Most of my garden is resting under a layer of compost and manure; what I like to call ''beefing up'' for next season.
I'm hoping the winter months go as fast as the summer seemed to and in preparation, while most people are making their Christmas lists, in my notebook is the beginnings of next season's flora.
Growers feel the same way, which is why All-America Selections has already released its picks for 2012. If you want your garden center to stock these plants next spring, start putting the bug in their ear right now.
I'm loving the AAS Flower Award Winner, ornamental pepper ''Black Olive,'' bred by Seeds By Design. This selection is an upright growing pepper with dark purple, nearly black fruit that appears in small clusters along the plant's stems, according to all-americaselections.org.
Why banish this plant to the vegetable garden? Can you imagine three to five dark-fruited plants in a cluster with yellow or red Knock-Out Roses or deep red Salvia? Not only will these plants blend well in the flower garden, the fruit, which does turn red if it's left on the plant, is entirely edible and is said to be fiery hot.
Another pepper chosen by AAS is an F-1 hybrid, 'Cayennetta,' bred by Floranova Ltd. Listed as a Vegetable Award Winner, 'Cayennetta' is a mildly spicy chili pepper with larger fruit than the typical cayenne pepper at three to four inches. The fruit grow downward, protected from sun scald by the canopy of lush, dense foliage. The peppers start out green but mature to glossy red. I wouldn't have a problem putting this plant in the flower garden either, particularly since it would make a great container plant.
I love it when plant trials include fruit in their test gardens and this year, AAS has chosen watermelon ''Faerie,' bred by Known-You Seed Company, as another Vegetable Award Winner.
We toss around the terms, fruit and vegetable, but we all know that watermelon is truly a fruit, both botanically and in our kitchens. A botanical fruit is any edible plant part that carries its seeds on the inside. This means that botanically, peppers, tomatoes, melons, squash, eggplant, etc. are fruit. Strawberries, on the other hand, are not fruit. They are actually swollen stems. Those tiny black dots on the outside of the strawberry, that we call the seeds, are really the fruit of the plant. They are called achenes, which are dried fruits that contain one seed. Other examples of achenes would be the seeds of sunflowers and melons.
But let's not dwell on technicalities. 'Faerie' is a smallish watermelon with a creamy yellow rind, unlike what we are used to seeing in our grocery stores in mid-summer. My husband will be happy to know it is a short-season melon; a small globe that only matures to about seven or eight inches and although the vines can reach up to 11 feet, it is still considerably smaller than traditional watermelon plants. Faerie is an F-1 hybrid, which means it is the first generation from two different parent plants. Hybrids, particularly F-1s, don't usually grow true from seed.
I've saved the best for last. The AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner is ''Summer Jewel Pink' salvia, bred by Takii & Co. Ltd. Unlike the traditional tall, bright red salvia we buy by the flat from our garden centers, this plant is dwarf-sized at no more than 20 inches with one-half inch light-pink flowers. According to AAS, the flowers bloom at least two weeks earlier than most other pink salvias. Mixing pink and black seems to be trending right now, so it makes sense that this flower would be great if paired with the 'Black Olive' ornamental pepper.
I can imagine a completely black and pink garden bed, with Heuchera 'Black Beauty' as a border plant and traditional tall pink cleome and cosmos in the back. Maybe throw in a little white to soften the mix, such as Datura or snapdragon. Stand back and watch passers-by stop to admire the color combination.
Excuse me while I grab my notebook.