Best in Show

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of our Donald B. Lacey Display Garden. And what better way to celebrate than to showcase an array of plants we consider really top-notch! This year’s theme, “Best In Show: Sun to Snow,” is a tribute to our favorites, new and old. Throughout the garden, you’ll find annuals, perennials and vegetables that we consider worthy of the title “Best in Show.” They are selections chosen to perform well in a variety of sites, hold up well in the heat of summer, resist pests and diseases, look great through the different seasons, out-bloom and out-produce many other varieties out there. When you visit, look for the ribbons “awarded” throughout the Gardens, to indicate those plants we’ve deemed worthy of the title—and perhaps try some of these varieties in your garden, too!

Best in Show


best in show award

Peas ‘Sugar Sprint’ - Growing peas in the home garden is an early season treat. ‘Sugar Sprint’ snap pea is an excellent choice for its sweet and juicy flavor and the nearly string-less pods. Add to that the short vines, for ease of maintenance, and an early and prolific harvest, this pea is a winner!


Beans ‘Jade’ – Bush green beans are an easy and bountiful crop for the summer garden. ‘Jade’ produces slender, deep green pods that are tender and delicious.  Plants are large and upright, so no staking is needed and beans stay off the soil.


Potato ‘Banana’ – Fingerling potatoes are a fun and easy crop to grow, even in a small garden.  ‘Banana’ produces yellow fleshed tubers that are long and narrow with a creamy texture. This prolific variety will give you a bumper crop of delicious versatile potatoes.

potato banana

Summer Squash ‘Sunburst’ – Zucchini lovers should try this yellow patty pan squash expand on their summer squash experience. The ‘Sunburst’ variety grows into a compact plant that is highly productive and beautiful. The sunny yellow, scalloped shaped fruits have a crunchy texture and a buttery flavor.

summer squash

Tomato ‘Tomatoberry Garden’ – Looking for a cherry tomato that gives you meaty texture with a real tomato flavor? ‘Tomatoberry Garden’ gives you all that, along with a little sweetness that makes for delicious eating right from the vine. The healthy and prolific plants with heart-shaped fruit are also beautiful.

tomato berry

Tomato ‘Wapsipinicon Peach’ – If you are looking for a unique tomato for your garden, why not try one that is yellow and fuzzy! ‘Wapsipinicon Peach’ may not be the most delicious variety, but the mildly sweet flavored fruits are golden yellow, meaty and juicy, with a slight peach fuzz texture on the skin, that makes for a beautiful addition to a mixed tomato salad.  The plants produce an abundance of fruit and the fruit can last a long time off of the vine.


Sorrel  - You may be pleasantly surprised by the tart, lemony flavor of this green leaf vegetable. Sorrel is a perennial plant that produces tender greens early in spring and again in the fall.  Greens can be used fresh in salads or added to soups and sauces for a wonderful taste that you don’t expect to get from a green vegetable.



Woody Plants

best in show award

Aesculus parviflora (Bottlebrush Buckeye) – A large shrub to 10’ tall with 12” long white flowers in June that the butterflies simply love, followed by great yellow fall color.  Full sun or shade, moist soils or dry, and it is deer resistant!  The winter outline to the stems is very attractive.


Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ (Sweetspire) – A wonderful groundcovering plant that matures to heights near 5’ tall and displays long white fragrant flowers come June.  In fall, the fall color is a deep lustrous red with red stems for the winter.  Awesome!  Prefers full sun to light shade in average to moist soils.


Lagerstroemia x ‘Natchez’ (Crapemyrtle) – Luscious 6-8” long white flowers appear in summer over glossy dark green foliage.  In fall, the foliage turns an attractive yellow-red, followed in winter by cinnamon and tan exfoliating bark.  Great in full sun and drought ridden soils!


Magnolia grandiflora ‘Brackens Brown Beauty’ (Southern Magnolia) – Glossy evergreen foliage with rich brown indumentum beneath the leaves make this a great 4 season plant.  Add the large and fragrant white flowers in summer and its tolerance of sun or shade in dry sites makes this a winner of a plant!


Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’ (Holly Tea Olive) – The evergreen, holly-like leaves are streaked with creamy gold variegation, making it a knockout during every season.  Come fall, mature plants produce small fragrant white flowers!  Tea Holly does best in full sun or light shade, in well drained soils.



best in show award

Amsonia hubrictii (Arkansas Amsonia) – A shrub of a perennial!  Growing to 3’ tall and wide, the blue flowers in May give way to a wonderful fine textured plant throughout the summer. Autumn reveals an awesome display of yellow fall color that last 6 weeks!  Plant in full sun in moist or dry soils.


Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Frohnleiten’ (Barrenwort) – All Epimediums are great groundcover plants for the dry shade.  Frohnleiten is known for the large yellow flowers that appear in early May.  The glossy green foliage remains evergreen come winter, often taking on burgundy and red hues!


Helleborus niger ‘Joseph Lemper’ (Christmas Rose) – All the Hellebores are great plants for winter and early spring color.  Joseph Lemper produces large white flower in late December through early February when snow is absent.  The gray green foliage is attractive throughout the remainder of the year.  Prefers light shade in well-drained soils.


Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ (Fleece Flower) – This plant has a lot to offer to the summer garden!  Numerous spikes of red flowers appear from late May through October’s frost!  Plant in light shade or if the soils in consistently moist, in full sun.


Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) – A truly great native grass with blue-green foliage from spring to fall.  As the inflorescences begin to appear in late September, the stems begin to assume a reddish golden color that persists throughout the winter.  It grows best in full sun and in low fertility soils.