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Catalogs promise a Garden of Eden

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Such was his experience with Veteran's Honor, a recent AARS winner. "The first year I grew it, I was ready to give it away," Mr. Wood says. That's why he's waiting another season before passing judgment on the 2007 AARS winners: Rainbow Knock Out, Moondance, and Strike It Rich, which didn't greatly impress him last summer.

Hydrangeas: acid-alkaline sensitive

Few plants react as dramatically to microclimate as hydrangeas, which have blue flowers in acidic soil and pink in alkaline ones. That's assuming they bloom at all due to the likelihood of buds being killed by winter cold or late frost.

Newcomers, such as Endless Summer and similar ever-blooming, mop-head type hydrangeas, produce flowers on new growth throughout the season, even in places too chilly for other varieties. But these tougher plants don't make a spectacular show everywhere.

At the Chicago Botanic Garden, Endless Summer isn't as successful as oakleaf and other woody types, says Galen Gates, director of plant collections.

Yet farther north in the Twin Cities, where Endless Summer was developed, snow cover seems to give an added edge, helping the plants perform better there.

For best chances of success, give these new hydrangeas light shade and well-drained, moisture-retentive soil, Mr. Gates says.

More helpful tips can be found online at: www.americanhydrangeasociety.org.

Daylilies: thousands of possibilities

On the opposite end of the fussiness scale are daylilies, which generally need only a sunny location, regular watering, and reasonably decent soil to flower.

Yet with 58,643 registered cultivars, how does one choose?

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