By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gardening with Wanda: Celebrating Georgias Gold Medal Plants
Placeholder Image

Georgia Gold Medal Plants have been announced for 2011.

What is a Georgia Gold Medal Plant? Since 1994, plants have been selected by the Georgia Plant Selection Committee, comprised of faculty from the University of Georgia and Green Industry Professionals that include nurserymen, flower growers and landscape professionals across the state.

The plants are broken down into specific categories by best annual, perennial, shrub, tree, ground cover and native plant. This information is then made known to the public, which promotes the sale and use of these superior ornamental plants.

This list of special plants for our state is a great resource in planning for your landscape needs. If it is designing a large or small garden, planting a wonderful large shade tree or just finding native shrubs or flowering ornamentals for our area that have been hand selected by leading area plant specialists, look no further for this must-have list of great plant selections.

When I am planning a garden, I often go to and look up the different plants that have been chosen over the years for Georgia. The illustrations are beautiful and the site will give you basic information about all the plants that are chosen and how to use them in garden. Check it out sometime.

The plants are adaptable to our region and have stood the test of time for hardiness and optimum growth conditions.

The 2011 annual winner is the summer annual black-eyed Susan. This native variety includes "Indian Summer," "Denver Daisy" and "Irish Eyes." The first two varieties both have blooms that can reach 6 to 8 inches across, while Irish Eyes are smaller. The cheerful flowers can be seen in meadows and naturalized settings, but they can be grown in formal, planned gardens as well.

They bloom from early summer until the first frost. The golden yellow blooms stand out all summer long. Once the growing season is over, you can choose to leave the seedheads on to feed the birds and encourage self sowing. The plant might surprise you and come back next year.

These plants like full sun and medium moisture and can be purchased at most local nurseries. Plant them in numbers for a maximum impact or use in the middle of a border plan. They attract butterflies and can be used as a cut flower.

The 2011 perennial winner is the Nippon lily. This flowering plant is a shade plant and is used as an alternative to the deer loving hosta plant. The plus to this plant is that it is an evergreen with bold green foliage, adding year-round interest to the garden.

This lily blooms in the spring, but the real stunner is the bright red berries that are produced in late fall. The plant grows to 2-foot wide clumps. Once established, the lily is drought tolerant. Plant a few and watch them spread to create a large understory beneath the trees.

The 2011 shrub selection is the Camellia japonica and sasanqua. These two classic southern shrubs can reach anywhere from five to 20 feet high with equal width. Sasanqua's flower in late fall and have a less formal shape. They are tolerant of sunny locations, but do better in afternoon filtered shade.

Japanese camellias are winter bloomers and their colors range from pink to red. Plant them in slightly acidic soil with lots of organic matter. Both type of camellias can be used in mass plantings and can be used for screens, hedges or formal foundation plantings.

The 2011 tree selection is a deciduous one called the Nuttall oak. This red oak can be planted in poor soils that are loamy, clay or sandy and has a strong root system when established. It is a popular choice because it can be planted closer to buildings, pavements and driveways than most traditional oaks, because it produces very few surface roots. But I would recommend planting in an open area due to its large growth when mature. The Nuttall can reach up to 100 feet high and 80 feet wide.

If you have the room and need a beautiful specimen shade tree, this tree is drought tolerant and maintenance free. Nuttall oak has smooth bark and intense red fall color. It has a nice branching structure and is used quite often in residential plantings. They do produce a fair amount of acorns, so if you are into good food sources for our wildlife, this is the tree for you.

The native plant for 2011 is the fringetree. This small tree or large shrub as some call it is native through much of the southeastern part of the U.S., including every county in Georgia. The wispy off white blooms start in spring and can last up to six weeks. When it is through blooming, lime green leaves emerge through the blooms to give it a cottony look.

The fringetree grows to about 20 feet high with similar width and can be grown alone as a specimen tree or in a garden planting. It adapts well to different types of soil and light conditions, but full sun insures optimum growth. This plant is a garden favorite and produces for many generations!

Again, check out the Gold Medal website or call the Extension for a publication on the yearly winners. The selections are tested, tried, and true for any Georgia garden landscape. Enjoy learning about all of the different plants one can choose to confidently grow in their landscapes.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.