Gardening in Gwinnett: Extension sale offers many affordable plants

With the spring planting season right around the corner, now is the time to begin planning your garden. Consider purchasing some high-quality plants available at reasonable prices from the annual Gwinnett County Extension Service plant sale.

Several fruit-bearing plants are among those being offered for sale. Blueberries are a relatively pest-free plant and need minimal care once they have become established. They prefer acidic soil and have the potential to produce up to 2 gallons of berries per bush a few seasons after planting

You need to have at least two different varieties for good cross pollination. And the two varieties need to be blooming at the same time.

The varieties for sale are early blooming ones (Climax, Brightwell and Premier), mid-season bloomers (Bluebelle, Tiftblue and Powderblue) and late-spring bloomers (Delite, Centurion and Baldwin).

Blackberry bushes are very easy to grow, are relatively pest-free and require little care once established. They are self-fruitful, meaning you can plant one plant and get fruit. They can be planted as close as 2 feet apart for a hedge or screen. They can be grown on a trellis for a neat landscape effect. Three varieties of blackberries are available: Arapaho, which ripens in mid-June, and Navajo, which ripens in mid-July, are two thornless varieties. Kiowa has thorns but has a nice large, firm fruit with a sweet and tart flavor.

Muscadines are truly a plant for the South. With some yearly pruning, they will yield an abundance of muscadines for eating or winemaking. There are two varieties available at the sale. Granny Val has a bronze color and large fruit, and Noble has a smaller, black fruit.

The blueberry bushes are $10 for a 2-gallon size plant, and the other fruit-bearing plants are $5 for a 1-gallon size plant.

Crape myrtles are an excellent summer-flowering small tree. New, improved varieties have been developed in recent years with a more attractive appearance and resistance to powdery mildew. Five different varieties are available: Natchez, Catawba, Pink Velour, Sioux and Arapaho. The cost is $5 per 1-gallon size plant.

Deciduous azaleas have showy blooms and are hardy plants once established. The new Admiral Semmes being offered at the sale has fragrant, yellow flowers, is resistant to mildew, tolerates heat and grows vigorously. It was also chosen as a Georgia Gold Medal winner. The azalea is deciduous, so it is better to use it behind other plants in a perennial border where it fades into the background during the cold weather. The cost is $8 per 2-gallon size plant.

Viburnums are hardy plants for the landscape and have outstanding foliage, fruit and flowers. They are easy to grow and favor full sun to part shade. They have fragrant white to creamy pink flowers and bloom in the spring. The plant sale offers Spring Bouquet, with light, fragrant pink to white flowers and dark black-blue fruit, and Summer Snowflake, which blooms continuously into the fall. The flowers are in clusters, and it has red fruit in the fall. The cost is $5 per 1-gallon size plant.

Also available are Heucheras, also known as coral bells. These are perennials that have a large array of leaf colors, shapes and textures and can grow in shadier places. Snow Angel has a white mottling of the leaves and a pink to red flower spike. Raspberry Ice has striking foliage of raspberry and frosty silver colors. The flowers are pink. They are $6 per 1-gallon-size plant.

If you are interested in purchasing some of these excellent plants, call the Gwinnett County Extension Service office, or visit www.gwinnettextension. org, click on events and then 2008 Extension Plant Sale for the order form. The deadline for ordering is March 7, and pick-up will be March 13 at The Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville. Also, on March 7, there will be a free class titled "The Growing and Care of Blueberries" at 6:30 p.m. at The Gwinnett Justice and Administration Building, 75 Langley Drive, Second floor Conference Room A, Lawrenceville. To register for the class, contact Gwinnett County Extension.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty. com.