Snapdragon, eggplant top best of 2022 list

By Erin Schanen

As soon as the new year has dawned and the holiday decorations have been put away, gardeners will waste no time in getting to work on next year’s garden, despite the fact that it will be months before they’ll see it.

But the first step in planning the next garden is reviewing the previous garden, so I present to you my award-winning plants of 2022. (Note: No actual awards will be given and I’m the sole judge.)

Best annual flower grown from seed: Snapdragon Madame Butterfly (Antirrhinum majus).

I would never make it as a cut flower grower because that requires a level of organization and planning that I could never commit to. Key to successful cut flower growing is succession sowing so that there are always fresh flowers for bouquets. And that’s why cut-and-come-again flowers are the ticket for me.

This double snapdragon, which has a frilly, open flower unlike the typical mouth-like snapdragon flower, started flowering for me in June and bloomed until after the first frost, and I was cutting flowers from the same plants the whole time. It’s tall, and I like to let it flop over the edges of raised beds so the stems twist and bend, and better suited to growing for cutting than as a garden plant. But in terms of bang for your buck, it can’t be beat.

I grew the apricot-toned “bronze with white” color, but it’s available in at least five delicious colors.

Best vegetable: Eggplant Asian Delite (Solanum melongena).

I don’t love eggplant. Eggplant Parmesan and baba ganoush are both outstanding dishes, but beyond that I don’t have a lot of use for eggplant. Which is why the fact that an eggplant topped my best vegetable list says a lot about this new variety.

Asian Delite produces skinny, mostly spineless fruits (no mushy seedy bits to dig out) in mass quantities. My one plant produced more than two dozen eggplants, enough for multiple drops on neighbor’s porches after I’d hit my baba ganoush threshold.

My plant was about 34 inches tall and barely affected by flea beetles, which tend to plague eggplant. That may not have anything to do with the variety, but it was notable.

Best purchased annual: Salvia Unplugged So Blue (Salvia farinacea).

Annual salvias are having a bit of a moment, but this Proven Winners variety hits the sweet spot with its true blue color, medium size and floriferousness. I purchased it in flower and it didn’t stopped blooming all season, a benefit of a sterile variety versus one grown from seed, which can take awhile to bloom and start producing seed, and therefore stop flowering, quickly.

Like all salvias, it is a pollinator magnet, and I rarely saw it without a bee nearby during daylight hours.

Not only did all of these plants rise to the top in  last summer’s garden, they’ve all earned a spot in next year’s garden. Let the garden planning commence.

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