Become a Plant Expert
An easy way to become a plant expert is to try growing one or two new varieties each year. Make a point of observing the new plants throughout several growing seasons and make notes of their performance.
- • Do they adjust well to their new home or is there transplant shock?
• If they bloom, when does it occur: early, mid-summer, late season?
• Do they bloom more than once?
• Do they grow full or lanky?
• Did they need to be staked?
• Did they need pinching or pruning?
• Were they relatively free of pests and disease?
• Did the weather greatly affect their performance?
Plant of the YearSeveral plant trade organizations would like to help you learn about new plants through their “Plant of the Year” programs. These programs are marketing tools to help promote plants that the trade organizations feel are of particular merit.
Annuals & VegetablesIn the case of the All America Selections (AAS), seed companies work together to trial new plant introductions. Winning annual flower and vegetable varieties are selected each year and can be seen in AAS Display gardens throughout the country. Popular past winners include ‘Cornell’s Bush Delicata’ squash, Rudbeckia Hirta ‘Indian Summer’, ‘Eight Ball’ zucchini, ‘Bright Lights’ chard, ‘Cosmic Orange’ cosmos and the ‘Purple Wave’ Petunia.
RosesRose growers have their own award, the All America Rose Selection (AARS). They look for newer varieties with time tested performance qualities including: color, bloom and disease resistance. Lady Elsie MayTM is a recent winner with coral pink, slightly fragrant flowers and excellent disease resistance.
The Perennial Plant Association (PPA) chooses only one plant to be Plant of the Year and it doesn’t need to be a new introduction. There mission is to educate gardeners about the use of perennials. Many of the most popular perennials have won the PPA Plant of the Year award because they are such excellent performers. Japanese Painted Fern Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum', Phlox 'David', Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', Pin Cushion Flower Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue', Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm' and Salvia 'Mainacht' (May Night) are all past winners.
HerbsLike the PPA, The International Herb Association (IHA) selects only one yearly winner and it need not be a new introduction or a particular variety. In past years they have celebrated garlic, rosemary, fennel, mint and monarda.
If you are interested in trying a few new plants and learning more about both the classics and the cutting edge, watch for next year’s award winners.