As you stroll around the Indiana State Fair, wander to the north end, just east of the DNR exhibit and you’ll get a glimpse of your future garden.
Yes, that’s right. Step right up to the Purdue Marion County Demonstration Garden and you’ll see plants of the future, such as petunias, Mexican heather, tasty tomatoes and all kinds of peppers.
The garden, lovingly planned, planted and maintained by Master Gardeners, doubles as an All-America Selections Display Garden. It shows off the latest and greatest introductions that you’ll soon find in garden centers and in our landscapes or containers.
All-America Selections are grown in trial gardens throughout the country and Canada. Judges select these plants for their vigor, bloom power, staying power, strong production and disease resistance, all of which are considered improvements over what’s out there.
The breeders of the Wave petunia series have continued to improve the trailing plants’ color and number of blooms. Two you’ll see in the demo garden are Tidal Wave Red Velour and Carmine Velour Wave. Think of Wave petunias as seasonal groundcovers.
“I’ve never seen marigolds that large,” said one visitor. She was referring to Big Duck marigolds, about 20 inches tall with round, fat flowers of gold, yellow or orange. Long shunned by gardeners, marigolds are making a comeback because of their staying power throughout summer and improved varieties.
There are peppers and there are peppers. Just Sweet looks like a golden bell pepper, only much smaller. These peppers are about 3 inches long, perfect for slicing and eating fresh.
Onyx Red ornamental pepper has almost black foliage with ruby red round fruits. It holds its compact shape while growing vigorously all summer, making it perfect for containers, hanging baskets or as a dramatic display in the ground.
Over the last few years, breeders have been introducing a new pepper species (Capsicum baccatum) from Central and South America. Aji Rico is the first hybrid from the species that is hot. This species tends to produce peppers early, making it a good candidate for short-season climates or for early season enjoyment.
Walk it off
The demo garden is the perfect place to walk off that hash brown, grilled cheese sandwich and deep-fried chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich and other fair fare.
There are a few benches, tables and chairs where you can rest a bit, take in the beauty and watch butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, gold finches and other pollinators enjoy their fare. The Indiana State Fair continues through Aug. 18.