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The Greener View: Plants Winners of the Green Thumb Awards

Jeff Rugg on

Six new plant varieties and five new gardening products have won for the 2017 Green Thumb Awards presented by the Direct Gardening Association (formerly called the Mailorder Gardening Association). This is the 19th year of the Green Thumb Awards. Judges include garden writers like me, although I didn't judge this year. This week, we'll look at the plants, and next week, we'll look at the products. The winners are judged on their uniqueness, technological innovation, ability to solve a gardening problem or provide a gardening opportunity, and potential appeal to gardeners.

This is the first year of an award category for edible plants. A very interesting potato is the first winner. Magic Molly is a late-setting and long-storing potato that will last until spring. This Alaskan-bred potato variety produces large fingerling tubers. It has a dark purple skin and flesh that retain the color when boiled. Health-conscious gardeners will love the anthocyanins that occur naturally in this potato and other vegetables, fruits and flowers with red, blue, and purple hues. Anthocyanins may have anti-inflammatory, antiviral and anti-cancer health benefits. Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, a small family-owned business, has 5,000 pounds of Magic Molly potatoes available this winter. Purchase 2 pounds for $8 on the business' website.

Proven Winners won two Green Thumb awards this year. The first was for the Purple Pillar Rose of Sharon, a narrow-growing columnar variety. It only grows 2 to 3 feet wide, but it grows as tall as 10 to 16 feet. It is a natural-born hedge or screen plant for full-sun locations. The flowers are light purple with dark purple centers. This variety will grow as far north as USDA Hardiness Zone 5.

Proven Winners grows a lot of beautiful hydrangeas, and the Invincibelle Ruby, which it also won for, is no exception. It is a variety of Hydrangea arborescens, which means it flowers on the ends of the new branches each year. The flower buds will not be harmed by winter weather. They are dark red and open to be bright pink flowers. The color is not affected by the pH of the soil. This variety grows 3 feet high and wide in full sun to light shade. It grows in Hardiness Zone 5.

High Country Gardens won this year with the Coral Glow Texas Yucca. This hummingbird magnet blooms coral- to orange-colored flowers on 6-foot-tall spikes from late spring until fall. Texas yucca plants are drought-tolerant but can handle a lot more rain if planted on well-drained sandy soil in full-sun locations. This variety grows in Hardiness Zone 5. There is limited production of this plant available for the first time this year, so if you are interested, High Country Gardens as soon as you can.

The Four O'Clock Orange Crush plant has flowers that open in the afternoon and stay open for several nighttime hours, as they are pollinated by night-flying moths. They have a sweet fragrance and are especially nice on patios that are used in the evening. Although white flowers are nice on full-moon nights, this award-winning varietal, grown by Select Seeds, lives up to its name. If you like orange, this is the flower for you. Filling out a nice 2- by 2-foot mound, this plant is grown either as an annual or a potted flower anywhere in the country. In Hardiness Zones 8-10 it is a perennial. It can produce small tubers that can be stored until spring and replanted.

The Calendula Frost Princess is the first white calendula. The flowers are white with a mix of light yellow colors. If your summers are cool, this variety will bloom all summer. If your summers are hot, it will bloom in spring and fall. It grows 18 inches tall and wide. Calendulas are sometimes called "pot marigolds" because the flowers can be used in cooking. The yellow flowers have been used to color butter and cheese. Oils made from the plant have been used in medicines.

Order seed packs for both the Four O'Clock Orange Crush and the Calendula Frost Princess on the Select Seeds website.

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Email questions to Jeff Rugg at info@greenerview.com. To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

 

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