Published on 09/15/99

Y2K Georgia Gold Medal Winners Rise to Occasion

Each year the Georgia Plant Selections Committee awards four plants its coveted Georgia Gold Medal for outstanding garden merit.

The committee is made up of growers, landscapers, landscape designers, garden center managers, botanical garden horticulturists and University of Georgia faculty.

The group chooses an annual flower, a herbaceous perennial, a shrub and a tree from long lists of nominees. They always select "blue-blood" winners, and the first winners of the new millennium are no exception.

Durability, versatility, pest tolerance and consumer appeal will make the Georgia Gold Medal winners for the year 2000 extremely marketable.

Growers are already gearing up to make these great plants available for Georgia gardens and landscapes.

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Annual Winners

Sun-loving Coleus are phenomenal bedding plants taking the landscape and garden center industries by storm. They're proving that coleus aren't just for shade anymore.

Among the many sun-loving coleus on the market, the committee singled out four as favorites.

  • "Amazon" has chartreuse and gold foliage.
  • "Solar Flare" boasts iridescent chartreuse, green and burgundy tones.
  • "Red Ruffles" has brilliant red foliage with hints of green and ruffled-edged leaves.
  • And 'Purple Ducksfoot' has purple-green foliage shaped like -- you guessed it -- a duck's foot.

Sun-loving coleus are great as bedding plants in the landscape or in containers. Few plants can match the nonstop color they provide April until first frost.

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Herbaceous Perennial Winners

David and Robert Poore phlox bloom in the late-summer heat when other Phlox paniculata tend to get mildew and shur down.

David phlox is white and fragrant, while Robert Poore is bright pink. Both grow to about 4 feet high, making them excellent background plants in the perennial border.

They bloom four to six weeks, beginning in late June, and can be pushed to bloom in the fall. Both hold up well as cut flowers.

Gardeners who have failed miserably with the old garden phlox need to try David or Robert Poore. They can make even the weekend gardener a green-thumb success.

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Shrub Winner

"Alice" Oakleaf Hydrangea is among the best of the new, superior selections of Hydrangea quercifolia.

Like other oakleaf hydrangeas, Alice produces 10- to 14-inch-long panicles of showy sepals in late spring. But each sepal may be the size of a half-dollar, compared to the normal dime size.

The resulting floral display is sure to be the highlight of the garden. As the summer progresses, the flowers fade from white to rosy pink, combining well with the pinks and purples of herbaceous perennials.

Alice grows about 12 feet high and 12 feet wide. It's best used as a single specimen or as a background plant in the perennial border.

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Tree Winner

Little Gem Magnolia is a perfect choice for large houses on small lots and other landscapes that need plants for small places.

Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem' grows about 12 feet wide and 20 to 25 feet tall. It's excellent for the corner of a home, as a backgound plant in the perennial border or as a hedge plant to define space or screen a view.

The leaves are smaller than other magnolias and are pest-free. Fragrant flowers begin in June and are borne sporadically through the summer and fall.

Little Gem magnolia is a tough plant for tough sites. Once established, it's very drought-tolerant, making it an excellent candidate for water wise gardens.

Gary Wade is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.