It's always fun to see the plants that receive special recognition each year. This year is especially interesting as the perennial of the year and the hosta of the year are both shade lovers and both have striking chartreuse coloring. The 2020 Perennial of the Year, awarded by the Perennial Plant Association is Aralia 'Sun King' (shown above). 'Sun King' is a beautiful addition to the shade garden growing at least 3 feet tall and wide every year. In late summer it produces tiny white flowers that are followed by deep purplish black berries (that are inedible). 'Sun King' is deer resistant and the flowers attract honeybees.
As you can see from the photo above, Hosta 'Dancing Queen' glows in the shade garden. Chosen by the American Hosta Association as this year's hosta of the year, the chartreuse foliage is stunning! The ruffled margins and deep, corrugated veins make her dance in the garden. She grows 22 inches tall and up to 40 inches wide.
The International Herb Association is celebrating it's 25th anniversary this year and has chosen Rubus spp. as it's herb of the year. The Rubus family, which includes raspberries, blackberries, and other brambles, may not seem much like an herb, but the roots and canes have useful qualities in addition to the fruits. The leaves have medicinal qualities and have been used in teas. It's about time this yummy fruit gets some attention and is celebrated.
Since 2016, Proven Winners has had their own set of award-winning plants. Those receiving top honors include Perovskia 'Denim and Lace' shown above. Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'took top place among annuals, and Hydrangea 'Invincible Ruby' was chosen best among shrubs. To see their complete list of winners, click here.
Finally, every year the National Garden Bureau declares it's Year of the . . .' for each category including vegetables, annuals, herbs, perennials, and flowering shrubs. This year has been deemed the Year of the Hydrangea. We can't think of a better choice! To see their complete list of winners, click here.
Nasturtiums have a lot of good things going for them: easy to grow, undemanding, rabbit and deer tolerant, attract hummingbirds, come in a rainbow of colors, and they are edible. They can be categorized as either mounding Nasturtiums or climbing Nasturtiums.
Most fall into the mounding category, growing 10-12" tall and similar spread, although some varieties can spread 2-3 feet. Ranging from the creamy flowers of 'Vanilla Berry' to the rich ruby of 'Black Velvet', how can you only choose one to grow? We certainly couldn't. That's why we have over a dozen varieties on our seed rack this spring. Here are a few of them:
Two heirloom Nasturtiums of note that are on our seed racks this year: 'Scarlet Gleam' has a semi-trailing habit making its brilliant red flowers perfect for hanging baskets and containers. 'Empress of India' is one of the oldest Nasturtiums known to exist. This prolific heirloom produces deep crimson flowers and has blue-green foliage.
Finally, the climbers. Imagine these lovely, edible flowers clamoring up a trellis or spilling over a wall. 'Moonlight' bears soft yellow blossoms on twining vines and lily pad-shaped leaves. Another climber is 'Spitfire' with scarlet-red flowers that are a beacon for hungry hummingbirds. Both varieties grow 4-6 feet tall and can be trained to climb up short trellises. Use loose ties to get them started.
Nasturtium are easy to grow from seed which are odd-looking large seeds with a hard seed coat. They can take 7-14 days to germinate, so nicking them and soaking them in luke-warm water overnight will speed things up. It's best to sow the seed directly in the ground 1-2 weeks after the last average frost. Although not recommended, seeds can be started indoors 2-4 weeks before the last frost. Sow in biodegradable pots that can be directly planted in the ground. Plant in full sun or part shade and give them minimal care. They thrive on neglect!
They also have beneficial properties in the garden making them good companions for zucchini and other squashes.
One of the best features of Nasturtiums is that they are edible. The flowers' peppery flavor and the spicy, watercress-taste of the leaves are a welcome addition to fresh salads and sandwiches. Or use them in this pesto recipe from one of our favorite seed growers Botanical Interests.
1 cup packed nasturtium leaves and stems, washed and dried
15–20 basil leaves
4 garlic cloves
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
½ cup or more of extra virgin olive oil
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon lemon juice
Directions: Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth,
scraping the sides periodically to fully incorporate ingredients. Add more olive oil for desired consistency.
Mid-March signals the beginning of the seed sowing season. Our seed racks are full of varieties ready to grow in your garden and produce a bounty of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Following are a few of our favorite flower varieties new to BGC this year:
One that has caught our eye is Pampas Plume Celosia (shown above). Masses of soft, feathery, 2-6" long plumes in scarlet, orange, bright yellow, pink, cream. Multi-branching plants produce 10-14 stems each. Vigorous and free flowering. They thrive in hot and dry conditions. Start seeds 4-6 weeks before the average last frost (May 20), then plant in full sun. They are a long-lasting cut flower growing 36-48" tall and can be dried for later use.
Sun Ball Craspedia is another flower that thrives in hot, dry situations. This florist favorite adds whimsy to the garden with clusters of mustard-yellow orbs. Use in cut and dried arrangements. Also known as drumstick flower and Billy buttons. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the average last frost. Sun Ball will grow 24-30" tall.
Once popular in the 16th century England, Purple Tear Honeywort is making a comeback. It's violet and blue flower bracts are gorgeous in cut flower arrangements and last a long time. In the garden, it is tough and handles hot, dry conditions with ease. The bees and hummingbirds will flock to it. Start indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Grows 16-32 inches tall in full sun.
Lavender Hyssop, also known as anise hyssop, is an heirloom and native to the midwest. It is the 2019 Herb of the Year because of its usefulness in the kitchen and in the garden. Loved by hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, it will grow up to 48" tall. Use it in floral arrangements, as a tea, or add the flowers to salads. Why not grow this one from seed and have a garden full ? Start them indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost.
Zinnias come in almost every color imaginable, but 'Summer Pinwheels' stands out with it's bi-colored petals.
This showy zinnia has double blossoms and flowers heavily to dance nonstop all season long. Grows 3–3 1/2 feet tall. Butterflies of all kinds and many other pollinators flock to them for their plentiful nectar and pollen. Best to start this one directly in the ground after the last frost. Enjoy them even longer as a cut flower.
'Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed . . .'
-Henry David Thoreau
Mid-March signals the beginning of the seed sowing season. Our seed racks are full of varieties ready to grow in your garden and produce a bounty of vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Following are a few of our favorite vegetable varieties new to BGC this year:
Though yellow beets are nothing new in the vegetable garden, 'Golden Boy' Beets are worthy of a mention. 'Golden Boy's yellow-orange flesh is packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber, and iron to name a few. It has a mild flavor and won't stain like the red beets. The dark green leaves can be eaten when young and tender, and up to one-third of the outer leaves can be harvested without damaging the growth of the beet. Start in ground 2-4 weeks before the average last frost date. Sow again in late summer for a better harvest in the fall.
Two sweet corn varieties have caught our attention: 'Painted Hill' and 'Martian Jewels'. 'Painted Hill' is a cross between Indian corn and sweet corn ('Painted Mountain' x 'Luther Hill'). The color is pale when eaten fresh and has an old-time sweet corn flavor. The coloration intensifies if left to dry. With it's roots in the Rocky Mountains, 'Painted Hill' is adapted to our short growing season and will germinate in cool, wet soils which is an added bonus.
What makes 'Martian Jewels' sweet corn so special? This open-pollinated variety has Native American Hopi blue corn as a parent and is loaded with antioxidants. The violet-colored husks envelope creamy white kernels that have a sweet flavor. If ears are left longer on the plant before harvesting, the sugar subsides and the corn is perfect for bread and chowder. Dried kernels can be used for flour. Read here for more tips on growing corn.
'Festival' acorn squash is as pretty as it is tasty. The 1-2 lb size is perfect for an individual serving. Plants are more compact than other acorn squash varieties and are heavy producers. 'Festival' will keep its flavor up to three months after harvesting. Learn more about growing squash here.
Caution: The description on the seed packet of 'Honeynut' winter squash may leave you drooling. This miniature butternut squash is a recent introduction from Cornell University. Bred specifically for the farm-to-table movement, the challenge was to create a personal-size butternut squash that had amazingly sweet flavor. After 6 years of trialing, a cross between butternut and buttercup successfully produced 'Honeynut'. The plump 4-5" fruits will signal when ready to harvest by changing from green to terra cotta. The plants also boast resistance to powdery mildew and squash-vine borer.
'Inca Jewels' roma tomato is a Renee's Garden Seed exclusive. It was bred to be highly productive and suitable to grow in containers (tops out at about 3 feet). The juicy, delicious fruits are great for sauce or on the grill. Learn more about growing tomatoes in containers here.
There are plenty of ways to garden in a small space: grow in containers, choose compact varieties, and grow up with trellises and obelisks. Let's not neglect the most obvious vertical space - walls! Below are a few options that we are offering at BGC this year:
Plant in a pocket (above left). Woolly Pockets are made of recycled materials, can be used indoors and outdoors. They are great for herbs, salad greens, strawberries, and annuals.
The framed succulents are planted in a self-contained watering system from Bright Green designed for indoor use as well as outdoors. Available in stained walnut or paintable frame.
The planter with colorful annuals is a Pamela Crawford Vertical Garden. Easy to mount and easy to plant. It works well with annuals and herbs.
This vertical garden from Gronomics is a true space saver. It's made from rot-resistant cedar and comes with a drip-irrigation system. We planted it with salad greens, herbs, pansies, and even tomatoes! The photo on the right was taken one month after planting. It's time to harvest!
All of the vertical garden systems are easily mounted on a wall. An old door would work well, too.
Just when you had fallen in love with 'Pretty Much Picasso' and 'Black Velvet' petunias, these new varieties in our greenhouses will charm and woo you into taking them home with you. No wonder - they come from a new series of vegetative petunias called 'Crazytunia'. Their mounding and slightly trailing habits do well in hanging baskets and mixed containers. They prefer full sun, a steady diet of fertilizer, and don't like to be too wet. Their vegetative nature means no deadheading and more blossoms. We know you'll be as crazy about them as we are.
'Twilight Red' & 'Knight Rider'
'Mandeville' (above) actually has a hint of yellow on the edges.
'Indian Summer' starts out yellow then evolves into all those lovely hues of orange and pink.
'Glamouflage Grape' Petunia is from the Hort Couture collection. It wows and dazzles with its unusual variegated foliage.