on the Dunwoody Nature Center website (dunwoodynature.org) the last week of March. Ordering will take place in through mid-April. Plants will be available for pick up on May 1 and 2. These plants are usually ones that are considered outstanding for our area and not-easy-to-find at local nurseries.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 35 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 gardeningmatters@hotmail.com.

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