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Skaggs: Winning plants are cream of the crop

POSTED: February 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Each year, green industry professionals from throughout Georgia select a slate of outstanding ornamental plants in five categories: annual flower, herbaceous perennial, vine, shrub and tree.

Only one plant in each category can earn the Plant Selection Committee’s coveted Gold Medal Award for outstanding performance.

The nominees must pass a strict litmus test of criteria, including pest tolerance, ease of maintenance, survivability, seasonal interest and availability.

Like previous winners, the 2008 selections represent the best of the best in their categories.

The following is a brief description of the 2008 winners. Be sure to ask for them at your local garden center!

Amazon dianthus series

(Dianthus barbatus "Amazon")

A cool-season annual reaching 24 inches tall that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. The series includes bouquet purple, neon cherry, neon duo, neon purple and rose magic. With sweetly fragrant flowers and many color variations, Amazon dianthus is attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. Planted in the fall, it’s an excellent companion plant for pansies, ornamental cabbage and ornamental kale.

Rozanne cranesbill hardy geranium

(Geranium "Rozanne")

This herbaceous perennial is prized for its toughness and long bloom period. Growing into a mound 18 to 20 inches high, Rozanne geranium features 2«-inch blue-violet flowers with pale centers blooming from late May until frost. It’s an exceptional performer, even in unrelenting summer heat and humidity. While flowering may decline in mid-summer, a light shearing will encourage new growth and repeat blooms.

Pride of Augusta Carolina jessamine

(Gelsemium caroliniana "pride of Augusta")

This is a twining evergreen vine growing 10 to 20 feet. This double-flowered form of the native jessamine is not invasive and makes a great choice for arbors, trellises or fences. The bright yellow blooms can appear from February to April, with the peak bloom lasting two to three weeks. Once established, Pride of Augusta is low-maintenance, virtually pest-free and deer resistant.

Paperbush

(Edgeworthia chrysantha)

This is a deciduous shrub growing from to 4 to 6 feet high and just about as wide. Paperbush prefers shade and moist, well-drained soil. The attractive coarse-textured foliage sheds in late fall exposing the emerging flower buds. The flowers consist of dozens of tiny, creamy florets borne in clusters and suspended like bells on short stalks. The smooth, chocolate-brown bark provides interest in winter and striking contrast to the flowers in spring. The cultivar "snow cream" grows to 6 feet and has larger leaves and flowers.

American hornbeam

(Carpinus carolinana)

This broad, oval deciduous tree grows to 40 feet tall and about 30 feet wide. Hornbeam is adaptable to a range of soils and growing conditions and is tolerant of both sun and shade. The fall color is very nice with shades of yellow, orange and red.

American hornbeam is an excellent alternative to the Bradford pear, which tends to break and split apart due to poor branch structure.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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