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The Greener View: 2020 Green Thumb Awards

Jeff Rugg on

Four new plant varieties and two new gardening products have won the 2020 Green Thumb Awards presented by the Direct Gardening Association (formerly called the Mail-Order Gardening Association). This is the 22nd year of the Green Thumb Awards. This year, I was not on the judging panel. This week, we look at the some of the plants, and next week, 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.

The first winner is the newest version of the InstantHedge. As gardeners, we understand patience. We plant small trees and shrubs, and they take a while to grow up and fill in. This can be painful when it comes to hedges. If we need to block a view, we don't want to wait for the plants to grow and fill in. During the years they take to grow, many hedges are pruned improperly and the hedge effect is ruined.

Now, you don't have to wait. The growing is already done for you. The European Beech InstantHedge (Fagus sylvatica) provides beauty and privacy immediately after installation. The hedges are available in two sizes: 3-4 feet tall and 5-6 feet tall. InstantHedge is the only pregrown, ready-to-plant hedge that offers the finished look of a mature hedge on the day it is planted. InstantHedge is shipped in biodegradable cardboard boxes that can be planted right into the ground. There is no packaging waste because the box naturally biodegrades in the soil. In addition to the European Beech hedge, more than 25 InstantHedge plant varieties are available.

There are short, medium and tall hedges; evergreen hedges; deciduous hedges; fast-growing and slow-growing hedges; green, blue and purple hedges; flowering hedges; hedges with beautiful fall colors; thorny hedges for security; deer-resistant hedges; bird-friendly hedges; extremely cold-hardy hedges; salt/heat/drought-tolerant hedges; hedges for wet areas; and more.

European Beech InstantHedge can be found at and

Spring Hill Nurseries won with Clematis "Lady Kyoko," and it is easy to see why. The flowers have an unusual starburst shape that will be noticed by everyone who sees it. It is coveted by clematis experts and collectors because it has not been available in the United States until now. Bred by the Sugimoto family in Japan in 2009, the stunning Lady Kyoko Clematis has medium-sized flowers with delicate light purple veining on a white background blushed with lavender.

More compact than many clematis varieties, Lady Kyoko matures at about 4-5 feet tall, which makes it perfect for growing in containers and in flower borders with support. This variety is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 7-9, and it grows best in full sun in moist, well-drained soil. Plants will be available from in the fall.


The other plant that Spring Hill Nurseries won with is the Treasure Island series of edible sweet potatoes.

Many people grow sweet potatoes in their vegetable gardens, and many other people grow sweet potato vines in their ornamental containers for their pretty leaves. The leaves can be purple, lime green and normal-looking green. The plant is bushier than the vining types of ornamental sweet potatoes.

The different varieties of Treasure Island Sweet Potatoes are named for specific islands of French Polynesia in the South Pacific, where sweet potatoes have been grown for centuries. Treasure Island Sweet Potatoes were developed in a collaborative breeding program at Louisiana State University.

The edible tubers come in a wide range of colors, from orange to red to purple, and they taste great in all kinds of dishes. Some of the varieties even have edible leaves, which range in color from dark purple to light green. Treasure Island Sweet Potatoes are available at


Email questions to Jeff Rugg at To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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