Each year the National Garden Bureau provides information about what's hot for the upcoming growing season. A final look at the new flower and vegetable varieties for 2003 will tempt even the most hesitant gardener.
Who among us has not searched for blue flowers to add to our garden's color palette? This year, several new varieties should fit the bill for a bit of blue.
Two blue flowered beauties are All-America Selections (AAS) Winners. Petunia Blue Wave and Merlin Blue Moon deserve a place in any garden connoisseur's flowerbed. Blue Wave is covered with velvety dark blue two-inch trumpet shaped blooms. The plant has a trailing growth habit similar to Lavender Wave and is capable of spreading 3 to 4 feet. The mature plant height is 4 to 7 inches and flowers despite hot and dry growing conditions. And, to make it even more charming, no pinching or pruning is necessary. Add a slow release fertilizer to the soil upon first planting and again in midseason if blooming tapers off.
Merlin Blue Morn is distinctly different. It is the only petunia with a pure white center changing to dark blue on its edge. AAS judges found this distinction desirable, particularly due to the high visibility from a distance. A profusion of 2 1/2 inch blooms can be expected on this tall, branching plant that reaches 15 to 30 inches in height and spreads 18 to 30 inches. Merlin Blue Morn is useful when grown in patio containers or hanging baskets. When placed near the container's edge, they will spill gracefully over the edge.
The deep blue flower petals of Petunia Explorer Blue have a shiny iridescent, waxy texture that repels water. Tremendous flower power is one of the prized characteristics of Explorer Blue. Its spreading habit easily covers a diameter of 3 feet. This belle is one of the earliest to flower in the spring.
Another new petunia introduction is Easy Wave White, the long-awaited "white" spreading petunia. Fast-growing plants stay full in the center and bloom all season without cutting the plant back. This "white" takes the hot, cold and rain and is easy to grow. It is great for beds, baskets and containers.
Fill your full sun gardens with another AAS winner. Rudbeckia Hirta Prairie Sun has single daisy flowers with a unique combination of gold and primrose yellow, the first rudbeckia with this patter and a lime green central cone. Prairie Sun blooms prolifically from midsummer until it is nipped by freezing temperatures. The plant reaches a height of 36 inches and has 4- to 5-inch florets. It offers all the fine qualities of rudbeckia, such as tall plants that are easily grown and with little pest damage. When other annuals tire from summer weather, Prairie Sun continues to fill the garden with sunny, daisy flowers. It is best grown as an annual, though it may over-winter.
Shade gardeners will be pleased to learn of another Dazzler, Rose Swirl. This is a brilliant bloomer of hot rose picotee edge around a light pink center. It's 1 1/2-inch flowers bloom from spring until frost on compact and uniform plants. With great garden vigor, Rose Swirl is great for borders, beds, landscapes and containers.
Lastly, two vegetable introductions for 2003 promise wonderful taste and healthful eating. Sweet Corn Harris EXP 1001 has beautifully refined and slightly tapered 8-inch ears that are produced in 72 days on strong, clean 6-foot plants. An attractive husk package offers ample cover and flagging for the 16 rows of very sweet and tender bicolor, sugary enhanced kernels.
Carrot King Midas offers large size and rich carrot flavor. They grow steadily into smooth, nearly coreless 8- to 9-inch beauties. These dense carrots have the deep orange flesh that indicates an especially high level of health enhancing beta carotene.
Now the hard part: waiting for spring.
-- Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and home and garden writer for the Journal-World.