Green Thumb Awards 2022, by Jeff Rugg

Winners of the 2022 Green Thumb Awards were chosen by an independent panel of members of the National Garden Bureau (NGB) who are garden writers, breeders, retailers, brokers and growers. The winners are selected based on their uniqueness, technological innovation, ability to solve a gardening problem or provide a gardening opportunity, and potential appeal to gardeners. The awards are sponsored by the NGB, a nonprofit organization that exists to educate and inspire home gardeners.

This year there is one winner in each category of annual flower, perennial flower, vegetable, shrub and hard goods or tools.

Hummingbird Falls is a first of its kind in the genus Salvia. It has a trailing, hanging basket shape. Salvias are known for being heat tolerant and for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. The hanging basket of this salvia is almost as good as hanging a hummingbird feeder. This plant can be planted in flower beds and on garden walls.

Sedums are very popular perennials because they are drought tolerant. There are many species and varieties that have water-storing leaves that come in green, yellow, pink and blue-gray. Some species bloom in tall stalks of attractive flowers and others never seem to bloom. Some plants are low, ground-cover types and others are tall and bushy.

The perennial flower winner this year is a tall sedum with an unusual color. Back in Black can grow to 2 feet tall and has a nearly black leaf color that is a striking contrast to other perennials in the garden. The late summer flowers are deep garnet red with cream petals.

Peppers and tomatoes with stripes are the “in” thing right now. The vegetable winner, the Candy Cane Chocolate Cherry sweet pepper, is awesome. It has variegated leaves of green and white, but the fruit are what will make your gardening friends envious. The green fruit start out with white stripes. Then they change to green with orange stripes and finally, chocolate-green and bright red stripes. Of course, a pretty pepper is no good if it doesn’t taste good. This is a sweet bell pepper with a crisp texture that can be eaten at any stage of color ripeness.

The crossbreeding of shrubs in an attempt to get improved varieties takes patience and practice. It can take decades to get new plants worthy of being propagated and sold. A North American native that needed some improvement is the Sweetshrub. It should be a good garden plant as it is deer resistant, grows in wet or clay soils, grows in hardiness zones 4 through 9 and can grow in sun or shade. As the name implies it should have a pleasant fragrance. I have tested the smell of many sweetshrub flowers and have never found one to be fragrant. Tim Wood of Spring Meadow nursery spent 18 years refining the sweetshrub to get the new Simply Scentsational sweetshrub. The blooms are described as powerfully fragrant with the scent of pineapple and bubblegum. If it is true, then I want one. Each flower is uniquely shaped and a dark maroon color.

It is hard to describe GardenSoxx. It is a garden soil container that is shaped like a large, long sock. You fill the sock with compost, and it forms a tube of whatever length you want. The standard sizes are from 50 to 500 feet long, but you can cut it to fit in your garden. There are three diameters available: 5-inch for small plants like herbs, 8-inch for most garden plants and 12-inch for large plants like tomatoes and squash.

The benefits are enormous. This container provides the good drainage and good aeration that many garden soils lack. GardenSoxx can be used in any garden style and even on temporarily vacant lots. There are no weeds to deal with, and they can be used with drip irrigation systems for easy watering.

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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