When I wrote gardening articles for Chesapeake Home magazine, I would write an article every spring about new plant introductions. In the same vein, the following are a few new plants I learned from attending the Independent Garden Center (IGC) show at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland. The IGC is “America’s largest marketplace for gardening products and plants.” As a trade show, I was allowed to attend as press, listen to speakers, as well as visit hundreds of booths where wholesale companies showed their products or plants to retail garden center staff. The following are new plants or ideas that I thought would be useful to people who are interested in edible gardening, have limited time & space, or are new to gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Some of these will appear next year but if you don’t see these products in your local garden center, either ask for them or contact the company directly. This August 8 post will focus on plants and my next post will focus on products.
When growing veggies, I am very aware of color and size. Tiffany Heater, Burpee Home Gardens Program Representative, showed me ‘Tangerine Dream,’ a compact pepper plant with bright orange peppers. Perfect for containers, patios, and edible landscapes, these tapered peppers look like hot peppers but only have a “hint of heat.” She also showed me Ruby Frills Basil, a frilly purple basil plant that can be used in containers with other plants for color and culinary use. Burpee of course is a well known name with a wide variety of plants and seeds, but it is important to note that they have a Patio-Ready line of veggies and herbs for those who live in condos or apartments.
This is dating me but I remember years ago when HGTV was new and it was just one television show. This week, I met Allison Beukema, Marketing Manager with HGTV Home Plant Collection, who explained to me how HGTV has grown so much it is now HGTV Home with many shows; a glossy, full color magazine; a great web site; and now the HGTV Home Plant Collection. The HGTV Home Plant Collection consists of Expression Annuals, Essential Perennials, Smart & Stylish Shrubs, and Patio Veggies & Herbs. Because we were talking about edibles, she showed me the Patio Veggies & Herbs collection featuring “container ready, edible style for the patio” plants. Next year, your local garden center may be selling compact veggies like basil, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and hot peppers in white plastic pots with green “HGTV Home” imprinted on the side.
I was fortunate to run into David Wilson, Director of Marketing at Overdevest Nurseries – I had met him years ago at another gardening event and he was as enthusiastic as ever. He showed me the Footprints Edibles, “the next generation of gardening.” Footprint Edibles includes blueberries, peppers, strawberries, rhubarb, Swiss chard, tomatoes, and many different kinds of herbs. His booth had racks of plants in biodegradable pots plus a mini cooking show. While Jonathan Bardzik, a local Washington DC chef, was demonstrating how to cook with these plants, David showed me how the plant tags are imbedded with a code. He scanned the Basil ‘Thai Magic’ with the digimarc app on his phone, which started a videotape of Jonathan making Thai Basil Whipped Cream. I told David I had seen QRC codes on plant tags before and they linked to recipes. He explained that this is different because it links to a video. (Naturally, after I got home, I downloaded the app, scanned the code on the Basil ‘Thai Magic’ picture on the brochure, and it worked!). In addition to this feature, the Footprints Edibles web site has many recipes and videos showing you how to cook with the veggie or herb you just bought. It isn’t just about the plant but how you can use it in the kitchen!
My next stop was Proven Winners, which will be introducing the Sugar Mountain series of haskap plants (Lonicera caerulea). These are very hardy plants that produce a blueberry type of fruit. They are supposed to be shrub like, not as particular about soil as blueberries, and deer resistant. Recently, Proven Winners introduced the Lifeberry series of goji berry plants (Lycium barbarum) and mine are doing well. These types of shrubs are easy ways to get fruit and the beneficial antioxidants in your diet. I then crossed over the aisle and talked with Heather Gartner of Pleasant View, which also grows plants for Proven Winners but specializes in annuals and perennials. Heather is a gardener herself and together we looked at the Proven Winners 2015 Collection book, which is over 250 pages, looking for perennials known to attract pollinators, which are necessary for growing vegetables and fruit. Heather recommended ‘Cat’s Meow’ catmint, which provides a lot of purple flowers, and the Color Spires line of perennial salvias (‘Pink Dawn’ was cool). I then admired a tropical plant in her booth, a Cuphea hybrid that will be introduced in 2015. ‘Vermillionaire’ was in full bloom with many small, orange tubular flowers. At my home in Virginia, it would be grown as an annual, but it would flower well in the hot humid summers and would attract many hummingbirds!