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2013 Trial Winners

December 10, 2013

'Candy Strip' verbena, from Suntory, is one of the few winners in new plants that I trialed this year.

Credit: Suntory Collection
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As I’ve mentioned in the past, plant producers and garden product companies inundate me every spring with their newest to trial. 

These plants and gadgets are released to consumers in the next year or two. 

The companies want my feed-back and hope I’ll talk about their product to groups and write about them, too, in my blog and articles that appear in The Old Farmer’s Almanac and The All-Seasons Garden Guide.

Frankly, most of what I try is ho-hum and doesn’t come near what is promised.  But, there are a few gems.  Here are the ones I loved from my 2013 trials.

‘Candy Stripe’ Temari trailing verbena: Its knockout bi-color flowers blanket stems that crawl over four feet in every direction.  The plant is terrific as a groundcover or in hanging baskets.  It’s from The Suntory Collection.

‘Green Ball’ dianthus:  The first time I saw this flower was in at a trade show in a bouquet.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the stunning chartreuse, fuzzy balls.  Soon after, I was sent seeds to trial.   They started blooming in late spring and into autumn.  Plants are hardy to about 10F and grow 10-14 inches high.  ‘Green Ball’ from Ball Horticulture, works well as a potted plant and in cutting gardens.  Flowers are perfect for bouquets and in arrangements with colored foliage and fillers. Look for them in seed catalogs for 2014.

‘Gemini’ yellow Bell pepper:  They are gigantic!  Deep gold to orange peppers average 6-1/2 inches long and 4 inches in diameter.  Plants are loaded, too; I could barely see the foliage on my plants. Taste is sweet with the typical Bell pepper undertones.  Flesh stays crisp for weeks after picking if refrigerated.  Harris Seeds catalog will be selling the seeds in the Spring.   

Green Cycler:  This little machine was the solution to my composting nightmares.  I had a compost crock on my kitchen counter and had to chop kitchen waste into small pieces before putting in the crock.  After a couple of days, when the jar was full and smelly, I’d empty it into the compost bin.  It was a lot of work.  The Green Cycler chops up waste quick with a spin or three of the handle.  There’s no odor if you wait a day or two before emptying the waste into your compost bin.  The best part is the machine takes up little space and looks like any other countertop appliance such as a toaster or coffee maker.  Color choices available fit into your kitchen’s décor perfectly.

Olla:  I first learned what the big terra cotta jar was in sixth-grade history in San Diego, CA, when we studied Spanish agriculture 200 years ago in the state.   The centuries-old vessel is perfect for arid climates, droughts and sandy soil.  Bury the olla (pronounced oy-ya) in the ground where you want to plant, making sure the neck is above the soil.  Fill the clay jug with water and it will slowly seep through the porous walls to continually moisten plant roots.  Refill the jug as needed, usually every three or four days.  I found that ollas are perfect in a lettuce patch or among roses.

Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

In stores now!

Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including


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