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On Gardening: Sweet Caroline Medusa Green an award-winning architectural form

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

Sweet Caroline Medusa Green is an architectural plant of the first order.

I know what you're thinking: Isn’t that a sweet potato?

The answer is a hearty yes, and AMEN, thank you! Sweet Caroline Medusa Green is like no other sweet potato.

Let’s chase a rabbit for a second. Do a Google search for an architectural plant and you will see there is no consensus on a definition. In fact, it really is a fun read. But two plants that got a fair share of suggestions were bamboo, and weepers like Japanese maples.

I furthered my search to architectural plants for walls. I have a long rock wall in the backyard and I am always thinking about just the right look. My question was answered with plants that had exotic foliage up against the wall, but there was one suggestion for using Silver Falls dichondra to drape over a wall. So I contend, if Silver Falls could qualify under the moniker of an architectural plant, then certainly a sweet potato could.

This really got started the other day when I stopped to look at Sweet Caroline Medusa Green in a container at my front entry. It looked like an elegant weeper, maybe a bamboo, maybe a Japanese Maple. The structure presented from the seven lobed leaves is unmatched in elegance and beauty. Then I went to look at those I had planted along the wall and found the same. I had been too busy to stop and smell the roses, if you catch my drift.

So I proceeded to ask my color design guru son James why he wasn't Sweet Caroline Medusa Green sweet potato. He said: "Dad, we don’t want to plant things that cause us to make extra efforts to maintain or cut back."

I win — these have such a compact habit you will not need extra effort. We can only hope that more colors will be added, forming a Medusa group.

Sweet Caroline Medusa Green is typical in sweet potato height but only spreads to about 30 inches. It makes for incredible mixed baskets, too.

 

When I visited the Young’s Plant Farm's 2021 Garden Tour in Auburn, Alabama, there it was: a glorious basket with Sweet Caroline Medusa Green combined with Rockapulco Coral Reef rose form impatiens and Summer Wave Large Violet Torenia. If a busy place like Young’s Plant Farm can do it, we can, too. Better yet, probably Young’s Plant Farm will grow a gazillion to sell to your local nursery and you can buy it and then act like you put it together.

So by now you’ve got it, Sweet Caroline Medusa Green is the best-ever ornamental sweet potato and has already won dozens of awards. But also keep in mind Illusion Emerald Lace and Illusion Midnight Lace. They have the same tight habit, eliminating the constant maintenance. Both have won over 100 awards.

Like all ornamental sweet potatoes, Sweet Caroline Medusa Green likes fertile, well-drained soil, and that's especially true in the landscape. This usually means incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter into heavier clay soil. A container with potting soil is like a dream come true.

Plant your Sweet Caroline Medusa Green transplants at the same depth they are growing in the container, spacing 12-18 inches apart, expecting 10-12 inches in height with a spread of 30 to 36 inches. These really are in the category of easy to grow and tough as nails. Even at that plan on giving them water during those hot dry periods. The sweet potato grows back quickly if you need to trim to manage its look in mixed baskets and containers or if it has outgrown its allotted space as a ground cover.

Even though it is the end of July, you have a lot of time to enjoy these sweet potatoes should you see some at the garden center. You could not choose a better late summer pick-me-up for beds or containers.

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(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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