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Find New Plants At Shows Or Closer Home
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
There is always one new plant or something related to gardening that will keep the best of us humble. Sometimes these new discoveries await us at trade shows; sometimes they are already in your neighbor's yard.
Angelonia is just such a new plant that is all the rage in garden centers across Mississippi.
I enjoy visiting test gardens, conventions and seminars to see the latest, but Angelonia "snuck up" on me. First, it surprised me in local garden centers, then growing in a downtown median, then blooming in Miss Charlene's garden outside Crystal Springs.
Guess what is now growing in my flower border and what has been blooming all summer in the heat and humidity? Angelonia.
You are bound to be wondering, what is Angelonia? While my expertise on the plant can fill up about half a thimble, I can tell you I am much impressed by the plant and think you should give it a try, too!
It is in the same family as the snapdragon, called the scrophulariaceae, yet it is tropical and subtropical in its nature. My scientific reference says it blooms for about six weeks, but it has really bloomed for just about all summer.
Angelonia are about 24 to 30 inches tall with purplish flowers that give a welcome spiky texture. There are others that are white with blue variegation and pink. It will be grown as an annual, but those in the know say it is very easy to propagate by cutting.
On a recent trip to the Southern Nurseryman's Association annual convention in Atlanta, I indulged in touring several public gardens. It seemed that the most featured plant, or perhaps the most striking plant, was a rudbeckia.
As I wrote in another recent column, we better add rudbeckias in our own perennial gardens -- specifically Rudbeckia lanciniata. The variety planted everywhere was Herbstonne.
It is really a giant reaching 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide with dozens of yellow coneflowers that have a pronounced greenish cone.
Because of the size, Herbstonne were all planted either to the rear of the border or as a separation like a wall between rooms. They also were supported by stakes. It is hard to describe their effect in the garden. So many tall plants lose their effectiveness by the excessive height, but not this coneflower.
The talk of the trade show was a new group of azaleas that will be showing up in the near future. They are called the Encore Azaleas.
These azaleas are planted at three Mississippi State University Research and Extension Centers and are in their first year of evaluation. They are called Encore because they bloom more than once. After they bloom in the spring, the azaleas start to grow new shoots. Then the growth stops and buds begin to form.
There were azaleas in full bloom on Aug. 1 at one botanical garden in Georgia, and I knew immediately they were part of this exciting new group.
It is anticipated that this bloom will end with the onset of winter and start again in the spring. My first reaction is so far so good. Come to the Fall Garden Day at the Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs on Oct. 17, and we will look together to see if there are any blooms.
There are six varieties in the Encore group that vary from dwarf compact forms to large background plants in shades of pink, orange and lavender. They are called Autumn Rouge, Autumn Royalty, Autumn Coral, Autumn Embers, Autumn Amethyst and Autumn Cheer.
It is an exciting time to be involved in gardening, and I encourage you to jump on board.