When you go to a garden center or nursery to pick out plants for your landscape, you have a wide selection to choose from. Have you ever thought about how these plants were selected for entry into the market place?
The different companies breed, select and propagate new plants for the market. The plants have a label on them. However, some of these plants have a special label: Georgia Gold Medal Plant.
Every year since 1993, there are a number of plants that are given the title Georgia Gold Medal Plant. These plants are selected by the Georgia Plant Selections Committee, a nonprofit organization comprised of nurserymen, flower growers, garden center retailers, landscape professionals, county extension agents and faculty from the University of Georgia.
The committee evaluates the nominated plants for pest tolerance, ease of maintenance, survivability, ease of propagation and production, consumer appeal and seasonal interest and availability. The winners are chosen three years in advance so that growers will have a good supply of the plants. The Gold Medal winners for next year will be announced in November.
The committee picks one plant from each of the following categories as a Gold Medal Winner each year: annual flower, perennial plant, vine, shrub and tree. This a hard job for the committee, because they narrow down the long list of plants entered to one plant in each category.
The past winners have performed well in our area, and I have used them in my landscape with good success. They have proven to be pest-resistant and drought-tolerant. Some of the past winners are Homestead Purple Verbena, Bath's Pink Dianthus, Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea, Lady in Red Salvia and New Gold Lantana.
There are five plants that were chosen for the 2007 Gold Medal Plants. The first plant is a flower named Firespike, Odontonema strictum. This is an annual that likes full sun to partial shade and well-drained soils. Once established, it can withstand periods of limited rainfall. This plant will grow 3 feet wide and 4 feet tall. The size of the plants makes it a great background plant or a specimen plant. It will produce red flowers from late summer through fall, and it is great for butterflies and hummingbirds.
The second plant is a herbaceous perennial plant, Swamp Hibiscus, of the hibiscus family. It is a native plant and grows here in Columbia County. This is a plant that requires full sun to partial shade, and it likes to grow in areas that are wet or poorly drained. It can grow in well-drained soils, but you have to provide enough water to keep it alive. This plant will grow 5 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. It has bright red flowers that are three to five inches across, and it will produce these flowers from spring to fall.
The third plant is the winner of the vine category. Madison Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides "Madison") likes full sun to partial shade. The vine will flower in April and then will enter a growth phase. At this time, you will need to prune the plant to keep it in check. This vine can grow 20 to 40 feet in length. You will need to train this vine to a trellis because it doesn't have clinging aerial roots that help attach it to the trellis.
The winner of the shrub category is Admiral Semmes Azalea (Rhododendron "Admiral Semmes"). This is one of the deciduous or native azaleas. This azalea produces beautiful yellow flowers. As with any azalea, it will grow best in partial shade to shaded areas. This plant will grow up to 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
The last plant is the winner of the tree category: Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja standishii x plicata "Green Giant"). This is a fast-growing tree that is adapted for full sun areas and a wide range of soil types. This tree will grow 50 to 60 feet tall and 20 feet wide. This tree can be used as a screen, therefore can be used in the place of Leyland Cypress.
So, if you are looking for low maintenance, hardy plants for your landscape, you need to look at the Georgia Gold Medal Plant winners.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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