Every year brings a new collection of "plants of the year" from different organizations. This year is no different. In fact, 2003 brings in a bumper crop. Look for promotional flyers and campaigns for the following plants this year.
All American Rose Selections (AARS)
The AARS organization is promoting four roses for 2003. AARS has test sites across the United States, including one at Reiman Gardens in Ames. Each rose is evaluated for at least 2 years. Only those varieties that posses outstanding ornamental characteristics receive this honor.
The bloom color of 'Hot Cocoa' floribunda rose is hard to describe. Some call it "brownish orange with rusty undersides," whereas others prefer "cinnamon-brown with a purplish cast." Regardless, the novel "orange-chocolate" color of the 4-inch-diameter blooms and the disease-resistant foliage is sure to attract a lot of attention in the garden.
'Whisper' is an enchanting hybrid tea rose developed in Ireland. The white, 5-inch-diameter flowers are stunning, especially atop the dark green leaves. This disease-resistant rose is one import not to be missed.
'Cherry Parfait' is named for its vanilla white petals edged in cherry red. The shrubby habit and long bloom time of this grandiflora rose is also a real treat in the garden. This bicolor beauty also works well in containers.
Looking for a rose that is easy to grow and sparkles in the garden? Eureka! - Literally. 'Eureka' is an apricot-yellow floribunda rose with lightly fragrant, old-fashioned looking blooms. Its great reblooming ability, glossy green leaves, and vigorous habit will make any garden shimmer with brilliance.
For additional information and photographs of this year's selection, visit the AARS Web site at www.rose.org.
Tree of the Year
This year the Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association is promoting the swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) as tree of the year. Oaks are known for their durability and longevity in the landscape, but relatively few oaks are planted, especially in new subdivisions where fast-growing trees are the preferred choices. However, swamp white oak establishes quickly (compared with other oaks), tolerates clay soils, and is long-lived. Its large stature (50 feet tall and wide) and yellow fall color make it an ideal shade tree for the landscape. What more could you want here in Iowa where the state tree is the oak?
Herb of the Year
Basil is the 2003 honoree of the International Herb Association. With a variety of foliage colors, habits, and flavors, there's a basil cultivar suited for almost any garden. This annual herb is easy to grow in sunny, well-drained garden locations or in containers. Seeds can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before transplanting outside in May. Leaves are harvested and used in sauces and salads, often with tomatoes, or chopped and frozen in oil. Presto instant pesto!
Perennial Plant of the Year
One of my grandmother's favorite perennials was the Shasta daisy. Its cheerful white petals with bright yellow centers are the quintessential daisy. She would love 'Becky', the Shasta daisy selected by the Perennial Plant Association for perennial of the year. 'Becky' is 40 inches tall with 3-inch-diameter flowers in late June or early July, when the other Shasta daisies varieties are finishing. What makes this daisy really stand out in the garden is not its tardy flowering but its continuous bloom. Once this daisy starts blooming, it keeps going through August and sometimes well into September. Grandmother's shastas never did that! 'Becky' prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Mulch this one heavily for the first few winters to prevent heaving and ensure overwinter survival.
This article originally appeared in the January 17, 2003 issue, p. 3.