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story.lead_photo.caption GoldDust mecardonia and Blue My Mind evolvulus create a wonderful complementary combination of warm and cool colors. (Norman Winter/TNS)

The Garden Guy was looking at photos of last year's trials and I was struck by one of a Mecardonia. I have never written about this plant and was thinking there is a great chance for my readers who do not know about how wonderful and tough as nails this flower is, particularly the award-winning variety GoldDust.

GoldDust, a Proven Winners selection, has won 67 awards, from north to south and east to west. It was a Top Performer at Penn State, University of Georgia, Tennessee, Cornell, South Dakota State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State and the list goes on for pages. This speaks volumes and mostly of what it will do in your landscape too!

At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens in Savannah, we used it in our Cottage Garden around a rock stepping stone path. It was a lot like a Caribbean Cottage we had gingers, plumbago, shrimp plants and tall garden phlox all pretty, but it was that patch of GoldDust mecardonia that seemed to illuminate the garden. It was also amazing in that it bloomed from the time we planted it until late fall. There are not that many plants that will do that.

Mecardonia has the common name axil flower and when I first started growing it was in the Scrophulariaceae family related to snapdragons and such. Well, that mysterious board of taxonomic nomenclature has moved it and snaps too, to the Plantaginaceae or plantain family. But alas they are still related.

Mecardonias are from South America on up through Central America and even into the warmer regions of the Southeastern United States. GoldDust however, is a hybrid and a great one reaching only about 5 inches in height. Can you only imagine a plant at that height that blooms with bright yellow flowers all growing season?

Remarkably it spreads outward 20 inches, allowing it to be unbeatable around stepping stones, small drifts of groundcover, and for sure, tumbling over the rims of baskets, boxes and containers like old world olive jars. It is an easy to grow plant, requiring no deadheading. Your main goals are to provide sun and moist fertile soil.

You will expect GoldDust to be an annual and of course one worth every penny spent. To get a nice informal drift or patch, plant three or four, spacing 12-16 inches apart. They are perennial in zones 10 and word on the street is they have surprised a few in colder zones with a spring return. Don't count on it but celebrate if they do.

At the Young Plant Farms Flower Trials in Auburn last year, I saw a new application that was simply beautiful. They had combined Blue My Mind evolvulus with the Gold Dust mecardonia letting them intermingle. The icy blue and cheerful yellow created the perfect complementary partnership.

One of my favorite Proven Winners recipes and applications is a window box planting partnering Gold Dust mecardonia with Illusion Garden ornamental sweet potato and Superbena Peachy Keen verbena. It is a warm elegant partnership but not glaring or gaudy.

The Garden Guy urges you to try it and by all means consider some blue combinations like Unplugged So Blue salvia or Superbena Dark Blue verbena.

(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

Tribune News Service

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