Allen D. Owings | 4/19/2005 10:28:30 PM
One plant variety program gaining recognition among landscape professionals, greenhouse growers, garden center managers and home gardeners in Louisiana is Athens Select, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.
It is part of a new revolution in herbaceous annual and perennial plants for landscape use that has been developed, released and extensively marketed over the last 10 years.
In addition, many organizations, growers and universities have found older garden plants for improvement and/or re-introduction to the marketplace. These have included an increased number of all-American Selection winners, a new program for daylilies (all-American daylilies), state recommended winning plants (Louisiana Select, Mississippi Medallion) and others.
Athens Select was founded in 1999 and is the result of years of plant evaluation efforts at the University of Georgia by horticulture professor Allan Armitage. Athens Select plants have been evaluated long term at the University of Georgia trial gardens and at other sites in the southeast, including the LSU AgCenter Burden Center in Baton Rouge. These plants are promoted as "heat and humidity" tested.
"Although we have much more heat and humidity in Louisiana than in Georgia, the vast majority of the Athens Select plants are doing well in LSU AgCenter landscape plant evaluations," Owings reports.
Athens Select plants named thus far include: Bourbon Street copper plant; Gail’s Choice alternanthera; Linde Armstrong cleome; Red Ruffles Improved and Velvet Lime coleus; Susan’s Little Gem, Firefly and Plum Mist cuphea; Cuban Gold duranta; Black Beauty, Chocolate and Tricolor graptophyllum; New Gold and Athens Rose lantana; Ron Deal and Homestead Purple verbena; Stars and Stripes pentas; Tricolor hypericum; Azure Skies heliotropium; Persian Shield stobilanthes; Rajin Cajun ruellia and El Dorado turnera.
Owing says some of these plants may be recognizable. New Gold lantana and Homestead Purple verbena have been previously named Louisiana Select plants. Red Ruffles Improved coleus is also sold in Louisiana as New Orleans Red. Athens Rose lantana is a new lantana that was a top performer in LSU AgCenter landscape evaluations of lantana varieties in 2003.
The LSU AgCenter horticulturist says that among the other varieties, the graptopyllums also have been excellent performers. These plants last from spring planting time through the first killing frost. Plants can be grown in full sun and reach heights of 2-3 feet.
These are "foliage-type" plants for the landscape and would be a good substitute for sun coleus. The purple-foliaged strobilanthes Persian Shield would be similar in performance to the graptophyllums.
"This is an old garden plant that never really fell out of favor in Louisiana like it did in some other states," Owings says, adding, "Persian Shield, along with named varieties of copper plants (like Bourbon Street), have the potential to make greats strides in obtaining increased use in the landscape."
Owings says other impressive plants include Ron Deal verbena, Stars and Stripes pentas and Linde Armstrong cleome.
Retail garden centers in Louisiana have some availability of Athens Select plants throughout the season. You can also see more information on these new recommended plants at www.athensselect.com
For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.