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2014 Georgia Gold Medal Plants selected

POSTED: April 18, 2014 1:30 a.m.

The 2014 Georgia Gold Medal Plants have been selected and are rated as the No. 1 superior ornamental plant for residential landscape use in Georgia.

The Gold Medal Plant Program represents a group of entities including plant professionals from the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, University faculty members and nurserymen, flower growers, garden retailers and landscape professionals across the state. These groups collectively choose the annual winners.

Plant winners are selected from five categories: native plant, summer annual, herbaceous perennial, deciduous tree and evergreen shrub.

Wikipedia describes a native plant as a plant indigenous or naturalized to the area before colonization. The native plant winner is atamasco lily.

About 70 species of lilies are native to North America. The atamasco rain lily is one of the hardiest and is native throughout Georgia. It can be found around rock outcrops and moist forests and bottomlands.

Given this lily likes moisture and full sun, it will fit nicely in any landscape area with these elements. Bog and water gardens would be a perfect area for it.

Lilies bloom white aging to pink and can grow 4 to 12 inches tall.

Glossy, grass-like stalks rise above the blooms. The blooms rise above the grass in March and April as a delightful surprise always after a rain.

Plant them in the spring or fall as a dry bulb and purchase in a container. The lilies will form a mass of colonies, but they are poisonous if eaten.

The 2014 summer annual selection is the spider flower or cleome Senorita Rosalita and Senorita Blanca. Cleome is often referred to as an old-fashion pass along plant. It did have its negatives, but the two new cleomes have been introduced. The Blanca and Rosalita varieties provide all of the positives for an outstanding summer annual.

These cleomes have a bushy form, no spines, no seed pods (means no spreading in an invasive manner) and are drought-tolerant. What you get is a pretty airy lavender pink flower standing tall in a flower border.

The cleomes attract pollinators, such a butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant them in a sunny border in late spring and don’t overwater. They will provide a nice vertical statement and long-lasting color throughout the summer.

The herbaceous perennial choice is the red hot poker or torch lily.

This plant is an evergreen that blooms in shades of orange, yellow and cream in June. They may even rebloom if the spent flowers are cut after blooming.

The blooms are actually many tubular flowers on strong stems and create a two-tone effect as the flowers open at the lower blooms. Red hot pokers create a beautiful towering effect and are a dramatic element in a garden. They have a tropical look and the hummingbirds, bees and butterflies flock to them. Their height ranges from 18 to 84 inches tall, depending on the variety. “Lola” variety is a taller one compared to the “Popsicle,” a smaller compact plant.

One advantage is the plant is deer-resistant. Give it plenty of sun and good drainage and it will multiply and spread. Divide the plant in the spring to share.

The 2014 deciduous tree is a useful large shade tree called Chinese pistache.

The fast-growing tree can reach up to 35 feet tall and can survive heat, poor soil and drought. It has a great fall color, and you can select the best color among small seedlings.

This tree gets more attractive with age eventually spreading in width and height. The fall foliage, vase shape and peeling bark is a wonderful winter element. This truly is a four-season tree.

The 2014 evergreen shrub choice is the sweet box shrub.

It is a shade shrub that grows 3- to 5-feet high with glossy, deep green foliage and fragrant white winter flowers. Sweet Box also comes in a dwarf variety, staying about 12 to 18 inches tall.

Sweet box is a deer-resistant shrub related to the boxwood, but it has a looser, more relaxed form. It is used for low hedges for its beautiful arching form. It hardly ever needs pruning and prefers moist, well-drained soil.

Plant the shrub with hydrangeas or colorful heucheras as a backdrop plant.

Visit www.georgiagoldmedalplants.org to see these plants and more.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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