Once again the NGB has chosen three outstanding plants to highlight for the year. Let's take a look which one's they chose and a tip or two for each. The following is courtesy of The National Garden Bureau: Each year we select one annual, one perennial and one edible as our "Year of the" crops. Each is chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile.
|Jazz Combo Mix||River Walk||Black Dragon|
Year of The Coleus: Coleus has a long history of use in our gardens as a foliage plant and has gone through various phases of popularity over the past couple of centuries. The relative ease of establishment after planting combined with a wide range of selections has made coleus indispensable in the garden and popular in the container as well.
The primary ornamental feature of coleus is the foliage which can be represented by green, pink, yellow, orange, red, dark maroon (near black), brown, cream and white. The range of shades for these colors and the possible combinations is seemingly limitless. While some gardeners will leave the small flowers, it's recommended that you pinch these off and back to a leaf node to encourage more energy into stem and foliage growth and not flowering. Coleus left to flower may lose vigor as the plant puts energy into seed production.
Leaf texture for coleus can be quite variable with foliage that may include the features of being large, small, twisted, elongated, scalloped, lobed, finger-like, “duck's foot" (webbed feet), etc. Leaf texture for coleus should be a serious consideration when selecting and using coleus as the visual contribution is significant.
|Sunrita Burgundy||Arizona Apricot||Sun Devil|
Year of The Gaillardia: Its daisy flowers usually come in shades of red or orange with fringed rays that look like their tips have been dipped in yellow paint. Plants bloom heavily from summer through fall, don't mind the heat, and prosper with less water than most other high-performance flowers.
Gaillardias are unparalleled companions to ornamental grasses and you don't need many to make an impact. They also work well as bright, long-flowering fillers in young shrub beds. As the shrubs mature, they'll replace these short-lived perennials when their time is up.
In borders, mass single varieties of compact gaillardias along the front, or plant taller ones in bold groups separated from other flowering perennials by plants that have gray foliage or blue or white flowers, which provide a cooling buffer between hot-colored gaillardia flowers and their neighbors. Use cool-colored plants as companions for containerized gaillardias too.
|Rainbow Bell Mix||Right on Red||Aura & Glow|
Year of The Sweet Pepper: Sweet peppers bring a rainbow of colors and a plethora of shapes to the table. It is easy to value them for looks and flavor alone, but the sweet pepper is a nutritional powerhouse as well. A serving of the most popular type in the USA--the sweet bell--contains more vitamin C than the average orange, a generous amount of vitamin E and many antioxidants with only 29 calories. Peppers have high nutrient levels at any stage but are the most beneficial when eaten fully ripe. The few colors of bell peppers in the average supermarket are only the beginning--blocky shaped bell peppers can ripen to many colors; ivory, pink, purple, red, yellow, orange and chocolate. Sweet peppers come in many shapes as well; the elongated banana, the blocky bell, the oblong or “half-long" bells, flat “cheese" shapes, and smooth cherry types.
Home gardeners can find many varieties of sweet pepper plants available at a local nursery. True enthusiasts usually branch out from there and spend the winter perusing seed catalogs, on-line shops and seed swaps for unusual colors shapes sizes and flavors. The variety and nuance of sweet pepper flavor compares to fine wine, coffee, or chocolate. Sweet peppers are also similar to other foodie obsessions in that many cultures and regions have different favorites. Cooks love the flexibility and wide spectrum of possibilities sweet peppers offer in the kitchen. Pepper plants are easy to grow, require very little space and are an attractive addition to any garden, yard, or balcony and that is the reason National Garden Bureau chose 2015 as the Year of the Sweet Pepper.
Fully mature sweet peppers don't store well so eat them up. Extra peppers can be roasted and peeled and preserved in oil. There is nothing better than the aroma of roasting peppers filling the house on a late summer afternoon. With some simple preparation peppers freeze well. Sweet peppers are a great vessel for cooked fillings or cool dips. Chopped peppers can be added to soups, salads, and omelets.