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Cannon: Five plants earn superior ranking for home garden
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The 2013 Georgia Gold Medal Plants have been selected and as in years past, the winners are rated as No. 1 superior ornamental plants for use in the residential landscape.

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

Winners are selected from five categories: natives, annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, vines and groundcovers.

Annual winner

The 2013 winner in the annual category is wishbone (clown) flower, commonly called torenias.

If you are looking for an annual that likes a shady spot? Then torenias are a good choice. Instead of planting the ever popular impatiens, give this hardy annual a try.

Torenia is a compact plant with pink, blue, lavender, white and yellow flowers and resembles a small trumpet. Torenia is heat-tolerant and usually deer-resistant, too. The new cultivar summer wave is among the best for the Georgia heat and humidity issues.

Perennial winner

The winner in the perennial category is the herbaceous variegated Soloman’s seal.

Herbaceous means the plant goes dormant in the winter and re-emerges when warmer weather returns.

This plant likes full to part shade. It is one of the best perennials for a shade garden. In late spring, the plant blooms white flowers, shaped like bells with a slight fragrance to them. In the fall, the foliage turns wheat gold and then disappears.

The plant is deer-resistant and is a good alternative to hostas, which deer love to munch on.

Soloman’s seal is a long-living perennial. In a few years after planting, you can divide and redistribute.

Shrub winner

The 2013 shrub winner is the evergreen compact gardenia.

This smaller gardenia shrub works well in a urban shrub border where little room is needed. Their fragrant creamy white blooms make a striking contrast against their dark glossy green foliage. No southern landscape should be without one.

Their roots need to have excellent drainage. Gardenias do not like wet feet.

Plant them in full sun to part shade. Plant some varieties such Frost Proof, Heaven Scent — known for abundant winter fruiting — and Double Mint.

Groundcover winner

The groundcover winner is the evergreen golden sweetflag (acorus).

This deer-resistant, grass-like groundcover can add texture and color to the landscape and is used in container gardening. Combine acorus with purple flowering plants, parsley, kale or azaleas for winter or plant them with the annual winner torenia and autumn fern in the summer.

Cut the acorus back in late winter for a flush of bright gold foliage in the spring.

This groundcover likes wet areas, so plant around a pond or boggy site. Plant in shade to part shade areas.

Native winner

The native plant winner is the impressive pink muhly grass.

This full-sun, light-shade grass really puts on a show in early fall with its fine textured pink flowers hovering above the green foliage of the plant. It has a cloudlike appearance and can be found in white. This plant is easy to find and purchase in the pink species.

This lovely native grass will age to a tan color in the winter. Cut back as new growth begins to emerge in the spring.

The plant is a great divider. One mature plant can be divided into many plants and placed 18 inches apart to create a stunning dramatic groundcover. Muhly grass grows about 3 feet tall and wide.

It is deer-resistant and drought-tolerant, making it a perfect plant for a low maintenance yard.

Plant the lovely grass in a variety of different landscape designs. Pair it with the burgundy fall foliage of a dogwood tree or plant in front of evergreen hollies and trees for a beautiful contrast of color and textures.

Look for the 2013 Gold Medal Plants in area nurseries and plan on attending the Hall County Master Gardener’s Spring Plant Expo today and Saturday for a selection of these landscape winners.

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, www.hallcounty.org/extension. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

 

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