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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Missouri Botanical Garden Announces 2009 Plants of Merit

Introduces New Category, Edible Ornamentals

(ST. LOUIS): Just in time for spring, the Missouri Botanical Garden identifies 13 new “Plants of Merit™” for the Midwest in 2009. The Plants of Merit distinction aims to build home gardeners’ confidence in selecting annuals, perennials, shrubs and vines, trees and now edible ornamentals.

Selecting good plants for the landscape can be challenging, especially when faced with numerous possibilities and limited information. The task is made even more complex when many new plants are introduced each year with which gardeners have little experience. The Plants of Merit program aims to promote diversity in the home gardening landscape.

To be nominated as a Plant of Merit, selections must not be invasive in our area; be easy to grow and maintain; grow consistently well in Missouri, central and southern Illinois, and the Kansas City Metro area; be resistant or tolerant to diseases and insects; have outstanding ornamental value; and be reasonably available to purchase.

Highlights of the 2009 Plants of Merit list include Serena series (Angelonia angustifolia), a great, tough annual for Missouri. Try using this brightly colored annual in beds and borders, but also in mixed combinations. Available in three colors, plus a mix, Serena series is a great height item for smaller combination pots, creating a center height element. It requires full sun exposure and is tolerant of our heat and humidity.

In the perennials category is Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium). This Missouri native has ‘yucca- like’ leaves with flowers that resemble thistle heads one-inch in diameter. It tolerates poor soils, and is best used in taller back borders, cottage gardens, meadows and naturalized areas. The seed heads are great in dried floral arrangements. Try using natural paints to add a little zip!

‘Citation’ yew (Taxus x media), a shrub, is not your ordinary yew. ‘Citation’ is a columnar type that does well even in shade. If wet conditions are avoided, this plant will thrive in average soil and tolerates urban conditions. Use as a screen hedge in lightly shaded to shade conditions.

In trees, Chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) adapts well to urban conditions as a lawn, shade, or street tree. Another Missouri native, the Chinkapin oak has characteristics which do not resemble the typical oak leaf. These leaves are narrow, dark and glossy, with a serrated edge instead of a lobed airy leaf. The Chinkapin oak is a rather large tree, but easily sets its branches among the larger home landscapes, parks and even cemeteries.

The Plants of Merit program has a new category in 2009: edible ornamentals. This year’s pick is Ruby Perfection (Brassica oleracea). It’s a cabbage! Ruby Perfection produces three to four pound heads of edible red cabbage in 80 days, but also doubles as a colorful garden ornamental. It may be grown in the cool temperatures of spring or fall, but not in the heat of the summer. Harvest the cabbages for use in salads, slaws or as cooked vegetables, or simply enjoy their showy color in the garden.

The Plants of Merit program began in 1999. Partnering organizations include Powell Gardens, Mizzou Botanic Garden, the University of Missouri Extension, Missouri Landscape & Nursery Association, and Illinois Green Industry Association.

For more information on Plants of Merit, visit Plants of Merit brochures may also be purchased at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening and the Garden Gate Shop.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is the oldest continually operating botanical garden in the nation, celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2009. Missouri Botanical Garden: Green for 150 Years.

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