‘NuMex Easter’ is a stun­ning All-Amer­ica Se­lec­tions Win­ner

Walker County Messenger - - Sports - By Nor­man Win­ter

When it comes to new va­ri­eties, I gen­er­ally feel like I am on top of things. Oc­ca­sion­ally, there are those Rip Van Win­kle mo­ments. This is the case with the ‘NuMex Easter’ or­na­men­tal pep­per. What a beauty! I’m em­bar­rassed that I am just now grow­ing this 2014 All-Amer­ica Se­lec­tions Win­ner.

My apolo­gies and my ac­co­lades now go to the breed­ing pro­gram at the New Mex­ico State Uni­ver­sity Chile Pep­per In­sti­tute. Las Cruces, New Mex­ico, home of the best Mex­i­can food in the coun­try, is also home to some of the best pep­per breed­ing. ‘NuMex Cen­ten­nial’ and ‘NuMex Twi­light’ are other drop-dead gor­geous pep­pers from the pro­gram that have gar­nered a lot of at­ten­tion, but it is ‘NuMex Easter’ that cap­tured the award.

I love judg­ing con­sumer sat­is­fac­tion of plants via talks, photos and even in per­son. It’s fun hear­ing the oohs and aahs that tell me that a flower or, in this case, a fruit­ing pep­per has “win­ner” writ­ten all over it. Such was the case re­cently when one of our hor­ti­cul­tural staff cre­ated a con­tainer with blood ba­nanas, ‘In­tenz’ celosia, ‘Hot Pak’ marigolds and ‘NuMex Easter’ pep­pers.

I’m a Nikon man when it comes to cam­eras, but this day I pulled out the old iPhone 6 Plus and shot a cou­ple of photos of the con­tainer. The photo ap­peared on our Face­book page and it took off like a prover­bial rocket. By the time the week­end was over, it was sit­ting in po­si­tion as our No. 1 photo of all time.

While I’ll ad­mit that the com­bi­na­tion is unique, I know that it’s the ‘NuMex Easter’ pep­per that’s stir­ring the pot, so to speak. The clus­ters of pep­pers on the tips of each com­pact branch are an ever-chang­ing ar­ray of Easter col­ors. You’ll see shades of laven­der, yel­low and orange on a plant that is tol­er­ant of heat and hu­mid­ity and per­se­veres in rain or drought. It is truly an Al­lAmer­ica Se­lec­tions Win­ner. The ques­tion is, how did it slip by me?

‘NuMex Easter’ pep­pers are small, com­pact plants that reach up to 12 inches tall and as wide, but they load up with more col­or­ful pep­pers than you would ever imag­ine for that size of a plant. They make great bor­der plants for the tra­di­tional land­scape and will daz­zle in herb or trop­i­cal gardens.

Many gar­den cen­ters are loaded with pep­pers this time of the year, and they are sen­sa­tional when grown along­side mums, marigolds, asters and gold­en­rods. They re­ally bring a fes­tive at­mos­phere. The ob­long pep­pers are spicy but ed­i­ble and will prob­a­bly fire up a pot of red beans or corn salsa. Sam­ple spar­ingly at first.

Whether you plant now or in the spring, grow the or­na­men­tal pep­per much as you would the bell pep­per. Be­fore re­mov­ing the pep­pers from their con­tain­ers, dig their holes in the gar­den soil. Gar­den­ers know they can plant a tomato deeper than it grew in the con­tainer, but you must plant the pep­per at the same depth it is presently grow­ing.

Feed your pep­pers with a com­plete gar­den fer­til­izer, prefer­ably one that is higher in phos­pho­rous, such as a 10-20-10. Scat­ter 2 ta­ble­spoons per plant at three- to four-week in­ter­vals. You can use di­lute, wa­ter-sol­u­ble fer­til­izer ev­ery other week if you pre­fer or if you’re grow­ing them in a con­tainer. Keep your plants wa­tered and mulched and they will give you an un­fail­ing per­for­mance all sea­son.

Or­na­men­tal pep­pers like ‘NuMex Easter’ are among the plants leap­ing off gar­den cen­ter shelves this time of the year. If you love them in the fall like I do, I prom­ise you’ll trea­sure grow­ing them all sea­son long.

Nor­man Win­ter is the di­rec­tor of the Coastal Ge­or­gia Botan­i­cal Gardens at the His­toric Bam­boo Farm in Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia.

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