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Skaggs: Meet 5 plants that will go for the gold
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Throughout the winter Olympics in Vancouver, gold medals have been awarded for such events as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and bobsledding. While that’s all well and good, I’ll bet the Olympic committee hasn’t presented a single award to an annual, perennial, tree or shrub!

But right here in Georgia, the Georgia Gold Medal Plant Selection Committee has done just that. Each year, five plants that grow well in Georgia have the chance to win gold. And during this first year of the new decade, the winners are spectacular.

Each year an elite group of green industry and academic professionals from across Georgia select outstanding ornamental plants in five categories. The committee is made up of nursery owners, flower growers, botanists, landscape designers, garden center managers, Master Gardeners and University of Georgia horticulturists.

Gold Medal winners are selected based on a strict list of criteria including pest tolerance, ease of maintenance, survivability, seasonal interest and availability. Growers and landscape professionals nominate many plants in each category, and it is the job of the selection committee to select one per category that stands out above the rest.

The 2010 Gold Medal plants are all worthy of their distinguished titles.

Diamond frost euphorbia
This plant produces clouds of dainty white bracts (colored leaves) that complement other plants in containers or landscape beds. It grows 6 to 12 inches tall and 20-plus inches wide, and its trailing growth habit spills over the sides of containers nicely. Diamond Frost Euphorbia prefers morning sun, afternoon shade and well-drained soil.

Butterfly weed
This is a native herbaceous perennial that attracts butterflies like magnets with its florescent orange blooms. Its leaves are the preferred food source for the larvae of several species of butterflies, including monarchs, and the flowers provide nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds.

Angelina stonecrop sedum
Growing just 6 inches tall and spreading 2 to 3 feet, this is a tough, vigorous groundcover that does well in the front of dry, sunny landscape beds. It looks particularly nice in rock gardens or along the edges of containers where it can spill over the sides. Angelina stonecrop has golden yellow foliage and bright orange summer flowers.

Limelight hydrangea
This winning shrub will light up a neighborhood with its large chartreuse panicles on strong upright stems. This large deciduous shrub grows to 6 to 8 feet tall with an equal spread. Plant it in groups in the background of a perennial border for a spectacular summer show. It also looks nice in a pot as the focal point on a patio.

Ogon dawn redwood
Last but not least, this 2010 tree selection has unique golden foliage that glows in the summer sun and is the perfect choice for pond edges, parks and large spaces. Ogon dawn redwood is a moderately fast grower when provided with well-drained soils. It reaches 50 feet in 25 years. Little to no pruning is required.

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

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