Friday, October 7, 2011

Post Season Garden Awards: 2011

It's October, and you know what that means--it's baseball playoff season!  Baseball fans across the country are cheering on their favorites, hoping they can make it past the playoffs into the World Series. We have been watching some Brewers' games, since they are Youngest Daughter's second-favorite team, and keeping an eye on the Cardinals, the favorites of some friends and misguided extended family members.  But I can't get too excited about any of the games this year, since my team, those loveable losers, were out of contention for the pennant by the first of June.  After last year's disappointing  Cubs' season, we looked to the garden for candidates for post-season awards, and it seems only logical that we do that again this year.

 This year's Silver Slugger Award goes to--drum roll, please--the Hyacinth Bean Vine!  For the non-baseball fan, the Silver Slugger is awarded to the player with the most impressive offensive stats, such as batting average and on-base-percentage.  Despite adverse conditions this year, the Hyacinth Bean never went into a slump.  Its sheer size made it an imposing figure at the plate, looking more like an offensive lineman than a first baseman.  In fact, it might have also been awarded the Golden Glove for fielding percentage, except that it had a habit of running into other players on the field.  Its enthusiasm at times had to be curbed by the manager.

Hyacinth Bean's home run stats were off the charts, producing beautiful purple blossoms like this throughout the season as well as the shiny purple bean pods this fall. A free agent, it was signed to only a one-year contract while the head office debated a permanent replacement at this position, possibly a clematis or another climbing rose like the one on the other side of the arbor trellis.  But its performance as well as the devoted fan base of hummingbirds this season may warrant a contract extension.

In professional sports there are no walk-ons.  But if there were, Cleome would be the clear winner of the Walk-On Award.  One cleome plant in the lily bed last year, pulled in late September, resulted in many seedlings in the same area this year.  At first, their appearance wasn't welcome, since the roster was already full and they seemed to upset the team chemistry.  But when the rest of the position players went into a slump in August, the Cleomes stepped up to the plate and carried the team through the late season.  They've developed quite a fan following, too, especially the bees. ( By the way, if you notice a brown blur in the background, that's the assistant manager giving some motivational words to the benchwarmers.)

There were so many candidates for Rookie of the Year this season that it was almost difficult to choose a winner.  The Beautyberry was a strong contender, especially since several of the new shrubs purchased this year had a disappointing season.  It is hoped that another year of maturity will produce better results with them, but the Beautyberry was a consistent performer all season long, finishing strong with these beautiful purple berries.

Incidentally, last year's Rookie winner was a no-show this year.  'Wendy's Wish' Salvia apparently signed with a team in Oklahoma, because she was unavailable for contract negotiations this spring.  (I've notified local agents, i.e., garden centers, to please stock her next year!)

Despite the number of candidates, the clear-cut choice for Rookie of the Year in 2011 goes to the Agastache 'Heat Wave.'  This newcomer started out as a scrawny seedling in May and quickly put on bulk to grow to three feet tall and at least the same width.  It began blooming some time in mid-July and has dazzled everyone since with its showy pink/purple flowers.  Besides being a unanimous choice of the judges, it's been a hands-down favorites of the fans as well--bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds swarm it for autographs every day.

This superstar laughed at droughty field conditions and took the heat of late summer in stride.  In fact, it was also a strong contender for the MVP award as well.  While a few players have won both the Rookie of the Year and the MVP award in the MLB, it's rather unusual.  In 'Heat Wave's' case, the only barrier to its receiving both awards is a concern whether it can repeat its stellar performance next year.  Some research on Agastaches has revealed that they aren't particularly fond of the wet, cold winters common to Illinois, so we must wait and see whether it returns for another season.  If it doesn't, the general manager has assured us there will a contract extended to a new 'Heat Wave' (or three) next year.

And now for the most coveted award of all--the MVP of the 2011 season.  Last year's winner, 'Lucky Lemon Creme' Lantana, was replaced this year with a more colorful player .... (sorry, its name on the roster is illegible). It performed every bit as well as last year's winner and has been signed to a long-term contract for the lily bed border.  However, its playing time was reduced somewhat due to salary demands.  In garden language, that means that while I was able to buy a flat of lantana seedlings last year, this year all the varieties of lantana I found were available only in 4-inch pots.  Trying to plant the same number as last year would have meant spending five times as much, so I opted for a smaller section of lantana with Profusion zinnias filling in the rest of the border.  Next year I'm going to scout in more places for the flats so that I can have a full border of these butterfly magnets.

Another candidate for MVP would have to be the Shasta daisy 'Becky.'  It is one of those solid performers that often go overlooked, but deserves praise for its consistency.  A little more encouragement this year (i.e., more frequent deadheading) has resulted in non-stop blooms from June through October.

Another possible choice for this award might be the hostas.  Veterans of the shade garden, they avoid the glare of the spotlight, unlike some of the other more colorful members of the team.  But they were the Cal Ripkens of the garden, bringing their A-game every single day from May through September.  Only now, as the season winds down,  are they beginning to show a few signs of exhaustion.

It was a close race, but the winner of this year's MVP Award goes to the Hydrangea 'Limelight.'  Some voters were a little upset, charging that those of us who selected 'Limelight' were fickle and thinking only of what looked good now, rather than all season.  There might be an element of truth in that claim because it has only been blooming for two months. But baseball fans still remember  "Mr. October," and 'Limelight' will no doubt also linger in garden fans' memories through the long off-season. Besides, it was a superstar compared to all the other hydrangeas on the team who produced very few hits this year.  And to be honest, there was somewhat of a sympathy vote here, as 'Limelight' survived what could have been a life-threatening injury when a large limb fell on it as the groundskeeper was trimming a nearby locust tree.  Thankfully, it was still intact when the limb was removed and the chainsaw-wielding groundskeeper properly chastised.  It continues to impress the crowds today with its white blooms turning to a lovely shade of pink.

I'm sure other garden managers have their own candidates for awards, and I'd love to hear about the choices.  As for me, the season may not be over yet, but I'm already heading off for spring training-----planting tulips and daffodils!


  1. You've missed your calling as a game announcer! Great plants and I enjoyed the discourse with them very much. That 'Limelight' is such a great shrub-well deserved!

  2. Rose, You are clever. Loved all your award winners. Agastaches are the clear winners in my garden this droughty summer! Nothing stopped them and the pollinators were in heaven. have fun with the bulbs! xogail

  3. LOVE that agastache. I don't follow baseball at all, but I love the idea of post-season awards in the garden. P.S. I am all for developing a weed eating beetle. Let's apply for research grants on that right away!
    P.P.S. Are you noticing how I'm keeping up on blogging for a good whole TWO WEEKS now?!?!?! ha!

  4. This was so inventive! A very creative way to sum up what worked in the garden, and you had me entertained through the whole post. I absolutely love your MVP. Limelight has been recommended by so many, and now, with this prestigious post season award, I know I must get one. Thanks for the good time today : )

  5. There are some mighty fine players on your roster! Rosester? I like that Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' ... I may have to sign her to my team!

    You mentioned a Katy player on the Illinois football team. Katy High School's team has won more than a few state championships so I'm not surprised. He may have a hard time adjusting to playing in cold weather, though!

  6. Your garden scored a home run with me! I loved that bit about the hummingbird fan base. Happy digging!

  7. The Bean Vine and Hydrangea get my vote :-)

  8. I so enjoy this write up about your garden Rose. I look forward to it every year. I am even going to encourage my DB to read it. I think he would get a hoot out of it. He even knows some of the players.

  9. That was very fun to read (and I'm not even a baseball fan!). I have got to remember that vine next spring --it just looks amazing.

  10. You've fielded a great team this year! (If only our baseball teams could say the same :). I'm so jealous of how well your hyacinth bean did! Mine was a disappointment for the second straight year. It might be sent back to the minors.

  11. I love your baseball analogy! So many bloggers have mentioned Beautyberry and Hyacinth Bean Vine. They are spectacular! I think I'm going to have to find spots for both in the garden--they're showstoppers! Beautiful plants in your autumn garden!

  12. You had some great contenders this year, but I have to say I agree on your MVP choice. I'm a bit biased when it comes to 'Limelight', afterall it's always been a MVP in my garden. :)

  13. Tina, Thanks; 'Limelight' has done so well, not at all as picky as the other hydrangeas.

    Gail, Agastaches are now on my must-have list for next year! I think I've found a new favorite plant:)

    Monica, Yes, I'm impressed--and so glad! That research grant sounds interesting--I have connections in the entymology dept. here at the U of I if need be:)

    Laurrie, 'Limelight' would work well in your new driveway border. It does have a more freewheeling tendency than some panicle hydrangeas, though.

    Cindy, I am hoping next year to find 'Wendy's Wish' again; it was such a great plant and would probably be a perennial in your garden. I'm not sure how we stole a football player out of TX, but I hope he has a warm winter coat:)

    Sarah, The hummingbirds were thrilled with my choice of plants this year. I'm a big fan of hummers, too!

  14. Suburbia, Thanks; both of these are hard to miss in my garden.

    Lisa, Thank you--I hope DB enjoys it. The Brewers and the Cardinals both won last night, so we'll be watching a little more baseball than I thought.

    Renee, This vine reminded me of Jack's beanstalk; it grew so fast. Of course, I must have planted half a dozen seeds just to make sure one germinated.

    Rose, Sometimes a player does so much better for another team; the Cubs are notorious for trading away good players:) This was my first attempt at planting the hyacinth bean, so I was impressed.

    Plantpostings, I've envied the Beautyberry on other blogs for a few years, so that's why I planted one this year. I've been really pleased with it.

    Racquel, I'm not surprised--you were my main inspiration for planting 'Limelight'!

  15. Love the hyacinth bean plant and the lantana. Most of these things would be described as exotic house plants in our neck of the woods.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  16. Was anyone put on leave due to injuries? What a great post. I like the arbor in the first photo. Is it something you made or bought?

  17. What lovely photos! They all look so beautiful. The shasta daisy is especially fresh and crisp looking.

    Ha! Sounds like you should be a sports announcer. LOL!

  18. Hi Rose,

    Not understanding baseball at all, I didn't quite get some of it. None-the-less it is a fabulous post.
    I saw Heat Wave in a local nursery recently and was taken with it. I did not buy any but now that I have seen yours, I feel sure it will be added next year. Agastache generally does really well here.....

    Limelight is another favourite of mine. I have been so pleased with it's performance.....I think it was seeing it on your blog, that encouraged me to buy one :)

    BTW your garden is looking lovely.

  19. As a fellow long suffering Cub fan and a sports fan in general, I love love love this post! The baseball analogies were dead on and I running right out to sign the Heat Wave for my own team!
    I have the Limelight and it is still stunning, I agree.
    (how 'bout those Illini!? Next week, stripe the field!!)

  20. What a beautiful flowers. About the Hyacinth Beanplant will she survive
    the winter?
    A lovely sunday.

  21. Maggie, Both of these may look exotic, but they're very easy to grow here. The lantana is pretty much a plant it and forget it kind of plant.

    Humble, Unfortunately, there were several on the injury list. I'm waiting to see if they come back for next season or if their careers have ended:) I bought the arbor bench; no way am I talented enough to make something like this!

    Wendy, My family would laugh at the thought that I could be a sports announcer:) I've just been a baseball fan since I was a young girl.

    Cheryl, I'm glad your 'Limelight' is doing so well! Agastache has become a new favorite, and I've discovered it comes in so many colors. I'm just waiting to see how it fares here over the winter.

    Sissy, I would definitely sign up 'Heat Wave'! Really looking forward to next week's game--it will be the real test for the Illini, I think. Thank goodness, our section is supposed to wear orange.

    Marijke, Thank you. No, the hyacinth bean won't survive the winter. But it's so easy to plant from seed, and you can see how much in grows in just one season.

  22. While no baseball fan, I did enjoy your award presentation. Very clever and that agastache deserves a chance in my garden. I will give it a go.

  23. what a cute cute posting!! I am not a baseball fan but very much appreciated the awards. Your Hyacinth Bean photos are beautiful. I am super jealous of your agastache.....mine died. (of all things!!!) Will hope for a better place to put some after the garden is better ammended.

  24. Hard to choose from so many 'winners', Rose. But boy do I love those Hyacinth Bean photos!

  25. I enjoyed your use of baseball as a theme for your awards. I, too, am a huge fan of Hydrangea Limelight. It outperforms so many other blooms in the garden. From its start as bright white to its green stage and to its pink stage. It simply amazes...

  26. Now that's what I call an educational post - being a complete dunce when it comes to baseball, I have learnt some new terms as well as enjoying hearing what has performed well for you this year. The agastache, hydrangea and lantana are my personal favourites.

  27. What a fun post! I am not really a big sports fan, but I enjoyed all the baseball references and awards! Your writing is perfect, right down to ending with spring training. I noted the Agastache 'Heat Wave' to add to my spring roster. Have a great weekend!

  28. What a fun post! I think all of your winners are worthy of their awards. I think I would have trouble making decisions about which of mine would be the winners.

    I did think the agastaches were going to remain spindly, and was wondering if they were worth having in their spot, but once they took off, they didn't stop performing.


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