Garden Talk: March 4, 2013

From NGA Editors

2013 Perennial Plant of the Year

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If you are looking for an easy-to-grow plant that adds a touch of quiet elegance to a shady spot, the Perennial Plant Association's 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year is for you. Variegated Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum') makes a lovely addition to a woodland garden or a shaded border.

Growing 18-24 inches tall, its graceful, arching, unbranched stems carry light green, oval leaves accented with creamy white at their tips and edges. In late spring, small, fragrant, green-tipped, white, bell-shaped flowers dangle beneath the foliage. In fall, the leaves add yet more interest as they turn a lovely golden color that sets off the blue-black berries that sometimes form.

A trouble-free addition to the garden, variegated Solomon's seal has no serious insect or disease problems. It does best in moist, well-drained soil in zones 3-8 and will thrive in light to deep shade. Plants spread slowly and established clumps are easily divided in spring or fall.

There are several theories regarding the origin of Solomon's seal's interesting common name. One is that the scars that remain on the rhizome after the stems die back in the fall resemble the marks left by a signet ring when it was pressed into wax to seal documents of old, like the legendary magical signet ring said to belong to King Solomon. The botanical name Polygonatum, meaning ″many knees″ in ancient Greek, also refers to the character of the rhizome, which has multiple joints.

Variegated Solomon's seal makes an excellent companion to other shade garden standbys such as ferns, brunnera, hostas, bleeding heart, and foamflower (Tiarella). It is pictured blooming here with Tiarella 'Spring Symphony.

To read more about this Perennial Plant of the Year, go to Perennial Plant Association.

A New Flower That Will "Blue" Your Mind

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Blue is always a sought after color in the garden. For easy color in this hue all summer long, try the new hybrid dwarf morning glory Blue My Mind™ (Evolvulus 'USEVO1201') from Proven Winners. Rated as a top performer in a number of trial gardens last year, this heat lover thrives in hot weather and high humidity, unfurling its nickel-sized, beautiful true blue flowers all summer long. The silvery green foliage sets off the sky blue of the blossoms nicely. You don't even need to deadhead to keep the show going.

Blue My Mind™ has a mounded trailing habit, reaching 6 to 12 inches high and trailing as much as 24 inches, making it perfect for hanging baskets, as a ″spiller″ in a container planting, or as a groundcover. A tender perennial, grow it as an annual north of zone 9 and be sure to protect it from frost.

For the best performance, grow Blue My Mind™ in full sun, feed with a slow-release fertilizer, and keep well watered for several weeks after planting. While it is drought tolerant once it's established, you'll get better growth and flowering if you provide consistent moisture. Look for this plant at local garden stores.

To learn more about this dwarf morning glory, go to Proven Winners.

Pick a Mini-Pepper

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Looking for something easy, colorful, and nutritious to pack in your lunch box? Grow the new 'Lunchbox Pepper Series' this season and you'll have an eye-catching array of red, orange, and yellow mini-peppers to brighten a bag lunch, provide a tasty snack, saute as side dish, or add interest to salads.

The seeds of these sweet and intensely flavorful little peppers from Johnny's Selected Seeds are available in separate colors or as a mix. Seeds of all are organically grown.

The peppers may be minis, but the plants themselves are tall, strong, and high yielding. Like all peppers, they relish warmth, so wait until the weather is settled, the soil is warm, and all danger of frost is past before setting out seedlings, usually a couple weeks after the last frost date in your area. Start seeds indoors eight weeks before the set out date and give them bottom heat to speed and improve germination. Days to maturity from transplanting are 55-63 days for green fruits; 75-83 days for mature color.

To find out more about 'Lunchbox' peppers, go to Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Show Off This Sugar Baby

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Spring just wouldn't be spring in much of the country without the cheerful golden blossoms of forsythia heralding the start of a new season. But many landscapes don't have the space to accommodate the tall, arching habit of a full-sized variety.

Now space-strapped gardeners can still enjoy the lovely yellow, bell-shaped flowers of this springtime classic with Show Off™ Sugar Baby forsythia (Forsythia 'NIMBUS'), a miniature, upright selection with a mounded habit that provides a big dose of spring color in a small space. Growing just 18-30 inches tall and wide, this diminutive shrub from Proven Winners is covered with blossoms, delivering lots of flower per inch for an outstanding floral display. It's compact enough to be a good candidate for container growing.

Adapted to Zones 4-8, like its larger relations Show Off™ Sugar Baby does best in full sun and loose, well-drained soil. It blooms on the old wood, so save any pruning until just after flowering finishes. Feed yearly in the spring.

To find out more about this dwarf forsythia, go to Proven Winners

 
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