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Southern Gardening: Gary lists his 2017 garden favorites

 

A unique feature of Salvia Playin' The Blues is the calyx that remains blue after the flower falls off, making it look like the flowers last longer.

A unique feature of Salvia Playin' The Blues is the calyx that remains blue after the flower falls off, making it look like the flowers last longer. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension Service

 

Dr. Gary Bachman

 

 

For the last Southern Gardening column of 2017, I want to take a look back at some of my absolute favorite plants from my home landscape this past year. 

 

I have been talking for several years about what fantastic garden performers Supertunias are. But my absolute favorite -- and it has been my favorite for several years -- is Supertunia Vista Bubblegum. This plant is so reliable it was chosen as a Mississippi Medallion winner in 2012. 

 

The flowers are clear, bright pink, and these plants have performed well in Mississippi gardens. They are extremely vigorous plants that typically spread to 3 feet and reach up to 24 inches tall. Vista Bubblegum is an excellent choice for containers and hanging baskets where the flowering branches can cascade over the edge. 

 

In 2016, I planted a single Vista Bubblegum for ground cover under my citrus trees growing in 25-gallon containers. By the end of the summer, the plants had a 5-foot spread and were crawling around my landscape. This year, I took advantage of being on the coast and planted my Bubblegums in October in the 25-gallon citrus containers in my front landscape. Look out 2018! 

 

Salvia Playin' The Blues was a new plant this year. It is a Proven Winners variety that produced beautiful, blue flowers all summer long. A unique feature is that the calyx remains blue after the flower falls off, making it look like the flower lasts longer. 

 

I was amazed when I looked at the plant this morning and saw it still has some of these blue calyxes brightening a gloomy December day. This salvia had bumblebees on it from spring flowering through the fall. Even during lulls in the rain bands of Hurricane Cindy, the bumbles would be back for a quick snack. 

 

One plant that has definitely earned its spot in my landscape is Vermillionaire cuphea. This is a heat-loving plant that flowers from spring to frost. Last year, Vermillionaire was flowering all the way into November in my coastal Mississippi garden. 

 

The common name for Vermillionaire is firecracker plant, and it lives up to that name with abundant fiery yellow, red and orange tubular flowers produced up, down and all over the entire plant. It literally was a mound of flowers and quite the sight all summer long. 

 

These flowers are butterfly and hummingbird magnets. I was amazed by the insects that took advantage of the flowers from first flowering in the spring all the way to the freezing temperatures we had last week during the snowstorm. 

 

Vermillionaire is a nice-sized plant, as it reached about 3 feet tall with an almost equal spread by the end of summer growing in a large container in my landscape. It is a really nice container plant for the patio. 

 

I've been growing nasturtiums in my garden and landscape for the past couple of years, and I couldn't be happier with the results. Nasturtiums are a good choice for the garden because they are so easy to grow. Along with their beauty, nasturtiums are versatile, require very little attention and are edible. That's the trifecta for plants in my garden. 

 

The variety of their flower colors is amazing. Warm yellows, reds and oranges shout for attention when planted in the full sun. Nasturtiums also have double flower selections and bicolor selections with dark eyes. Each flower has a long spur on the back that contains sweet nectar. The flowers are held on long stems and seem to float above the dark-green, peppery-tasting foliage. 

 

Four varieties I grew this year are Alaska, Empress of India, Night and Day and Jewel Mix. 

 

Go ahead and try some new plants in your landscape for 2018, and see if you find some new favorites. 

 

Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at [email protected]

 

 

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