"Proven Winners" Are More Than Pretty Flowers

Photos Courtesy of Proven Winners
As many of you know, I'm all about foliage plants and I've never been one to gush over a petunia or a hydrangea, no matter how gosh-darned pretty the blooms are. I've always seen "Proven Winners" ads during my favorite PBS gardening shows, and their selection fills the annuals display at my local Home Depot. Yet I've never seen any offerings that knocked my socks off... until today. (Photos courtesy of Proven Winners)

So, how did this rebellious gardener get won over? Well it all started a few hours ago, and I remember it like it was just yesterday... or better yet, a few hours ago.

(Enter dream sequence)

I was just griping to my friend Bren from BG Garden about how none of Proven Winners' plants really fit my Rainforest Garden theme. It's not that I don't appreciate the bulk of what they have for sale, mind you. My tropical garden just relies on bold foliage set against finer textures, and though the flowers are few and far between, they're showstopping when surrounded by a sea of green. I like the bones of my garden to carry the show. Lobelias and shasta daisies simply belong in another garden.

Courtesy of Proven Winners
When Bren mentioned that they had succulents my eyes lit up and my ears perked up as if I were an alert puppy. Succulents? I had to give Proven Winners another look, especially since I'm planing on renovating my succulent coral reef garden this year. Browsing the Savvy Succulents portion of the website I found not only echeverias and sedums, but aloes, agaves, crassula and a "Burgundy Ice" DYCKIA! After my heart slowed down, I checked out the rest of their plants and found some others that even a plant snob like myself could appreciate for their texture and color.

Here are some of my favorites that you could likely find at your local retailer.

Steve's Picks
"Margarita" Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea Batatas)
Though it broke my heart by departing last winter, I'm still crazy about sweet potato vine and will find a place for its lime green to chartreuse foliage again in spring. It has done well for me in dry areas, as well as a spot that got flooded last year. I've even seen these planted in medians! You'll be stunned by PW's selection of 11 varieties of sweet potato vine!

Creeping Wirevine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris)
I haven't grown this one yet, but would love to have it trailing from a container for that lush and tropical look that I so adore! I'm a big fan of plants that don't draw too much attention to themselves, but are really cool once you get to know them up close and personal. You shine above all of those bright flowers, creeping wirevine, and you're appreciated.

Fishnet Stockings (Solenostemon scutellarioides)
This is one sexy plant, and not only for its resemblance to fishnets. The dark purple veins pop out against the lime green leaves in an intricate network, and I can only imagine how awesome this would look planted amongst "Margarita" sweet potato and Persian shield, which brings me to my next fave.

Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)
If you're looking for a solid mass of metallic purple, you can skim right over those petunias and pick up one of these tropical show-offs! I like those underdog foliage plants that let the flowers stand out, but Persian shield is clearly NOT one of those plants. Give this guy the prime real estate in your planting design for color that lasts all season!

Outdoor Living Extravaganza

Whether you're a big fan of Proven Winners' petunias, or you like the foliage plants like me, a trip to their Outdoor Living Extravaganza would be a lot of fun. Here's the scoop:

Atlanta, Georgia–March 4th
Seattle, Washington–March 18th
Milwaukee, Wisconsin–April 8th
Toronto, Ontario–April 15th

An $80 admission gets you a great (from what I can tell) seminar, a catered lunch, a goodie bag, prizes and more! I want to go just for the fellowship with other garden nuts, but Atlanta may be a little far for my broke behind. If you happen to be in the area of any of these events, you'll definitely want to check them out! Here's more information, along with a cheerful little video.

It's official: After seeing the dyckia and 11 varieties of ornamental sweet potato vines, I'm converted.


  1. Oh! you featured one of my favourite plants of the day - persian shield. It seems that the sunnier the location the better the colour, and I just recently trimmed mine back and then planted those cuttings under a drab area in the front. They are so easy to propogate and in this area some people (gasp) actually call it a weed! I love that fishnet stocking plant, but the first two are too dangerous looking for my likes.

  2. I'd be happy to have persian shield as a weed! They also look better after a good trimming since they push out the shinier leaves in response. Hope the typhoon has left you in good health! :)

  3. holy LOLA!!! I didn't know they had succulents! I want some more sweet potato, but also the fishnet...oh hell...I want them all! I love things with leaves...and if they have flowers too...all the better!
    Great post! I wish I could attend that event! Maybe next year!

  4. 'Margarita' grows well in full sun as well as partial shade in my garden ;-) I love that Fishnet Stockings.

  5. Steve, I can't stop checking out the persian shield and fishnet stockings...love the patterns and colors. I'll definitely check these out and find a spot for them in my new patch.

  6. I've found the lime green sweet potato is a great ground cover AND took frost last winter with very little damage. Also worth a try Steve.

  7. I realised now after reading your post that somehow guys are very much a foliage person rather than a floral one.
    Guess it must be a guy thing, I found my garden very much a foliage more than a floral.

  8. Now this is gardening to me as well foliage and that "Burgundy Ice" is to die for! I'm happy I introduced you to the 'other side' of Proven Winners. Wait till you attend one of their retreats! You think your heart was speeding from these... the talks, lunch and containers to die for!

    Great to connect with you Steve!

  9. You are so funny! You sound like me when I hear the word succulents. My heart gets all jumpy and my feet start tapping. Sounds like a great day and you saw some beautiful plants.

  10. Thank you for your report...
    I have started a collection with hens and chicks in our garden.
    Sempervivum are very popular in Europe, but the selection in our Toronto area is quite small.
    Will take a look at the Proven Winners for sure. Love plants with interesting foliage.
    I am visiting Canada Blooms Cocktail party on March 15th. Pictures and report will be published on my guildwoodgardens Blog.
    - Cheers Gisela.


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