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New plant introductions sound intriguing

New plant introductions sound intriguing

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 9:05 pm
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger

The National Garden Bureau (yet another bureaucracy?) each year selects and promotes new varieties of ornamentals and vegetables. Almost all the former are annuals, but a few are perennials. The latest listing of flowers and vegetables of note for 2009 has been released and some of them may be worth your while, but others may not be any better than older varieties. The only way to know is to try them or view them at some demonstration garden. There is one such at the Jackson experiment station off Airways Boulevard, and next summer some of them will be featured there. There are only one or two perennials on the 2009 listing. An achillea, Flowerburst Red Shades, is a mix of red, cerise and violet (sounds nice) heads of bloom to eight inches across. This is a form of Achillea millefolium. That specific epithet should tip you off to its tendency to be somewhat invasive. Millefolium translates to lots of foliage, and along with it go lots of roots. I have an older variety of Achillea millefolium that is pink. It is indeed mildly invasive at the root but not hard to control by pulling outliers in early spring. It has been in situ for some 15 years or more and never has proven to be a problem. Late spring bloom will be repeated late in the season if stems are cut right to the ground after the first spate. New among begonias is a series tabbed “Big.” Listed is one of them, Big Rose, with blooms said to be three inches across. Bronze foliage sets them off. If this series of begonias is what they claim it to be, surely they will replace the old wax begonias with much smaller flowers. The latter have been popular annuals for decades, good in either sun or shade. Cupheas have become popular in recent years. Known sometimes as cigar plant, because of the little tips on the cylindrical bloom that resemble ashes on a cigar, the new ones are tabbed Matchmaker Scarlet and Vienco Purple Red. The first one is, of course, scarlet, with little blooms on dwarf eight-inch plants. The latter, on the other hand, grows to 18 inches or so and comes in seven colors. An unusual decorative is an ornamental eggplant, Pumpkin on a Stick. That descriptive moniker is accurate. Little one-inch orange eggplants are borne on three-foot stalks and would seem to be good candidates for large containers or in the ground. I’d like to try them in our red border. The fruits are edible, though bitter, and are used in oriental cooking. Another annual usually considered an edible is a mustard green Ruby Streaks. It has red leaves with green streaks and would be a fine ingredient in cool weather outdoor pots with pansies, ornamental grasses etc. The leaves are as delicious as any mustard in salads or as cooked greens. Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column. Published in The Messenger 12.16.08

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