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Plants get their year in the sun

Sunset Candy blanket flower. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/Plant Haven

Sunset Candy blanket flower. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/Plant Haven

The elections are over, so now it’s time to celebrate the winners in the plants- of-the-year categories. Here’s the run down:

The National Garden Bureau has declared 2015 the year of the blanket flower (Gaillardia), one of the longest blooming perennials in the garden. NGB is a trade and education group of seed and plant producers.

The native blanket flower gets its name from the colors found in North American Indian blankets with reds and yellows. It does best in full sun and well-drained soil. Blanket flower is a short-lived perennial, so divide it every two or three years. Remove spent flowers, called deadheading, to encourage more blooms from late spring into fall. Gaillardia can be an annual or a perennial and is easy to grow from seed. Plants can be found in garden centers. Many newer perennial cultivars are propagated by tissue culture.

Alligator Tears coleus holds off blooms until very late in the season. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Alligator Tears coleus holds off blooms until very late in the season. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

The NGB also declares 2015 as the year of coleus in the annual category. Indeed, coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) is one of the most versatile plants in the garden. It’s great for containers or in the ground, in sun or shade and everything in-between. Prized for its spectacular foliage color and patterns, many gardeners also appreciate the tall spikes of blue flowers from this plant, while others cut them off. Newer cultivars, such as ColorBlaze Alligator Tears, are bred to delay blooming until late in the season.

Sweet peppers get the 2015 vegetable of the year moniker from NGB. Peppers, in general, are very popular among vegetable gardens and foodies, right now. Grow peppers in full sun. Water and fertilize regularly. There are many new tasty peppers on the market to try. Grow from seed or buy transplants. Don’t plant peppers outdoors until mid-May. They like the air and soil to be quite warm.

Tasty Colorbell Mix sweet pepper. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/Grimes Horticulture

Tasty Colorbell Mix sweet pepper. Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/Grimes Horticulture

The International Herb Society has named savory the 2015 Herb of the Year. There are two types: summer savory (Satureja hortensis), an annual, and winter savory (S. montana), which is perennial. Grow in full sun. Winter and summer savory have very fine foliage and are showiest with more than one plant grown clumped together.

Winter savory imparts a bit of spicy flavor to vegetables, meats and other dishes. © Iluzia/dollarphotoclub.com

Winter savory imparts a bit of spicy flavor to vegetables, meats and other dishes. © Iluzia/dollarphotoclub.com

Savory wards off bean beetles and is a worthy companion plant with beans to improve their growth and production. Sow seeds of summer savory directly in the soil in mid May, or start indoors in April. Sow seeds for winter savory indoors in April. It also can be grown from cuttings. Usually summer savory can be found in the herb section of garden centers.

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