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Mississippi Medallions Offer Beauty, Variety
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
There's a new belle in the South, and her name is not Scarlet. This time it's New Wonder, Scaevola aemula, an Australian import that's drawing widespread attention in the floral industry.
New Wonder recently garnered top honors from the Cooperative Extension Services in Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia where it was named Mississippi Medallion, Louisiana Select and Georgia Gold Medal Winner for 1997.
This eye-catching annual's popularity with southeastern gardeners stems from its prolific blossoms and low maintenance requirements, as well as its ability to withstand extreme summer temperatures.
New Wonder is a superior quality plant. It grows best in full sun, but is also striking in dappled shade. With its fan-shaped flowers, it is not only beautiful but tough as nails. It is gorgeous cascading from urns or grown as a border or a bedding plant.
Named for the Roman hero Mucius Scaevola, who demonstrated unparalleled bravery (and questionable judgement) by burning off his own left hand, the blossoms do slightly resemble a human hand.
One New Wonder plant can fill a two-foot area with dark green foliage and an abundance of lovely, nickel-sized blossoms in as little as six weeks. Its blue-violet flowers with vibrant white and yellow centers blooms from planting until first frost.
For optimal results, plant New Wonder in well-drained mulched organic soil with full sun. Keep it well-watered if grown in containers. As a low-growing border plant in the ground, it needs much less water and is considered drought tolerant.
Scaevola is great combined with another 1997 Mississippi Medallion winner, melampodium. With its yellow to orange daisy- like flowers, it is among the most prolific blooming plants.
It never really has a down cycle in bloom and thrives in the sweltering heat and humidity of Mississippi. It grows well in full sun, yet also thrives in areas with filtered sunlight.
It grows vigorously, so space plants as recommended. There are three varieties available; Derby, 8 to 10 inches tall; Showstar, 14 to 24 inches tall; and Medallion 24 to 36 tall. It is bushy and ideal for beds, borders, widow boxes and containers.
This year, a woody ornamental was given the Mississippi Medallion award for the first time. The Little Gem magnolia is being hailed as the Southern magnolia everyone has space for.
The Southern magnolia, magnolia grandiflora, is the state tree and flower in Mississippi and can get enormous in size. The national champion is 122 feet tall and has a crown over 63 feet.
The Little Gem is a dwarf reaching only 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide, making it fit on almost any size lot. Another big plus is the white fragrant blooms produced throughout the season.
Its small size makes the Little Gem suitable for large containers. It can be trained as a hedge or for a specific location. Choose a planting site in full sun and dig the hole about twice as large as the root ball. Plant at the same depth it was growing in the container.
The Medallion program is in its second year and is a joint effort of the Mississippi Nurserymen's Association, the Cooperative Extension Service, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and the Mississippi Plant Selections Committee.