Green Thumb Awards, Plant Winners

By Jeff Rugg

February 20, 2019 5 min read

Four new plant varieties and two new gardening products have won the 2019 Green Thumb Awards presented by the Direct Gardening Association (formerly called the Mailorder Gardening Association). This is the 21st year of the Green Thumb Awards, and I was on the judging panel. This week we look at the plants, and next week the products. The winners are judged on their uniqueness, technological innovation, potential appeal to gardeners and ability to solve a gardening problem or provide a gardening opportunity.

Mock orange is a common name given to the plants in the Philadelphus genus. There are a few species native to Europe to China, but there are more than 25 species native in the southern and western U.S. and in Central America. However, only a few species are planted in gardens, mostly just Philadelphus coronarius.

This common mock orange is planted because it has flowers reminiscent of citrus flowers in shape and fragrance. It blooms in late spring, and for a week, maybe two, it is an OK plant to have in the garden. The other 50 weeks of the year it is boring — very boring. It grows 10 to 15 feet tall and often has no leaves on the bottom half. The plain green leaves just fall off in autumn with no change in color.

Green Thumb award-winner Illuminati Tiny Tower mock orange changes that with lush green leaves borne in a unique stacked arrangement that looks like a tower of deep-green leaves. Between the leaves are hundreds of white flowers in early summer, spreading the sweet fragrance that mock orange is known for.

Illuminati Tiny Tower has a dwarf growing habit that fits easily into most garden spaces. This plant resists pests and diseases, and it is deer-resistant. Illuminati Tiny Tower is available from

Pomegranates are large shrubs to small trees, growing to 20 feet tall and wide in the warmest areas, and only half that in colder areas in Hardiness Zone 7. They are beautiful in bloom and can produce abundant fruit. For gardeners in cold climates or with only patio pots, they have not been available until now. Peppy Le Pom pomegranate is a dwarf variety that can be brought indoors as a houseplant. Outdoors it is a tidy dwarf shrub that will fit into perennial beds to provide a nice backdrop when not in bloom. Its small orange flowers turn into small fruit that are more ornamental than edible. The plant is available at

If you love potatoes but have wondered what kind would grow best in your garden, now is your chance to find out. The Wood Prairie Farm grows Maine certified seed potatoes. The farm won a Green Thumb award for the Organic Colossal Potato Collection. It is a seed potato assortment containing all 19 organic potato varieties that it grows. For over 40 years, Wood Prairie Farm has been testing and selecting the very best potatoes based on two essential criteria: The potatoes must taste good, and they must perform well under organic growing conditions.

All of the varieties are traditionally bred and non-GMO. Plant a few of each kind to see which ones grow best for you and which ones taste the best. They are available from

The last plant awarded a Green Thumb award was the Tomato Purple Boy Hybrid. It combines the flavor of the heirloom Cherokee Purple with the improved disease resistance found in modern hybrid tomatoes. This new hybrid variety can be successfully grown where heirloom Cherokee Purple succumbs to common tomato diseases. Tomato Purple Boy Hybrid is resistant to nematodes, verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and tobacco mosaic virus. Slightly ridged and very symmetrically shaped, these juicy tomatoes will ripen in just 80 days from setting out transplants. Their seeds are available from

Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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