From the ground up: Picks for your garden plots

Annual Come to the Table event will be held Feb. 7

Published: December 22 2013 | 7:00 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:10 am in
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The new year is coming upon us quickly and while we are wondering where the time has gone, we also are excited for what’s ahead. Linn County Master Gardener Jackie MacLaren shares some ideas for next gardening season in the form of a “best of” list.

With the holiday frenzy almost behind us, it’s a great time to look ahead to our 2014 gardens. Just like the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys, the gardening world has its own “best of” categories to guide your choices. Here are a few for your consideration.

The 2014 Hosta of the Year selection is Abiqua Drinking Gourd. Rich blue-green in color with thick, deeply cupped leaves, Abiqua Drinking Gourd achieves medium height around 18 inches but can spread to 36 inches in width. Its deep cupped form will collect small pools of water that sparkle after a rain. Bonus: it’s slug-resistant.

Ornamental grass lovers will welcome the 2014 Perennial of the Year — Panicum virgatum Northwind. Commonly referred to as switch grasses, this grass forms erect clumps of steel-blue leaves about 5 feet tall. In late summer, foliage is topped by finely textured seed heads that open golden yellow, turning to beige. Things you’ll love about Northwind: drought-tolerant, deep rooted and deer-resistant.

Since 1933, All-America Selections has presented the best performing flower and vegetable seeds across North America. This year’s vegetable winners include two tomatoes, a green bean and a sweet pepper.

Tomato “Chef’s Choice Orange” produces 12-ounce brilliant orange fruits. Disease-resistant and early maturing (75 days) this indeterminate variety grows to about 5 feet in height.

Bred for small gardens, tomato “Fantastico” is loaded with half-ounce, grape-shaped fruits and is well-suited to hanging baskets and containers. Cage this variety to support up to 12 pounds of ripe tomatoes per plant.

There’s a lot to like about green bean “Mascotte.” This compact bush variety delivers a heavy yield of slender, crisp pods within a compact footprint.

Fresh, grilled or roasted, “Mama Mia Giallo” is an early maturing sweet Italian pepper with a brilliant yellow color and sweet flavor. Long, tapered fruits grow on space-saving 24-inch plants.

All-America Selections include flowers, too. “Designer orange” best describes the color of petunia “African Sunset.” A prolific bloomer on 12-inch plants that spread to 20 inches, imagine this sunny celebrity in your 2014 garden.

Guara “Sparkle White” is elegant and subdued with dainty pink-tinged white flowers on slender stems. Perfect for mass garden plantings or in containers.

Beginning in 2014, All-America selections has chosen regional winners. My favorite regional winner is Penstemon “Arabesque Red.” Gorgeous, deep red, bell-shaped flowers with white throats grow on upright sun-loving 24-inch plants that bloom summer to frost. This one is definitely on my 2014 garden list.

For a complete list of All-America Selections, visit

Save the date

  • Annual Come to the Table event, Feb. 7 at the Johnson County Extension office, hosted by Iowa Valley RC&D. Contact: Jason Grimm,


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