Tag Archives: Proven Winners

Mid-Summer Review of Edibles in my Virginia Garden

August has a way of revealing what is truly successful in my Virginia garden. If the plant can make it through this hot, humid summer, it is a winner in my book. Here are my winners for edibles this summer (click here for my previous article on successful flowers).

Prettiest Vegetable in the Garden

Burpee’s Confetti pepper has green and white foliage

This year, the Burpee Confetti pepper wins the award for prettiest vegetable in my garden. The white and green foliage make this sweet pepper stand out as an ornamental. My plants are about 2 feet high and do not need staking. Although my plants are in the ground, I would recommend Confetti as a container plant because the foliage is so ornamental and the peppers are small enough but colorful. The 2-inch peppers change from green to cream to red. Combined with other edibles and annuals, Confetti could serve as the “thriller” in a container on the deck. Confetti is a snacking pepper, I can eat the entire pepper or slice it for the skillet. Try Confetti next year, you will be surprised at how well it grows and how good it looks and taste.

Most Prolific Vegetable in the Garden

Burpee’s Shimmer tomato plant keeps on producing

I always grow a variety of tomatoes and this year Burpee’s Shimmer wins the award for most prolific tomato plant. Shimmer is an almond-shaped tomato with streaks of green, only about 1 1/2 inches long and 1-inch wide. Shimmer is a plum tomato, a type of paste tomato that is “meaty.” This particular cultivar is sweet too. In my family, we eat them as snacks–you can pop the entire tomato in your mouth–or cut up in green salads. My plants are about 4 feet tall and staked. They produce so much fruit I have to give them away to friends and colleagues. According to the Burpee website, one plant produces 300 to 350 fruit in a season and I believe it! The fruit are in clusters like grapes so it is easier to cut the cluster off, eat the ripe ones and let the unripe ones mature indoors.

Best New Introduction in the Garden

Another prolific plant this year has been the new Proven Winners Amazel basil. Amazel has two features: it is resistant to downy mildew and it is seed sterile. Downy mildew is a fungal disease that destroys the sweet basil plants, making them inedible. There is no cure and once infected the plant has to be removed and destroyed. My plant is quite large, about 2 feet tall and a foot wide. My other sweet basils are small but I have already cut them back for pesto. I have used some leaves in the kitchen but I have not cut the Amazel back yet because I wanted to see how it would perform during these hot, humid days. This is mid-August and I have not detected any disease.

Proven Winners’ Amazel basil is resistant to downy mildew

Unlike other basils which have the sole purpose of flowering and setting seed to ensure survival of the species, Amazel is seed sterile so it does not put its energy into flowering and setting seed. This results in more leaves for a longer time. It actually can flower but will still keep on producing tasty leaves. I highly recommend this basil for both flavor and appearance. The plant is actually quite lush and could be effective as a “thriller” in a large container, surrounded by other herbs or edible flowers.

Most Unusual Edible in the Garden

A few years ago I tried growing roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa). The plant grew well in large containers but did not flower until very late in the season. Because it bloomed late, only a few of the red fat calyxes could be harvested and then, as a tender perennial, it died in the winter. The plant is about 3 to 4 feet tall and the yellow flowers are about 3-inches wide and look like okra flowers. After the flowers mature, they become enveloped by a large, red, fleshy calyxes. This is ornamental in itself but they are harvested for making tea (the prime ingredient in Red Zinger), jams, jellies, and candy.

Large red calyxes of Thai Red roselle are brewed to make herbal tea

This summer, I planted a variety called Thai Red from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. What a difference! These plants bloom much earlier, in the beginning of the summer, resulting in many calyxes.  Now, mid-August, I have so many I have to start harvesting and drying them. I use them to make an herbal tea. I have read that they serve as a cranberry substitute so this year I will try using them in scones. Using the Thai Red variety really makes a difference. The plant is not common but it is easy to grow from seed. Next spring, purchase a pack of seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and grow it like a hibiscus plant, full sun, rich soil, plenty of water. Roselle is a great ornamental herb that stands out in a large container or can be grown in the ground.

July Pegplant’s Post Giveaway: Proven Winners Color Choice Tuff Stuff Hydrangea

Thank you Proven Winners Color Choice for sponsoring the July Pegplant’s Post giveaway. The winner will receive a Tuff Stuff hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata), in a 3-gallon container. Tuff Stuff has deep pink lacecap flowers that bloom all summer long. This hydrangea has improved bud and stem hardiness in addition to the ability to flower on new wood. Proven Winners is a well known, reliable name in garden centers, Color Choice is their line of shrubs. Look for their distinctive containers at your local nursery. Pegplant’s Post is a free monthly newsletter for Washington DC metro area gardeners. To view a previous issue, click here, and to subscribe, click on the “subscribe” button on right margin of pegplant.com 

In a Vase on Monday: Salvia and Persian Carpet Zinnias

Persian carpet zinnias (Zinnia haageana) are one of my favorite annuals. Their yellow, orange, red, and burgundy colors appear in different patterns on each flower. These flowers provide a great contrast to the purple salvia ‘Rockin’ Playin’ the Blues’, a new Proven Winners introduction. #inavaseonMonday

Best Baptisia Plants for the Mid-Atlantic Gardens


Baptisia ‘Lemon Meringue’ photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Baptisia, also called false indigo, is an herbaceous perennial shrub that performs well in our hot and humid summers. Recent breeding efforts have expanded the range of flower colors requiring a new look into an old favorite. I myself have falling in love with two top performers according to Mt. Cuba Center’s 15-page report, Baptisia for the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Mt. Cuba Center’s Trial Garden, managed by George Coombs, research horticulturist, evaluates native plants and their related cultivars. From 2012 to 2015, staff evaluated 46 selections of Baptisia including representatives from 11 species to determine which performs best in the mid-Atlantic region. Over 60 percent of the plants tested receive 4 or 5 stars. Among those, 10 superior cultivars outperformed the rest. Fortunately for me my two recent Baptisia additions to my garden are included in the ten.


Pea-like flowers, photo courtesy of Proven Winners

This year I acquired two Lemon Meringue and two Dutch Chocolate plants. They are small now so a photo won’t give you the full flavor of their beautiful flowers but I was able to borrow Proven Winners‘ photos of what my plants should look like when they grow up. Baptisia plants die back every fall and comes back in the spring. By summer, the plants will have grown to their mature height of about 3 x 3 feet each year. However, they do not like to be moved so give them plenty of space when you do plant them. Chances are the nursery plants will be young thus small but they will grow into full bushes once established in the garden. In May, pea-like flowers bloom on tall spikes, similar to lupines. In the fall, pods appear, which can be used for dried flower arrangements. Baptisia plants are deer resistant, heat and humidity tolerant, and drought tolerant once established. These natives make great additions to the garden and the new cultivars increases the color selection.


Baptisia ‘Dutch Chocolate’, photo courtesy of Proven Winners


A Day in the Life of a Garden Writer: The Hunt Country Gardens and Growers Tour

Ladew Topiary GardensAs a member of the Garden Writers Association, now known as GWA: the Association for Garden Communicators, I attended a GWA-hosted regional meeting this past Friday called Hunt Country Gardens & Growers Tour. GWA is a non-profit, membership-based organization for people involved in garden communications.  Membership has many benefits including a newsletter, an annual symposium, and regional meetings. The GWA divides itself into 7 regions and Virginia is in region IV. This particular regional meeting was in Maryland, Region II, but only a short drive for me.  Members, spouses, and non-members can attend any regional meeting; one does not have to restrict oneself to one’s region.

I registered online a few weeks ago for the one-day event. We were to meet in Hunt Country (as in fox hunts) at Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton and then drive to Manor View Farm, then Cavano’s Perennials, and then a GWA Connect meeting at a local restaurant (an informal get together). All of these places were very close to each other. A week before the event, Kirk Brown, the GWA president, e-mailed the most recent news and tips for the trip and a list of fellow attendees. Kirk said that Manor View Farm and Cavano’s Perennials were offering their plants to us at their wholesale prices and he received plants for us to trial from Proven Winners. I packed my trunk with boxes and bags, a small cooler of water, and a large thermos of coffee and left the house at 6:00 am Friday morning.

I arrived at Ladew at 7:45 am and was welcomed by Kirk (who actually lives in Pennsylvania but was rooming in a local hotel). Over the next 15 minutes about 30 of us gathered in the café, where Ladew staff had laid out trays of pastries and coffee. Several people had come from other states; some drove for the day; some were staying overnight in hotels. I looked forward to meeting as many of my colleagues as I could. At my table, I met Joshua Taylor (Joshua Taylor Photography) who lives in Arlington and we were joined by Teresa Speight (Cottage in the Court) whom I had already met from previous functions. I recognized a few other people: Susan Harris (dcGardens.com; gardenrant.com), Kathy Jentz (Washington Gardener), John Boggan (DC Tropics), and Kate Copsey (katecopsey.com).ladew hedge

Kirk briefed us on the latest happenings at the association. GWA is being managed by a new association management company, Kellen. In only a few months, staff at Kellen have made tremendous improvements. Kirk described the myriad upcoming events and encouraged us to use hashtag #meetGWA, #whyGWA, and #growGWA during our day (if you search for us on Facebook you may find quite a few photos). Kate stood up and encouraged everyone to attend the GWA’s 68th Annual Convention and Expo in September, in Atlanta.

Emily Emerick, the Ladew executive director, gave us the background on Mr. Ladew’s estate. She introduced Barbara Barnoff, who is in charge of visitor services/volunteers, and the staff horticulturists. Staff had already packed a bag of information on Ladew for us to take, which included a guest pass for a subsequent visit and another pass to one of their summer concerts. From there we were led on a tour of the gardens. This was a terrific opportunity to take beautiful photos of plants, statues, small gardens, and the famous topiary. For those of us who blog, it also was a great opportunity to “stock up” on photos for future articles and tweets. Some of us followed the horticulturists and talked plants, while others walked around taking photos. The day was perfect, cool and overcast. I met Eva Monheim, Oak Leaf Productions, and Rick Ray, a retired horticultural professor.

Afterwards, we caught up with Kirk at his car in the parking lot. Prior to the event, Mark Osgersby, who works in the Proven Winners’ Marketing and Public Relations Department, had shipped boxes of plants to Kirk’s house for him to distribute to us. We were able to pick from three of Proven Winners’ new introductions: Spirea ‘Double Play Blue Kazoo’, OSO EASY double red landscape rose, and rose of Sharon ‘Purple Pillar’. Thank you Mark and Proven Winners staff!!provenwinners

After loading our cars with the plants, we drove to Manor View Farms, which was only a few minutes away. Manor View Farms is a wholesale nursery consisting of a 5-acre horticultural distribution center supplying plant material and hard goods to the landscape trade; 85 acres of tree and shrub production, all under drip irritation; and 3 acres of about 16 greenhouses devoted to propagation.  The owner Alan Jones, his son Collin Jones, and Brian Mitchell guided us around the field of trees and shrubs on a flat-bed wagon. We sat on bales of hay (I am sure this photo is on Facebook!). Alan said that currently the most popular items are crepe myrtles, southern magnolias, knock out roses, and hydrangeas. However, a plant’s popularity can change from year to year so by the time a plant is mature enough to be sold its popularity may have waned. He also described how the company collaborates with the University of Maryland on a few projects, such as determining the amount of water truly needed to irrigate plants. Alan, a well-known propagator, described their new introductions: Quercus palustris ‘Green Pillar’, Thuja x ‘Steeplechase’, and Chionanthus virginicus ‘White Knight’. I was surprised and impressed that the company isn’t just a wholesale nursery, it is very involved in horticultural research, collaboration, and innovation.caryopteris The hay ride took us to the propagation greenhouses where we got off to see rows of small containers, each with a single cutting, under misting beds. I was able to chat with Susan Harris about her new venture, goodgardeningvideos.org, and I met a fellow Virginian, Marianne Willburn (Small Town Gardener).

We gathered in a large garage for sandwiches and drinks. I met a new GWA member Rebecca Ann Cole and discovered we had a lot in common. We talked about balancing time with social media and family and Claire Jones (Claire Jones Landscapes) told me about “tweetpi.” Ruth Rogers Clausen, a well-known author of gardening books, distributed brochures about the new Delaware Botanic Gardens and Carolyn Mullet passed out a postcard about her garden tours (Carex Garden Design and Garden Tours).

After several people bought shrubs and packed them into their cars, we drove to Cavano’s Perennials, only a few minutes away.

Cavano’s Perennials, also wholesale, specializes in container production, everything from annuals, to perennials, ferns, herbs, and grasses. They have over a thousand plants and about 50 employees. There were many large greenhouses, some with shade cloth, and many plants in pots on the ground in full sun. The owners, Ferenc Kiss and Taylor Pilker, welcomed us and explained the history of the company and the current operations. They treated us to their plants at wholesale prices and we could either pick what we wanted and put them on a cart or complete an order form and have staff bring the plants to us. I had already perused through their catalog (great resource) and selected Baptisia ‘Dutch Chocolate’ and ‘Lemon Meringue’ and an orange mint. Some people were really loading up, like a kid in a candy store, and pushing a cart from greenhouse to greenhouse. The variety was tremendous.geranium

I had a delightful horticultural conversation with Taylor who described the importance of root health, which determines the plant’s success when transplanted into the landscape. He also said that Cavano’s was one of the first to become neonicotinoid-free because of the public’s concern for pollinators. My impression was that this organization was very responsive and strived to employ the latest theories, techniques, and practices.

After I put my plants in my trunk, I met Liz Ball, a well-known garden writer and speaker, Sabine Stezenbach (Town and Gardens), Debra Balcerzak-Wilson, and Lori Zimmerman. Debra and Lori just started to sell a new fertilizer line called Natural Start by Greenview, part of the Lebanon Seaboard Corporation, and they brought samples for all of us.

In the late afternoon, after every one toured the place and bought their plants, Kirk started the trunk show. He literally opened the trunk of his car, distributed raffle tickets, and called out the numbers. I think every person received something—additional Proven Winner plants, donated plants, a donated poster, or a donated book. We were about to leave for our next destination when a staff person drove a flatbed to the parking lot loaded with herbs. Ferenc told us to help ourselves–we were so surprised and thankful! It was very generous of Cavano’s to give so many free herbs.

By now the cars were so weighed down with plants, we inched along and slowly drove out of Cavano’s, making sure plants did not tip over. Some participants drove home and some at a local Italian restaurant, about 10 minutes away. Kirk had already reserved a private room. At my table, I sat with Ferenc, Carolyn, Claire, Kirk, Wendy Brister (Harvey’s Gardens), and Sabine. We had a very interesting conversation; I learned about garden tours, beekeeping, and native plants. I was surprised to learn that Kirk had organized the entire day himself. He must have volunteered a tremendous amount of time to create such as well-organized and informative day. The regional meeting was a blast and I truly enjoyed the opportunity to see gardens and nurseries, make new friends, learn more about horticulture, and obtain new plants for my garden. Thank you Kirk for a memorable regional meeting!

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Deer-Resistant ‘Dream Catcher’ Shrub

Dream Catcher flowersYears ago I lived in Maryland in a new townhouse development with stringent homeowner association rules. No fences were allowed and if that weren’t bad enough, the back of the property led into a forested area. Deer were rampant; they thought nothing of coming right up to the back door. When I told the local nursery folks, they suggested beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis). Sure enough, beauty bush was deer resistant but it provided color and interest just once in the spring when it bloomed small pink flowers. For the rest of the summer, it was just a green bush.

When we moved to our Northern Virginia home a dozen years ago, there was an old beauty bush next to the neighbor’s property. The bush has bloomed faithfully every spring and is really a small tree, about 7 feet tall with several narrow trunks. The neighbor’s house existed during the civil war, I think the beauty bush is that old. I would have never bought a beauty bush again but a few years ago Proven Winners sent me a new cultivar called ‘Dream Catcher’.

Dream Catcher is a find, it is worth buying regardless if you have a deer problem or not.  In the spring, the new leaves unfurl a bright lime green color.  In April and May, the bush is covered with small, pink buds and pale pink flowers with yellow centers. By summer the flowers disappear and the bush remains chartreuse. It really lights up a shady area. In the fall, the leaves turn orange bronze, providing three-season interest.

My bushes are about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. I don’t do anything to them other than prune lightly after flowering to keep the height manageable. No disease, no pest, no fertilizer. They are hardy to zone 4, can tolerate poor soil, and seems to live in a range of light from full sun to morning sun-afternoon shade to light shade. Here in Virginia in zone 7, they do best with a little shade to maintain the chartreuse color during the hot summers. I nominate Dream Catcher for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day; it is a eye-catching, dream shrub for the landscape.

Dream Catcher


Still Blooming in December: Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst’

Bidens Campfire FireburstOne of the advantages of being a garden communicator is that you have the opportunity to learn about new plants before they are introduced to the retail market. Often wholesale nurseries will send plants to garden communicators which in my mind is a good thing because if they had not sent me the plant, I might not have otherwise paid attention to it or even known about it.

This year, Proven Winners sent me an annual, Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst’.  I had not grown or even heard of Bidens before. This is partly my fault. I tend not to purchase annuals especially plants (as oppose to seeds) because they are short-lived. Usually by October’s frost, they die so I find it hard to spend money on a plant that will only last a few months.

However, Bidens seems to be lasting even longer than a summer annual which increases its value tremendously. When I received it in the beginning of the growing season, I placed it in the garden in front of the house, which is on the southern side in full sun. Throughout the summer it bloomed and survived our mid Atlantic heat and humidity. I only watered a few times to get it established, I did not fertilize nor did I deadhead, trim, or stake.

Bidens was left to fend for itself but it thrived all summer long, blooming continuously. In the fall, its orange yellow flowers blended well with the mums and other Halloween decorations and now that it is December it is the only thing left blooming that I can cut and bring in to the office. I am amazed that it is still blooming in December. According to the Proven Winners web site, Bidens is hardy to zone 9 but we have had 30 degree nights where I have had to scrape the ice off the car in the morning.

Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst’ will be available at retail garden centers in 2016. Recently there has been an increase in breeding efforts with this species so you may see a wider range of color combinations from yellow, gold, orange, and red, including bicolor and white and even lavender. The flowers are a small, simple, and daisy-shape on wiry stems. The foliage also is small, fern like and pretty in a parsley kind of way. Although I had placed mine in the garden bed next to a blue fescue, I think they are best used in a window box or hanging basket to be able to see the flowers up close. Bidens are heat and drought tolerant and provide an unusually long stretch of color, well into winter in my Virginia garden.

In My Virginian Garden: A July Update

I have not posted in a while partly because the garden is in full swing, I am so busy harvesting, and partly because we have been making changes here at the homestead that necessitate me being outside instead of inside at the computer. We had a few trees thinned and one chopped down entirely which has increased the sunlight, putting a few plants in shock, but great for some other plants that needed extra sun. I am now able to extend my front garden where the old crab apple tree was, which will be a fall project. We also had the deck power washed which traumatized the container plants that had to be put out on the lawn for now, including the tomatoes in the earthboxes, and greatly moved the soil around many plants. So I have spent much time moving, tending, nursing, and healing the garden but in the end I will have more light (always needed for edibles) and more garden beds.

Black Beauty Eggplant Flower

Black Beauty Eggplant Flower

So far, I have had great success with melons, cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, peppers, and the herbs of course. The puzzler of the year are the eggplants, which I grew successfully last year in a different place but this year, no fruit. Lots of flowers, and everything else nearby is flowering and fruiting, but no eggplant. I read that they are self fertile and I should brush the flowers with a paintbrush, which I just started to do, but still nothing. These are Black Beauty eggplants so maybe next year I will try a different type. I have about six plants among basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and squash, with plenty of bees,  and they are the only plants that do not bear fruit.

On the bright side, I am enjoying the Burpee celery plant,’Peppermint Stick’. I would have never grown a celery plant unless Burpee sent it to me but it has turned out to be really easy to grow and very tasty, much more so than what you get in a store. The stalks are more pungent and the leaves are so big they could be used to garnish as well. I am sold, will grow celery from now on!

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in ground

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in ground

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in bowl

Burpee Peppermint Stick celery in bowl

Another success is Renee’s Garden’s Gourmet Tuscan Melon plant. These I started from seed and grew in the large Smart Pots so they could get pampered with the richest soil and plenty of water. I have several melons so far. I have not eaten them yet but just having them is a success for me. We have been fortunate to have had quite a lot of rain in the early summer which I think is responsible for so many melons — it certainly has given me a bumper crop of cucumbers.

Renee's Garden's Gourmet Tuscan Melon

Renee’s Garden’s Gourmet Tuscan Melon

Another surprise was the Jericho lettuce, also from Renee’s Garden. It was partly shaded by a tree limb, which we cut down and since the sunlight has increased, these lettuce plants have been growing and doing well. Lettuce in July is a rare treat, will harvest these soon!

For fun, I planted Proven Winners’ Superbells calibrachoa ‘Holy Moly’, which is a flowering annual, in a large container with Burpee’s ‘Sweet Savour’ pepper. I really like the combination: Holy Moly lends itself to yellows, red and oranges but also plays off blue because it can been seen as an orange color (at first I could not decide if the container should be red, green, or blue). In early summer, the Sweet Savour peppers were yellow, but now at the end of July, the peppers have turned red and orange. They are small, perfect for a container, and although look like hot peppers are actually sweet.

Close Up of Proven Winners' Holy Moly

Close Up of Proven Winners’ Holy Moly

Burpee's Sweet Savour peppers in late July

Burpee’s Sweet Savour peppers in late July

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Flowering Quince

Double Take Orange Storm Flowering Quince

Double Take Orange Storm Flowering Quince

For Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, try planting Double Take Orange Storm, which is a type of quince shrub marketed by Proven Winners (Chaenomeles speciosa). It is has large, orange double flowers but no fruit. I have had mine for five years and it blooms reliably in the spring, can tolerate our Virginia heat, and can take full sun or morning sun and afternoon shade. It is supposed to be deer resistant but I do not have enough deer to testify to that. The way the flowers appear before a lot of foliage and so close to the stem make it a great cut flower for oriental type flower arrangements or for forcing earlier in the spring.

Double Take Orange Storm Quince (2)

New Plants in 2015, as viewed from Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show

I just attended the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) at the Baltimore Convention Center. Walking the aisles at MANTS takes at least one day, if not two. There are over 900 exhibitors from across the country and more than 10,000 attendees every year. These are wholesale companies reaching out to other companies, including independent garden centers (IGCs). Garden communicators such as myself attend to learn “what’s new,” identify trends, meet the owners, and connect with other garden communicators. Garden communicators serve as a conduit or bridge between the wholesale companies or the “field” and the public. We see what is available and communicate that back to the public, i.e., the customers. We serve a valuable role in communicating the “what’s new” or “what’s cool” before it even gets to a print magazine or in the IGCs. Below are a few new things I learned about at MANTS with a focus on edibles. Keep in mind that because MANTS is a trade show, some of the companies are wholesale so you will have to either visit the link to ask if they can locate a retailer or ask your IGC if they will carry these products.

Making Healthy Eating Easier

mighty2matogardenamericaGrafted vegetables are making healthy eating easier by reducing disease and soil-borne problems. Grafted tomato plants have been on the market for several years now but what is new this year are the Mighty 2 Matos, double grafted plants with two tomato varieties. Two different tomato varieties are grafted on to one disease-resistant rootstock, taking advantage of a vigorous and disease/nematode resistant root system while providing two types of delicious tomatoes. For example, with one plant you can harvest Blush Tiger and Green Tiger tomatoes, or Brandywine and Cherokee Purple, or Indigo Cherry Drops and Indigo Pear Drops, or Pink Berkeley Tie Dye and Pork Chop, or Sun Sugar and Sweet Aperitif.  http://www.mightymato.com

Burpee Home Gardens also sells grafted tomatoes; they have 15 varieties in their Bumper Crop Grafted Tomatoes line. The Big Collection features large tomatoes; the Bold Collection consists of the Indigo varieties; the Early Collection has plants that bloom and fruit early in the season; while Black Pear Heirloom and Red Pear Heirloom make up the Small-fruited Pear types. http://www.burpeehomegardens.com

Even more interesting is the new Ketchup ‘n’ Fries, a tomato plant grafted onto a potato plant. I had written about this in my December 17 article but at the time I thought Ketchup ‘n’ Fries was only available from Territorial Seed. I learned at MANTS that it is also available from GardenAmerica. http://www.gardenamerica.com

microgreensPart of why I garden is for healthy eating which is a challenge in the winter. I have been interested in micro-greens for some time now as a winter project. Micro-greens are different from sprouts, they are the seedling stage of edibles such as lettuce, radish, chard, kale, spinach, etc. You start them in a shallow container of soil, indoors, and cut them when they are only a few inches tall to put in a salad. I had a nice chat with Sandy Merrill at the Chas. C. Hart Seed Company who had a small container of micro-greens at her booth. They were quite tasty; I could see how easy it would be to grow them. She gave me a packet of “Veggie Confetti,” which I started this week and I will keep you posted on their progress in future articles. The Chas. C. Hart Seed Company has been in business for over 100 years and sells a wide range of seed at garden centers. http://www.hartseed.com

Keeping it Small

Visiting MANTS confirmed what I have been reading, there is a trend towards small edibles, or container edibles. Pixie Grape is a new line of natural dwarf grape plants. Developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they only grow to 2 feet high and 1 foot wide.  They do not grow tendrils like regular grape vines do; they tend to put their energy in clusters of flowers, hence they fruit year round. Hardy to zone 3, they can be grown in the ground or in a container. Four types will be introduced: Cabernet Franc, Pinot Meunier Purple, Pinot Meunier White, and Riesling. http://www.plugconnection.com and http://www.gardenamerica.com

BRAZELBERRIES pink icing - all rights reserved c2014 LAB 2The Brazelberries Collection, developed by Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Inc., is introducing Pink Icing, a diminutive blueberry bush. Pink Icing’s new spring foliage is pink, eventually turning to green in the summer, and blue/green in the fall. The blueberries themselves are large, appearing in mid-summer. Hardy to zone 5, this 3-4 foot shrub would make a great container plant on the deck. All Brazelberries are small enough for containers and hardy to zone 4 or 5. In case you missed the other members of the family there is a raspberry called Raspberry Shortcake (see June 2014 article) and three more blueberries:  Peach Sorbet, Jelly Bean, and Blueberry Glaze. http://www.brazelberries.com

New Landscape Edibles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlants that serve the dual purpose of staying in the ground year round to beautify the landscape while providing food is another trend displayed at MANTS. Proven Winners has a new landscape edible for its Vitamin Berries line: Sugar Mountain Sweetberry honeysuckle. Related to honeysuckles, these are native shrubs also known as haskaps. Sugar Mountain Blue produces blue berries on large hedge-type plants that are more than 5 feet high and wide. The berries look like tubular blueberries but they do not require the acidic soil that blueberries require. Hardy to zone 2, these shrubs will fruit without pollination but will produce larger fruit if allowed to cross pollinate with another bush. Hence, Proven Winners also developed Sugar Mountain Balalaika, Sugar Mountain Eisbar, and Sugar Mountain Kalinka. http://www.provenwinners.com

Lo Hugger 2I also discovered the ‘Lo-Hugger’ American cranberry. I always thought of cranberries as northern bog plants but this is evergreen groundcover that can be grown in wet or dry soil, sun or part shade.  It grows to about 6 inches high, spreads out a couple of feet and produces pink flowers followed by edible, red berries. Hardy to zone 4, it is a fast growing, winter hardy plant. It also is a four-season interest, landscape edible – the foliage remains on the plant during the winter turning to red/bronze and then back to green in the summer. http://www.upshoothort.com

Packaging is Everything

I was surprised to learn that the Netherland Bulb Company, famous for spring flowering bulbs like tulips and daffodils, promotes quite a line of edibles. They sell everything from elderberry, goji berry, asparagus, horseradish, garlic, rhubarb, Dutch onions, shallots, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, pine berry, grapes, to organic and regular potatoes. I saw a wonderful display of boxed organic potato tubers, guaranteed to sell. You don’t have to put your hands in old bins to pick up dirty tubers. Packaging is important, if it is clean and easy to pick up and buy, it sells. http://www.netherlandbulb.compotato (2)

Walters Seed Company is another company that has capitalized on beautiful packaging. Houseplant, herb, and flower seeds and a soil pellet come in these adorable biodegradable containers. Seed Gems make great gifts, can be customized for party favors, and the boxes can be imprinted with special messages. Simply add water to the soil pellet, add seeds and grow. When the plant is ready to be placed in a larger pot or outside, put the entire biodegradable pot in the soil. Who wouldn’t buy these for Mother’s Day, a shower, or wedding. http://www.walters-seed.comseed gemsseed gems (2)