Green Thumb Award-Winners
Four new plant varieties and two new gardening products have won the 2018 Green Thumb Awards presented by the Direct Gardening Association (formerly called the Mailorder Gardening Association). This is the 20th year of the Green Thumb Awards. Judges include garden writers like me, although I didn't judge this year.
This week we look at the plants, and next week we 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.
If you are looking for a plant specimen for your container garden or seasonal flowerbed, the Colocasia esculenta, or “Aloha” colocasia, will make a bold statement. The leaves are 2 feet long and 1 foot wide, but what really sets them off is that they are dark-purple with bright-green veins. The 4-foot-tall by 3-foot-wide plant comes up from a bulb that can be kept from year to year if you keep it warm during the winter. It is available from the Plant Delights Nursery Inc. website.
One of the big problems with Annabelle hydrangeas is that they grow too big and the flower stalks all flop over onto the ground. The new Invincibelle Wee White solves this problem by only growing to 2.5 feet tall and wide. The short, sturdy stems hold the flowers on top of the plant. The big balls of white flowers fade to light pink as they age. It blooms on the ends of the new growth, so the flower buds are not killed by winter weather. It can be grown in containers, and the flowers can be used in fresh or dried arrangements. It grows in full sun to part shade in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 9. It is a Proven Winner plant, so it should be in your local garden center this summer.
It takes decades for new crosses of apples to reach the market. The Stark Bro's Scarlet Crush apple may be worth the wait. It is a cross between Honeycrisp and Pink Lady. Honeycrisp gives the new apple a crisp sweetness, while the Pink Lady gives it disease tolerance and the ability to grow in warmer climates. It is resistant to scab and rust diseases and can be grown as far south as Hardiness Zone 7. The apples can be stored for up to six months. The semi-dwarf version can be kept in the 12- to 15-foot range with some pruning. As with most apples, another apple or crabapple tree nearby will be necessary for pollination. Find out more on the Stark Bro's website.
If you have grown potatoes before, it can be hard to tell whether they are having an insect or disease problem. The Organic Potato Plant Detective kit features two of the best organic Maine certified seed-potato varieties. The Island Sunshine variety was bred on Prince Edward Island, and it is very resistant to potato late blight. King Harry is a hairy-leafed potato variety from the Cornell University potato-breeding program. It is very resistant to insects. By having one of each kind (and any other potatoes you want to grow), you will be able to have an insight into whether your potatoes are being affected by insects or diseases. Included in the kit is a problem-diagnostic flowchart and an organic potato-growing guide. Find out more on the Wood Prairie Family Farm website.