Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
March, 2010
Regional Report

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Award-winning flowering dogwood 'Appalachian Spring' heralds the season.

Winning Possibilities

As spring approaches and you look forward eagerly to the opportunity to go plant shopping, excitement is sometimes offset by confusion as you try to select what's best for your garden. Of course, it pays to plan ahead, reading books, magazines and web sites. Another strategy is to shop for plants that have won awards or been specially selected by horticultural organizations. Some of my favorites are those selected as Theodore Klein Plant Award winners.

Named for the late Theodore Klein, longtime owner and plantsman of Yew Dell Nursery in Crestwood, Kentucky, this particular plant award program was designed to select and promote outstanding woody and perennial plants for Kentucky landscapes. Fortunately for the readers of this column, with its area designated as a narrow strip running from Virginia to Oklahoma, what works well in Kentucky will flourish throughout the region. The winners for 2010 provide a cross-section of plants that will bring both beauty and endurance to the garden.

A Better Dogwood
The beautiful native flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, is threatened, both in the wild and in gardens, by a plant disease called anthracnose. The Theodore Klein Plant Award winner 'Appalachian Spring' is a new selection that is the most disease-resistant cultivar on the market today. Classic white spring blooms, bright red fall fruit and red-orange fall foliage combine to make the perfect package. Plant in rich, moist soil in partial shade.

An Evergreen with Superb Winter Interest
Lacebark pine, Pinus bungeana, is an exquisite Japanese species that offers fine evergreen texture on an upright oval form with multiple trunks. These offer stunning, exfoliating bark in shades of deep green, cream, copper, and olive. Lacebark pine is an excellent specimen plant for full sun or partial shade in rich, moist soils, with plants growing 20 to 30 feet tall. For those who like the unusual, an incredible cultivar has been selected from a planting in Ohio. The aptly named 'Silver Ghost' has bright, silvery-white bark.

A Spectacular Fringe Tree
The Chinese relative of our native fringe tree, Chionanthus retusus may be considered a large shrub or a small tree, what with its growth to 10 feet or so. It is prized for its glossy green leaves, fragrant white flowers in late spring, and cultural adaptability. Plant in full sun or part shade in reasonably rich soil, and it will provide years of enjoyment. Chinese fringe tree is amazing in flower, as the blooms are so dense that the foliage is almost not visible.

A Fern Not Just for the South
The Dixie wood fern, Dryopteris x australis, was selected as a Theodore Klein Plant Award Winner because of its outstanding, upright, 3- to 4-foot tall foliage that is tough and adaptable. A naturally occurring hybrid between Dryopteris celsa and Dryopteris ludoviciana, it is found in the wild from Virginia to Louisiana. In Zone 5 the foliage may die back to the ground, but where winters are warmer, it is semi-evergreen. While tolerant of dry conditions and full sun and considered a plant for the difficult dry shade conditions under trees, it does better in part to full shade with adequate moisture. Dixie wood fern is a spectacular addition to any garden, but is especially useful in the woodland garden.

The Perfect Groundcover
For dry shade, Robb's spurge, Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbie, makes an ideal groundcover. It produces a dense carpet of deep green, slightly glossy foliage that remains on the 12-inch stems throughout the winter. This highly pest-resistant species spreads slowly in dry conditions. Be aware, though, that in good soil and with moderate moisture, the rhizomes can spread rapidly. Small chartreuse spring flowers add a bright touch in spring. There is also a cultivar called 'Redbud' that has red stems and new growth. Be aware that, as with any euphorbia, the white milky sap in the stem tissue can cause skin irritation.

Whether you find these plants at local garden centers or choose winners from other organizations, award-winning plants can provide you with great ideas for easy-to-grow plants to add to your garden this year.

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