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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Garden Detective: 12 innovative plants to put in the ground, or patio, now

'Orange You Awesome' coneflowers grow 18 to 22

'Orange You Awesome' coneflowers grow 18 to 22 inches tall with a 16- to 20-inch spread in part sun to sun.  Credit: Proven Winners

Sheltering in place with nowhere to go but the garden, I often find myself wondering what day it is. Thus far, 2020 hasn’t brought a lot to be excited about. So isn’t it a fitting gift that some truly innovative plants have been introduced this year? From disease-resistant Impatiens to the tastiest tiny tomato you’ll ever know, there’s a lot to be excited about. And the best part is they’re all available at local garden centers. Dig in!

Impatiens walleriana ‘Beacon’

This plant’s downy mildew resistance allows you to bring impatiens back into your garden! Performs best in full shade, in containers, hanging baskets, borders and beds. Available in six colors, plants grow 10 to 12 inches tall and 12 to 14 inches wide. Three percent of each ‘Beacon’ purchase in 2020 will be donated to support the OI Foundation for so-called brittle bone disease. Annual.

Petunia Midnight Gold

Dramatic huge double purple flowers with light gold tips bloom prolifically from spring through fall on well-branched plants. Ideal for hanging baskets, plants grow 8 to 10 inches tall with a 20- to 26-inch spread in part to full sun. Annual.

Heart to Heart ‘Snowdrift’ caladium

This heat-tolerant white caladium with deep-green veins will brighten your shady garden spots. It grows 15 to 20 inches tall, with a spread of 10 to 14 inches. Well-suited for outdoor and indoor containers. Annual.

‘Funky Scarlet’ begonia

Plant these long-blooming, heat-tolerant, mounding and trailing plants in part shade to shade. Best suited for containers, they'll bloom from planting straight through frost, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds all summer long. Annual.

‘Rockin' Blue Suede Shoes’ salvia

This long-blooming, light-blue salvia has unusual black sepals and attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Plant in part-sun to sun, where it can be expected to grow 30 to 40 inches tall with a spread of 24 to 30 inches. There's no need to deadhead for continuous blooms, and it's heat and drought tolerant. Plant in the garden or in containers. Annual.

‘Orange You Awesome’ coneflower

Large tangerine flowers with dark centers bloom in mid to late summer and attract bees and butterflies during the growing season, and feed birds over winter. Drought-tolerant and deer-resistant, plants grow 18 to 22 inches tall with a 16- to 20-inch spread in part sun to sun. Perennial.

Anemone ‘Mona Lisa Blue’

With 18 large deep-blue, poppy-shaped flowers per plant, this prolific windflower can continue to grace the garden after you’ve clipped some blooms for bouquets. Plant in a partly sunny spot in spring or fall. Perennial.

Tempting Tomatoes ‘Garden Gem’

This snack-size tomato was bred for heirloom taste with modern disease resistance. Plant in full sun and stand back for 22 pounds of incredibly tasty fruit per semi-determinate plant. Thrives in heat and humidity. 

Eggplant Patio Baby hybrid

Who says you can't grow an abundant harvest in a container? A prolific fruiter, each 16- to 20-inch early-yielding plant will produce as many as 50 eggplants that are 2 to 3 inches long. All-America Selection winner. 

‘PeppiGrande Red’ hybrid sweet pepper

Hailed as a “breakthrough,” PeppiGrande is not only the first seedless sweet pepper, it’s the largest, too. Perfect for roasting whole (no need to cut open first to remove seeds), the sweet 5- to 6-inch-long fruit grows on 30- to 34-inch-tall plants with a 24- to 30-inch spread. Plant in full sun, away from standard seeded peppers to avoid cross-pollination. 

Parsley ‘Green Dream’

As beautiful on the plate as in the garden, this unusual aromatic parsley boasts tasty, feathery leaves and stems. Plant in the herb garden in spring for use in soups, stews, sauces and pasta. 

Basil ‘Emerald Towers’

This dark-green basil lives up to its name with a tall, columnar habit. Grow it when space is limited, in raised beds or containers — even hydroponically. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall and 10 to 12 inches wide in full sun, and its sweet leaves are equally suited for eating fresh in salads or cooking in recipes.

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