Each year the National Garden Bureau, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating, motivating, and inspiring the public to expand the use of plants in homes, schools, public gardens, and the workplace selects an annual, perennial, shrub, bulb, houseplant, and edible crop to showcase in “The Year of…” series. Plants chosen are easy to grow and propagate, adaptable and durable in a variety of growing conditions, and genetically diverse, and they perform multiple roles in the landscape. The 2022 sextet debuts below.
Annual verbena is an ornamental loved by gardeners and pollinators. The five-petaled flowers are arranged in dense circular clusters in shades of blue, purple, white, pink or red. Verbena ‘Homestead Purple,’ discovered by Michael Dirr and Allan Armstrong, has been available for two decades as a hardy heat and drought tolerant groundcover.
North American native sun-loving phlox stretch their roots from Florida to Quebec and west to Alaska. Phlox is divided into two groups based on bloom time. Spring bloomers like moss pinks and creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) have low-growing ground-hugging growth habits. Summer bloomers are tall upright fragrant phlox (Phlox paniculata). New hybrids rebloom in fall and are powdery mildew resistant.
Gladioli are native to Africa and arid Mediterranean countries. American gardeners tuck the bulbs (corms) into sunlit perennial beds, planter boxes, tubs, and urns. The long-stemmed sword-like foliage and rainbow of flower colors delight florists and floral designers. Old House Gardens carries heirloom glads. My favorite is ‘Atom.’
Lilacs are synonymous with spring in my Midwestern homeland. The old-fashioned, long-lived, and well-loved shrub is famous for its fragrant flowers. The deciduous shrub is native to southeastern Europe and western Asia. The French imported lilacs and developed many new varieties that made their way to North America. Breeders have worked to develop heat and humidity tolerant varieties for the south. Lilac cultivars for zone 8 include ‘Miss Kim’, ‘Blue Skies’, ‘Betsy Ross’, and ‘Old Glory’.
Peperomia, a perennial epiphyte native to tropical rainforests of South America, has been sold as a houseplant since the 1930s. New varieties can range from bushy to trailing, upright, or cascading. Some are fleshy succulent plants; others have variegated foliage. They make great terrarium plants. Flourishing in low light, perperomias are grown for their ornamental foliage. Studies report that houseplants in living and working space boost mental well-being and productivity while naturally filtering airborne pollutants.
Salad greens are the easiest and healthiest edible crops to grow in fall and winter in South Carolina. Cool season lettuces, endive, radicchio, dandelion greens, kale, arugula, mustard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, pac choy, tatsoi, mizuna, and “tops” from beets and turnips thrive in southern winter gardens when pests and humidity are minimal problems. Our South Carolina Garden-based Learning Network workshops introduce teachers and parents to growing and preparing cool season salad greens for healthful happy meals with preK-12 students. Have a Happy New Year of Gardening.
For additional information on the 2022 Plants of the Year, visit the National Garden Bureau’s website, ngb.org/year-of-plants-2022.
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