Don’t miss these award winners

Roses, other flowers and vegetables have their Super Bowl winners, too. All of the following winning varieties have been through rigorous two-year tests across the nation and proven themselves champions for 2009. You’ll find these winners at your nursery or garden center.

Pink Promise rose is a graceful bloomer with long stems for cutting, and comes with a promise to put on a stunning display in your yard. Its lush, dark green foliage sets off its large pink blossoms. It has good disease resistance, too. Once inside the home, blooms soon fill the room with a deliciously fruity scent. Coiner Nursery of Lavern, Calif., brought Pink Promise to us. The National Breast Cancer Foundation selected it to officially represent a continual blooming promise of compassion and awareness. For each Pink Promise purchased, a donation goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Carefree Spirit rose is very much a carefree rose and it comes to you disease free. This mounding rose produces deep red five-petal blossoms with white twinkles in their eyes and blooms that finish pink as they bask in the sun. The blooms are beautifully set above abundant glossy, dark green foliage. Conard-Pyle Co. introduced Carefree Spirit.

The Cinco de Mayo rose brings fiesta flowers to your landscape. Mysteriously colored, it’s a blending of smoked lavender and rusty red-orange. It’s almost impossible to describe, but you’ll love the endless clusters sitting among clean, glossy green foliage and dark red new canes. The flowers last long and radiate a smell of fresh-cut golden apples. It also is a carefree rose with a clean, round habit ideal for use as a hedge or in a border with mixed perennials. Weeks Roses introduced this rose.

Rain Blue and Purple viola or Johnny Jump-Up viola creates a pool of cool blue colors through the cooler months. Judges fell in love with the 11/2-inch blooms that changed from purple and white to purple and blue as they matured. Each plant takes a foot of space as it spreads and it shows off even more in hanging baskets or urns. It gets about ankle high, so plant in front of taller plants. Tokita Seed Co. out of Japan brought this beauty to us.

Gretel eggplant got in the winner’s circle because it was ready to eat 60 days after transplanting and tasted great. The glossy white 3-inch-long minifruit breaks with traditional purple eggplants and grows rapidly once temperatures warm, meaning a longer timeline to harvest fruit. Gretel gets about 3 feet high and wide to make a welcome addition to growing edibles in containers. Like all other eggplants, its flowers show off in any landscape. We get this winner from Seminis Vegetable Seeds in Oxnard, Calif.

Lambkin melon had all the judges talking about its scrumptious flavor. The 2- to 4-pound oval-shaped melons have thin rinds surrounding sweet, aromatic, white, juicy flesh to delight anyone’s taste buds. Plant around April Fools’ and by Memorial Day, it will be on your dinner plate. It will produce late into the summer, resulting in more melons for friends. It is also known as a Piel de Sapo or Christmas melon. Lambkin comes from Known-You Seed Co. Ltd. in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Honey Bear acorn squash, once mature, comes ready to bake and eat while still in the shell. Honey gives you an idea on just how sweet the flesh tastes, and it’s a high yielder. The bushy, compact plant gets knee high and spreads 4 to 5 feet. Plant around April Fools’ Day and you will be enjoying the acorn around July 4. Honey Bear came to us from the University of New Hampshire.

CHRISTMAS TREE RECYCLING

Give our community a gift and recycle your tree back into the environment. The Springs Preserve turns trees into humus to use in the vegetable garden. Take your tree to a drop-off site before Jan. 15. For the drop-site nearest you, visit www.springspreserve.org.

JUMP-START VEGETABLE GARDENING ’09

Thinking of turning over a new leaf for 2009? Try growing your own salad bar and other choice vegetables. “Lettuce” show you how to plan this spring’s garden, then sow and reap the benefits. The program is at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 17, at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. To make a reservation, call 822-7786.

Linn Mills writes a gardening column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.

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