Award Winning Plants for the 2012 Growing Season

With all of the new plants being introduced to the gardening marketplace each year, it's hard to know which are worthy of your time and attention. Here are four award winning plants-proven performers in gardens around the country-to keep an eye out for in 2012.

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Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' (2012 Perennial Plant of the Year)

If you've never grown a Brunnera before, you're in for a real treat. These classic woodland plants are prized for their shade tolerance, as well as their handsome foliage and delicate sky blue flowers. Bred by Walters Gardens, Inc., 'Jack Frost' was first introduced to the marketplace in 2000 and has since proven itself to be a beautiful and reliable perennial plant for shade gardening. The dark green leaves are frosted with a metallic silver finish.

From mid to late spring, clusters of baby blue, forget-me-not type blossoms appear on airy stems several inches above the foliage. In the landscape, use Brunnera in groups or in mass plantings as a slow-spreading groundcover. Plants grow in clumps and perform best if grown in moist, rich soil. Brunnera also make good container plants, and once established, require very little care. Leave old foliage intact until the spring to help to protect the crown during the winter. Winter mulching is also recommended.

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Common names: False Forget-Me-Not, Siberian Bugloss, and Heartleaf Brunnera
Hardiness zones: 3 to 9
Life cycle: perennial
Site: partial to full shade; moist, rich soil
Mature size: 12-20 inches high; 12-24 inches wide
Bloom period: mid-to late spring; clusters of petite, baby blue flowers
Unique to this variety: deer resistant; tolerates heat

Salvia 'Summer Jewel Pink' (2012 All-American Selection Bedding Plant)

Salvia 'Summer Jewel Pink' is a dwarf-sized, compact annual, worthy of accolades due to its early spikes of pink blooms that last throughout the entire growing season. Sister to earlier AAS winner Salvia 'Summer Jewel Red', the blooms on 'Summer Jewel Pink' appear almost two weeks earlier than the other pink salvias. Annual salvias are beautiful to look at, and well-loved for their tolerance to heat and drought. Pollinators find them irresistible, especially hummingbirds, who love their colorful, tubular flowers.

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Hardiness zones: all
Life cycle: annual
Sun exposure: full sun
Time from sowing to flower: 50 days
Maximum size: 20 inches tall; 16 inches wide
Bloom period: all season; spikes of 1/2 inch, light pink blooms on green foliage
Unique to this variety: early blooms, prolific flowering throughout the season

Pepper 'Cayennetta' F1 (2012 All-American Selection Vegetable)

Bred by Floranova, Ltd., 'Cayennetta' is an excellent tasting pepper that is very easy to grow, even for the novice gardener. This pepper makes an excellent container plant for the patio, because its well-branched upright structure requires no staking, and it produces a prolific amount of 3 to 4 inch fruits. Unlike some pepper varieties, 'Cayennetta' is also very tolerant of cold and heat, which makes it less prone to aborting flowers during fruit set.

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Sun exposure: full sun
Plant size: 24 inches tall; 20 inches wide
Fruits: 3-4 inches long; mildly spicy
Spacing: 20 inches
Time to harvest: 69 days from transplant; 97 days from sowing
Unique characteristics: good cold and heat tolerance; dense foliage protects fruits from sun scorch.

Watermelon 'Faerie' F1 (2012 All-American Selection Vegetable)

Non-traditional in appearance, the 'Faerie' watermelon has a creamy yellow rind with thin stripes, yet it still yields a sweet, pink flesh with a high sugar content and crisp texture. With the vines that spread only to 11 feet, this melon uses less space in the garden and is ideal for gardeners with limited space. Bred by Known-You Seed Company, each 7 to 8-inch fruit weighs approximately 4 to 6 pounds-the perfect size for families.

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Sun exposure: full sun
Plant size: 11 1/2 foot spread; 4 to 6 pound fruits
Spacing: 8 to 10 feet apart
Time to harvest: 72 days from sowing
Unique to this variety: early and easy fruit setting; space efficient; pink flesh with a light yellow striped rind.

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About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.

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Home and Garden Gardening Plant InfoDecember 23, 2011
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