Volume XXXIINumber 1Page 18 The awards began in 1994, when the Georgia Plant Selection Committee introduced and promoted Georgia Gold Medal selections, with a winner for each of four categories: annual, herbaceous perennial, shrub and tree.The committee, about 30 people from the green industry and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, announced four new winners each year after that until 2003, when they added an ornamental vine category.The Georgia Gold Medal awards are aimed at getting deserving but underused plants into Georgia landscapes. The goal is to break through a tough supply-and-demand barrier. If a plant’s not popular, the demand is low, so growers don’t supply many, so prices stay high, so demand stays low. …’Vicious cycle'”It’s a vicious cycle,” said Gary Wade, a UGA Extension horticulturist and a committee member. “Plants have to go through a tough period of introduction. It can be a wonderful plant, but it takes a while for it to break into the market.”The supply-and-demand barrier hurts consumers by keeping superior plants in short supply. Plants that could be prized additions to your landscape never make it there.Each year the Gold Medal winners are revealed to growers in the summer so they can propagate ample supplies. The selections are formally announced the following February.To become a Georgia Gold Medal winner, a plant has to excel in five criteria: consumer appeal, low maintenance, survivability, ease of propagation and seasonal interest.The Georgia Gold Medal winners for 2007:Annual: Firespike (Odontonema strictum) provides a bold, tropical look in the landscape. It has shiny, pest-free foliage and crimson-red flower spikes that attract hummingbirds and butterflies from late summer through fall. The vigorous, shrub-like annual grows 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide.Perennial: Swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) is perfect for water gardens, pond edges and rain gardens but will thrive in normal soils with enough water. It’s 5 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, with continuous blood-red flowers 3 inches across from late spring until frost.Shrub: Admiral Semmes azalea (Rhododendron ‘Admiral Semmes’) is fragrant, heat-tolerant and mildew-resistant. It’s a deciduous shrub with lustrous, dark green leaves in summer that turn orange-bronze in the fall. Its bright, medium-yellow flowers appear before the foliage for a flashy display in early May.Tree: Green Giant arborvitae (Thuja (standishii x plicata) ‘Green Giant’) is a fast-growing, evergreen tree that gets 60 feet tall and 20 feet wide. With excellent pest resistance, it can define property lines, screen views or serve as a windbreak. It’s an excellent alternative to disease-prone Leyland cypress.Vine: “Madison” Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘Madison’) has all the merits of the species plus an added shot of antifreeze to make it winter-hardy in north Georgia. It’s a fast-growing, twining, evergreen vine. Each year, like clockwork, its creamy-white, star-shaped, phlox-like flowers emerge and overshadow the foliage.As the selection committee’s slogan goes, “buy a Georgia Gold Medal plant, and take home a winner.”(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.) By Dan RahnUniversity of GeorgiaFor the 14th straight year, Georgians have a new list of standout plants for their landscapes. Swamp hibiscus, Firespike, Madison Confederate jasmine, Admiral Semmes azalea and Green Giant arborvitae are the 2007 Georgia Gold Medal winners.