Land & Plants: 2013 Growth Awards

It's time for the 2nd Annual Growth Awards. Categories have changed slightly since last year to match what I have learned about ecosystems this year. Heights were measured on December 31, 2013, from trunk base to highest leaf or live leaf bud.

Best Canopy Tree

Tall trees that generally grow above all others.

first place ribbon Bald cypress Current height: 1'8" (max: 80') Planted: 2013 March bald cypress I grew a bunch of cypress from seed acquired by City Park Lake. Kept them in the fridge for 3 months, wrapped with a wet paper towel, and planted them in fluffy compost. The tallest grew 1'8" and is now in the ground. Because it grew that much in its first year from seed, it wins first place.
American sycamore Current height: 1'8" (max: 90') Planted: 2013 January I would say I grew this from seed, but it sort of grew itself. Some seeds escaped and landed in a flower bed where two trees began growing. I will be transplanting them to pots later this winter. The tallest of the two grew 1'8" (to the highest leaf bud).
Southern redcedar Current height: 5'8" (max: 40') Planted: 2011 October Not strictly a canopy tree, it does get taller than understory trees and requires full sun, so it's in this category. This is my current and future live Christmas tree. This year, I have a set of blue lights on it. It has grown 1'8" since last year's awards.
Date palm Current height: 5'3" (max: 65') Planted: 2010 May The main trunk has died and there are two main suckers growing strong. This may be the year when I introduce some pruning to keep the strongest one. In 2013, it grew 1'.
Red maple Current height: 3'5" (max: 60') Planted: 2011 December I have two from an Arbor Day Foundation order. I'm guessing they're busy growing roots because they haven't done a whole lot above the soil. The tallest grew 3". The shortest lost its main trunk and now has two strong offshoots.

Best Understory Tree

Shorter trees that grow under canopy trees or at the forest edge. Or maybe just by themselves.

first place ribbon Yaupon Current height: 9' (max: 25') Planted: (came with house) yaupon There are roughly four yaupons around the yard, but I've selected this female with prolific berries as the winner of this category. I had been pruning it until this year when I realized I should let it reach its full berry potential.
Eastern redbud Current height: 1'7" (max: 30') Planted: 2011 October I was ready to write this last redbud off as dead after the other two died, but it sprung back with large leaves in its new location in the shade.
Red buckeye Current height: 2'5" (max: 20') Planted: 2011 December The tallest buckeye grew 8" this year. I've recently moved it to a shadier spot, so we'll see if it can win this category next year.
Carolina buckthorn Current height: 2'4" (max: 30') Planted: 2013 January It has taken to its new home underneath the live oak. I don't have a baseline measurement, but I can tell its trunk is sturdier than when I got it. (I won it at a CANPS meeting.)
Parsley hawthorn Current height: 6'6" (max: 20') Planted: 2011 October This tree grew a lot of leaves in the Spring but didn't grow any height: it grew 1" taller. Its growth appears to be limited to width and perhaps roots.
Bottlebrush Current height: 2'6" (max: 20') Planted: 2011 Spring? This one looks perhaps a little fuller than it did a year ago. Hard to say. It grew 2".
Fringetree Current height: 2'5" (max: 20') Planted: 2013 March It is a slow grower, so I didn't expect it to do much this year.

Best Shrub

This is maybe my favorite category. Their flowers and leaves tend to interest me more, and they are more likely to reach maturity within my lifetime.

first place ribbon American beautyberry Current height: 5'6" (max: 6') Planted: 2011 November American beautyberry Increased height, more branches, great purple berries. We have a winner! The tallest of the two plants grew 1'8".
Glossy abelia Current height: 3' (max: 5') Planted: 2011 December It grew a lot in height (2'1") but hasn't filled in all that much. It's also not a native, so it loses points.
Red chokeberry Current height: 6'6" (max: 8') Planted: 2012 October This was planted too late to make last year's cut. I don't have a baseline measurement, but it hinted this fall at what's to come: orange leaves and red berries. If it can fill out, it has a chance at winning next year.
Southern arrowwood Current height: 2'6" (max: 15') Planted: 2011 December A strong shoot came up this year, adding an additional 8". Watch out for that and other shoots in 2014.
Forsythia Current height: 4'9" (max: 10') Planted: 2011 December It somehow grew -11" this year. Maybe the weight made the branches droop. Hard to say, but it's looking pretty good. Maybe I'll get those famous yellow flowers this spring.
Loropetalum Current height: 2'11" (max: 5') Planted: 2011 October? This exotic is steadily chugging along, growing 10" this year.
Spicebush Current height: 4'3" (max: 8') Planted: 2013 April No baseline height. This is the second spicebush. The first one was killed by the sun, so this one is farther into the shade of a neighbor's live oak. It's just been establishing itself so far.
Buttonbush Current height: 1'7" (max: 6') Planted: 2013 March Not much happened with this one. Maybe it needs wetter soil. I've planted a second one in the rain garden.

Best Wildflower

Only native perennials and annuals allowed. (And one that was supposed to be a native.)

first place ribbon Scarlet sage Planted: 2013 March scarlet sage Here is a wildflower that grows up quickly and produces flowers the first year. Hummingbirds love them. Winner!
Partridge pea Planted: 2013 March This grows tall in one season and bumble bees love the flowers. Excellent plant for the soil.
Maximilian sunflower Planted: 2013 March Another excellent plant that grows tall in one season and whose flowers insects love.
Tropical milkweed Planted: 2013 May These were unexpected as I had ordered milkweeds native to Louisiana. In any case, I kept several and planted them. The monarchs love them.
Black-Eyed Susans These reseeded from last year. Or maybe the roots grew more shoots because I think they're perennial.
Blanket flowers They didn't look so hot this year.
Turk's cap Transplanted from the alley entrance to underneath a camphor tree, this little plant has yet to take off and had only two flowers.

Best Vegetable/Fruit

Things I can eat.

first place ribbon JalapeƱo peppers Since I didn't do much with veggies this year, it was pretty easy to win: grow on your own without much involvement. Peppers will win every time.
Cilantro It was a prolific spring for the cilantro earlier this year.
Tuscan Blue Rosemary Current height: 2'2" (max: 4') Planted: 2011 November This still hasn't exploded like I expected it to. I suspect the camphor tree is inhibiting it somehow. It managed to grow 8" despite my clipping the tall bits for cooking.
Basil Reliably sprouted from last year's seeds.
Okra Not so good this year again. I wanted to grow enough to pickle, but the fruit were very sporadic. I will need to plant a lot more next year.