Land & Plants: 2012 Growth Awards

Now that I've got one full year of serious plant selection and planting complete, I figured it was time for the 1st Annual Growth Awards. Categories range from tall trees to annuals. Heights were measured on October 24, 2012, from ground to highest leaf or live leaf bud. Only plants that were planted before August 2012 were nominated. (To avoid taking over 30 pictures, only the winners are shown.)

Best Tall Tree, >20 feet

I didn't plant many tall trees, opting for shorter trees that won't cause too much damage in a hurricane. Because of this, I dropped the range of "tall tree" down to include some trees which are usually regarded as "short". (The magnolia, live oak, crepe myrtles, and camphors are excluded from this category as they're already mature.)

first place ribbon Southern redcedar Current height: 4' (max: 40') Planted: 2011 October Southern redcedar Transplanted from a shady spot by the fence to the front yard, it has really taken to the increase in sunlight, doubling in height.
Red maple Current height: 3'2" (max: 60') Planted: 2011 December Free with an Arbor Day Foundation order, each red maple quickly established itself with a small crown of leaves.
Date palm Current height: 4'3" (max: 65') Planted: 2010 May Grown from seed and transplanted to a new site, this palm has lived a hard life. The main trunk appears to have died, but there are multiple suckers ready to take up the slack.
Parsley hawthorn Current height: 6'5" (max: 25') Planted: 2011 October Bought at a Baton Rouge Green tree sale, its leaves were thoroughly devoured by beetles in the Spring of 2012, stunting its growth.
Eastern redbud Current height: 0'4" (max: 30') Planted: 2011 October This redbud never quite got the hang of its new location. The main trunk has died back, and only suckers at the base are alive.

Best Short Tree, 11-20 feet

The plants in this category all had problems in 2012.

first place ribbon Arrowwood viburnum Current height: 1'10" (max: 15') Planted: 2011 December Arrowwood viburnum Initially eaten by beetles, its leaves eventually grew back and filled in nicely.
Bottlebrush Current height: 2'4" (max: 20') Planted: 2011 Spring? It hasn't grown much, but it did flower once.
Blackhaw viburnum Current height: 1'4" (max: 15') Planted: 2011 December Beetles ate all the leaves in the Spring, and it never quite recovered. It lived through the Summer with six or so leaves.
Red buckeye Current height: 1'9" (max: 20') Planted: 2011 December Beetles ate its leaves, so it stayed dormant for the entire growing season.

Best Shrub, <11 feet

This is maybe my favorite category. Their flowers and leaves tend to interest me more, and they are more likely to reach maturity within my life time.

first place ribbon Forsythia Current height: 5'8" (max: 10') Planted: 2011 December Forsythia Free with an Arbor Day Foundation order and listed as a fast grower, it did not disappoint... other than not being a native species.
Glossy abelia Current height: 0'11" (max: 5') Planted: 2011 December These four twigs became right at home and put out lots of new branches, leaves, and flowers in their first year.
American beautyberry Current height: 3'10" (max: 6') Planted: 2011 November Though they didn't grow much, they did flower and fruit.
Loropetalum Current height: 2'1" (max: 5') Planted: 2011 October? Apparently a slow grower, it started to pick up late in the growing season. Its Spring flowers were a joy.
Oakleaf hydrangea Current height: 2'5" (max: 6') Planted: 2011 October? Ever picky when transplanting, one plant is near death. The other grew a bit.
Azalea Current height: 8' (max: 10') Planted: [N/A] The two azalea bushes came with the house. It's an older variety with light pink flowers. I'm still working on steadily pruning it down year after year to a more manageable and natural shape. It has pretty lame leaves.
Tuscan Blue Rosemary Current height: 1'6" (max: 4') Planted: 2011 November It didn't grow much, but it also didn't die.

Best Perennial

These are plants that live at least three years and which aren't counted as a tree or shrub.

first place ribbon Copper plant Planted: 2012 May Copper plant The brilliant red leaves rock, popping out from the green leaves that surround them.
Black-Eyed Susans Planted: 2012 March Sown from seed, these plants grew readily and produced fantastic flowers.
Day lilies Planted: 2012 January Initially spread out, these were moved to a bed where they could all be together. Months after the move, they were healthy enough to produce flowers.
Begonia Planted: 2012 June These were clippings that grew roots in a glass of water and which I later planted in a pot. A remarkably easy plant.
Asparagus fern Planted: [N/A] I didn't actually plant this fern: I discovered it in a pot left by the previous house residents. Over time, it sprouted multiple branches and even flowered, later creating bright red berries. It keeps its size and shape fairly constant.
Purple coneflower Planted: 2012 July While still alive, these didn't do so well once planted in full sun. Perhaps they'll do better next year.

Best Annual

I planted a fair number of annuals. Most failed miserably and didn't make the nomination process.

first place ribbon Tithonia Planted: 2012 March Tithonia Also called Mexican sunflowers, these guys took off and exploded with bright orange flowers. A bumble bee favorite.
Blanket flowers Planted: 2012 March Sown from seed, it took a while for them to grow. But when they did, they partnered well with the other flowers.
Amaranth Planted: 2012 March While they have an interesting tassel-like flower, the weight of the flower got to be too much for the stalk. These would do best along a fence surrounded by plants with prettier, denser leaves.
Four o'clocks Planted: 2012 April Transplants from my brother's garden, they initially did well, growing the occasional flower. Once the sun started to shift in Fall, their leaves got smaller and less dark.
Dusty Millers Planted: 2011 October? These could be considered perennial as they survived the winter, but perhaps they should have just died. They never produced flowers or grew all that much.

Best Vegetable/Fruit, Summer

Growing veggies in Summer tends to be difficult due to heat, humidity, and bugs. However, there are some plants that love these conditions.

first place ribbon Bell peppers Bell pepper These guys love the heat as long as they get enough water. If you're lucky, you can leave a green pepper on and it'll ripen to a wonderful red.
Beans A sleeper hit, these plants produced and produced. And it all came from a single bean in a Whole Foods king cake in March 2011.
Basil Sprouted from last year's seeds, they had a hard time with the heat. Better mulching and watering would likely have helped them.
Butternut squash An unintended harvest: they sprouted in the compost pile and produced fruit from time to time.
Okra These were meant to grow tall and shade the other plants, but they never got as bushy as they did last year.
Cucumbers An utter disappointment, all 9 plants died after producing perhaps 4 fruit.
Eggplant Another disappointment, these three plants apparently had problems with wet roots. They might do better raised.

Best Vegetable/Fruit, Winter

This is a competitive category since so much grows really well in the Winter.

first place ribbon Kale Kale Once the temperature drops and bugs go dormant, the kale can grow and grow without being eaten up.
Celery Home-growing celery gives you wonderful dark green stalks.
Cilantro These exploded and nearly took over. After flowering, their dried seeds can be stored (coriander) or sown for the following Winter.
Chard These are great. So colorful and prolific.
Dill Never really grew all that bushy. Eaten by a caterpillar in the Spring.
Cabbage Sown too late in the season and eaten by bugs once it finally was growing.