Con­sider 3 win­ning plants for land­scapes, gar­dens

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Television - BY GARY R. BACH­MAN Gary Bach­man, Ph.D., is an ex­ten­sion and re­search pro­fes­sor of hor­ti­cul­ture at Mis­sis­sippi State Univer­sity Coastal Re­search and Ex­ten­sion Cen­ter in Biloxi. Con­tact him at south­ern­gar­den­[email protected]

This Jan­uary’s tem­per­a­tures have been dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent from what we saw dur­ing last year’s first month.

Jan­uary 2018 brought one of the cold­est and long­est cold snaps that my Ocean Springs gar­den has ex­pe­ri­enced, and win­ter pro­tec­tion was crit­i­cal. Since I pri­mar­ily gar­den in con­tain­ers, I moved al­most my whole gar­den and land­scape into my garage to ride out the cold, and these plants lived there for 14 of the first 21 days of the month.

This year, while we’ve had some chilly weather here on the Coast, my toma­toes are still go­ing. In fact, we picked fresh cherry toma­toes on Jan. 6. Now, I re­al­ize that date is an anom­aly, and it will get cold, but I’m en­joy­ing the win­ter so far.

While there is not much gar­den­ing we can do any win­ter, it is the plan­ning sea­son for the up­com­ing spring and sum­mer. Plants that ev­ery gar­dener should con­sider grow­ing are the Mis­sis­sippi Medal­lion win­ners.

The Mis­sis­sippi Nurs­ery and Land­scape As­so­ci­a­tion es­tab­lished Mis­sis­sippi Medal­lion pro­gram in 1996 to in­crease aware­ness of plant ma­te­ri­als and to pro­mote sales and pro­duc­tion of or­na­men­tal plants in Mis­sis­sippi. Com­pared to na­tional cam­paigns, such as All-Amer­i­can Se­lec­tions and Peren­nial Plant of the Year, the Mis­sis­sippi Medal­lion pro­gram fo­cuses on plants adapted to Mis­sis­sippi’s en­vi­ron­ment to ben­e­fit both con­sumers and the green in­dus­try.

Be­fore ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion turns to the 2019 se­lec­tions, let’s re­flect on a few of the great plants from past years.

Delta Jazz crape myr­tle, a 2015 Mis­sis­sippi Medal­lion, was de­vel­oped right here in Mis­sis­sippi. Delta Jazz was a new crape myr­tle with un­usual fo­liage that emerges a rich rasp­berry-ma­roon and then ma­tures to dark ma­hogany-brown. This fo­liage color ac­cents the clus­ters of medium, pink flow­ers in the late sum­mer. The spec­tac­u­lar flow­ers are ac­tu­ally large pan­i­cles com­posed of many small flow­ers. These pan­i­cles can be more than eight inches long. The small flow­ers have a crin­kled edge re­sem­bling crepe paper, hence the com­mon name.

Crape myr­tles have other out­stand­ing qual­i­ties. As the trees ma­ture, the bark be­gins to peel or ex­fo­li­ate, re­veal­ing the in­ner bark col­ors rang­ing from gray-green to dark cin­na­mon-red. Delta Jazz makes a fan­tas­tic land­scape fea­ture plant.

Fire­works gom­phrena, a 2010 win­ner, is an­other must-have plant. It con­tin­ues to be an out­stand­ing gar­den per­former in Mis­sis­sippi State Univer­sity tri­als. Iri­des­cent, hot-pink flow­ers cover the plants through­out the sum­mer un­til fall frosts. The bright-yel­low tips give the ap­pear­ance of ex­plod­ing fire­works. Pro­vide plenty of space be­cause this plant has the po­ten­tial to be up to 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide.

Since we’re get­ting ready for the spring and sum­mer veg­etable sea­son, the heir­loom tomato Chero­kee Pur­ple is a great choice. This is a pop­u­lar heir­loom tomato that is thought to have been se­lected and grown by the Chero­kee tribe in North Carolina. It’s known for the pur­plish color and rich taste that makes a great tomato sand­wich.

I have grown Chero­kee Pur­ple in my gar­den for al­most 10 years, and ev­ery year it is a good pro­ducer. This plant will have to be trel­lised or caged, as it is a vig­or­ous in­de­ter­mi­nate grower. The fruit start ma­tur­ing in my Ocean Springs gar­den around mid-June.

Take some time this win­ter and dream about the plants you want to grow in your gar­den and land­scape this year.

PHO­TOS BY GARY R. BACH­MAN MSU Ex­ten­sion Ser­vice

Delta Jazz crape myr­tle has un­usual fo­liage that emerges a rich rasp­berry-ma­roon and then ma­tures to dark ma­hogany-brown, ac­cent­ing clus­ters of pink flow­ers in late sum­mer.

Flow­ers cover Fire­works gom­phrena un­til fall frosts. It con­tin­ues to be an out­stand­ing gar­den per­former in Mis­sis­sippi State Univer­sity tri­als.

The heir­loom tomato Chero­kee Pur­ple is known for a rich taste that makes great sand­wiches.

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