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Skaggs: Choose winning plants for your yard
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Thinking of adding some new plants to your landscape? Check out the Georgia Gold Medal Plants.

Since 1994, the Georgia Plant Selections Committee Inc. has been helping gardeners improve their landscapes. Each year they recommend a new list of beautiful, proven landscape plants.

The committee is made up of nurserymen, flower growers, landscapers, landscape designers, garden center managers, county agents and University of Georgia horticulturists.

Each year they select an annual, perennial, shrub and tree and, since 2003, a flowering vine from a long list of nominees. Then they award them Georgia Gold Medals. Only the best of the best can earn the top honors.

Previous Gold Medal winners include: trident maple, Japanese cryptomeria, sun-loving coleus, Alice oakleaf hydrangea, creeping raspberry and rose creek abelia.

To choose the winners, the committee looks at seasonal interest, outstanding or unusual qualities, ease of propagation, hardiness, adaptability, durability, pest tolerance and ease of maintenance.

2009 Georgia Gold Medal winners

Gold medal annual: Summer snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia)

An outstanding choice for a sunny landscape. A wide range of colors is available, including white, rose, lilac, violet and blue. Flowering occurs over an eight- to 10-week period, peaking in June and July. The plants are attractive in patio containers, and the flowers hold up well in floral arrangements.

Gold medal perennial: Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrectii)

Amsonia sends up feathery green leaves in the spring, and star-shaped flowers are borne along the upper portions of the stem and last three to four weeks. The plant is most spectacular in the fall, when the foliage turns a brilliant golden yellow that enhances the appearance of other plants in the landscape.

Gold medal shrub: Fragrant tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans)

This tough, evergreen, low-maintenance plant has very few pest problems. Its flowers are hidden among the leaves, but make their presence known when their sweet perfume becomes noticeable in September and October. This is a large shrub that will reach 20 to 30 feet in height.

Gold medal tree: Lavender twist redbud (Cercis canadensis "Covey")

This is a unique form of the familiar native redbud, patented and grown by licensed growers via grafting onto a rootstock. Lavender twist redbud grows slowly but will reach up to 15 feet tall and wide. It provides year-round interest, beginning in the spring when its lavender flowers seem to cascade down along the weeping branches.

Gold medal flowering vine: Armand clematis (Clematis armandii)

This would be a great vine, even if it didn't flower. Its glossy, evergreen leaves are attractive year round and provide visual interest to fences, arbors, trellises, walls or pergolas. White, fragrant, star-shaped flowers appear in March and last nearly a month. Flowers have a spicy, subtle fragrance. They are about 2½ inches across and are borne in panicles from previous season's growth.

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

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