Chinese Snowball viburnum(Viburnum macrocephalum ‘Sterile’) is a large, deciduousshrub that grows 10 to 15 feet tall with an equal spread. Theshowy white flower clusters, up to 8 inches across, look likegiant snowballs, offering a virtual whiteout of flowers. Theflowers emerge green, then gradually fade to pure white.Eventually, they become light brown. They’re commonly cut andused, both fresh and dried, in floral arrangements. Amethyst Falls wisteria(Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’), is an improvedcultivar of our native American wisteria. It will climb 20 to 30feet. But it’s less vigorous, less invasive and much easier tomanage than its Asian relatives. And while the Asian types maytake 10 years or more to begin flowering, Amethyst Fallswisteria’s fragrant, lavender-blue flowers start cascading fromthe foliage at 1 year old.To learn more about on the Georgia Gold Medal Winners program,visit the Web at www.georgiagoldmedal.com. The site shows theplants the GPSC has chosen since 1994.(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of GeorgiaCollege of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.) By Dan RahnUniversity of GeorgiaFor 13 years now, the Georgia Plant Selections Committee, Inc.,has been recommending each year a new, short list of beautiful,proven landscape plants. Cuphea species are dependable,low-maintenance annuals. They tolerate the heat and humidity ofthe South with extended bloom periods, attracting butterflies andhummingbirds like magnets. Three stand out. Firecracker plant (Cuphea ignea),about a foot tall, has abundant tubular, scarlet-red flowersedged in black. Tiny mice(Cuphea llavea), up to 2 feet tall, has flowers resemblingthe face of a mouse, with two red petals tinged in purple. Andtall cigar plant (Cupheamicropetala) grows 3 to 5 feet tall with 2-inch-long,cigar-shaped, red-yellow-green blooms. Perennial plumbago(Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) grows just 6 to 10 inchestall and spreads 1 to 2 feet wide. A terrific groundcover, ittolerates drought and deer and has a long bloom period. The plantdies back to the ground each year, then leafs out late in thespring, with shiny green leaves that turn bronze-red in the fall.Its medium-blue flowers emerge in late summer and keep cominguntil the fall frost. Volume XXXINumber 1Page 17 The committee, an elite group of people who are experts in theplant and landscape business, was organized in 1994 to break up avicious plant cycle: Deserving plants remained little knownbecause no nurseries propagated them, because no customers askedfor them, because they were relatively unknown. …Each year the committee selects one plant from five classes –annual, perennial, shrub, tree and vine — from a long list ofnominees and awards them Georgia Gold Medals.”The selection process is tedious, sometimes resulting in heateddebates prior to the final secret ballot,” said Gary Wade, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist whohelped get the program started. “But the cream always rises tothe top. In the end, the honors are always well deserved.”The committee decides the winners based on seasonal interest,outstanding or unusual qualities, ease of propagation, hardiness,adaptability, durability, pest tolerance and lack of invasiveness.They announce the winners first to growers so they can have themavailable when the public promotions begin.Here are the 2006 Georgia Gold Medal winners: Overcup oak (Quercuslyrata) grows well on dry, upland sites and adapts to manysoils and growing environments. It also grows fast, particularlywhen it’s young. It typically grows 50 feet high and equally widebut has been known to reach 125 feet in the wild. Its acorns, withwarty caps almost covering the nut are a good food source forwildlife.