Thursday, February 20, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: 2014 Garden Plants of the Year

From Garden Design Galleries

Every year several gardening associations announce their choices for the year's best garden plant selections.  For 2014, the Perennial Plant Association has chosen a grass, Panicum virgatum 'Northwind', as their Perennial Plant of the Year.

This tall switchgrass is hardy from USDA Zones 4 to 10.  It prefers full sun, is not picky about soil, and is practically maintenance free.  The blue-green foliage changes to a lovely golden color in the fall.

From the International Herb Association, the genus Artemisia is the 2014 Herb of the Year.

Artemisias are hardy and aromatic, and the genus includes both ornamental and culinary varieties.  Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King' is a very popular garden perennial, while Artemisia dracunculus 'Sativa', or French tarragon, is a familiar kitchen herb (I really like its sweet licorice flavor with glazed carrots).

The Society of Municipal Arborists has chosen the 'Vanessa' Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica 'Vanessa') as its 2014 Urban Tree of the Year.

From Bold Spring Nursery

A slow-growing tree with an upright growth habit, it has become a popular choice for planting along city streets.  Persian Ironwood tolerates pruning well and has gorgeous leaf color in the spring, summer, and fall.

The independent nonprofit organization All-America Selections tests new garden plant varieties and then chooses the best performers for their Plants of the Year.  They announce both national and regional winners.  Among the national winners for 2014 are the following:

Angelonia angustifolia 'Serenita Pink F1'

This variety of Angelonia, or summer snapdragon, is a tough but elegant annual with pink flowers that prefers full to partial sun and well-drained soil, and is tolerant of dry conditions.

Gaura lindheimeri 'Sparkle White'

A mounded medium-height perennial with solid white flowers, this variety of Gaura lindheimeri (commonly known as beeblossom) is perfect for garden beds.  It likes full to partial sun and can withstand drought, heat, and wind.

Three national award-winning annual bedding plants were also selected:

Impatiens hawkeri 'New Guinea Florific Sweet Orange F1'

Osteospermum ecklonis 'Akila Daisy White F1'

Petunia x hybrida 'African Sunset F1'

I am especially excited about the petunia, as I have never seen one with such vibrant orange flower color before -- I hope this one shows up in our local nurseries this spring!

There are a number of vegetable varieties selected as national winners for 2014:

Bush bean 'Mascotte'

Sweet Italian Pepper 'Mama Mia Giallo F1'

Tomato 'Chef's Choice Orange F1'

Grape Tomato 'Fantastico F1'

Even an ornamental pepper was selected for a national award:

Ornamental Pepper 'Numex Easter'

My favorite choice for the year, however, has to be the 2014 Shrub of the Year chosen by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum:

Purple Beautyberry (listed as Callicarpa dichomata on the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum website but probably actually Callicarpa dichotoma) is a close cousin to the American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana).  The latter grows wild where we live and is a personal favorite.  The cultivated Purple Beautyberry is originally from Asia, and it is as attractive as the native species.

Just looking at the images of these garden plants, both old and new varieties, has me eager to start gardening again and looking forward to the imminent arrival of spring!

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