Classic City Awards For Annuals

Classic City Awards For Annuals

We recently discussed, argued and finally voted on the top 12 annuals and a similar number of perennials in the Trial Gardens at UGA. These plants exemplified the highest performance for the longest period of time in our challenging environment in Athens, Ga.
 
We used our own eyeballs but also asked visitors to flag the plants they liked best. We collected data every two weeks on all the annuals in the garden, and such records were also important ingredients in making our list. The data are based on flower performance, foliar health, disease and pest resistance, and outstanding performance regardless of weather. 
 
These are the Oscars, the Emmys, the Tonys and the Obies all wrapped in one. If the plant wins a Classic City Award, take it to the bank. I’ve categorized the annuals as thriller, fillers and spillers, and grasses. And the winners in annuals are:

Thrillers

Acalypha ‘Showtime.’ Copperleaf has become a far more important plant group in recent years. In the landscape or in a mixed container, ‘Showtime’ from GroLink caught everyone’s interest. Big, bold and colorful, this plant makes a statement.
 
Begonia ‘Big Rose Bronze Leaf.’ We have been tiring of wax begonias in the last decade. It’s not that they aren’t functional, but only that they are common. It is difficult to stand out in such a crowded field, but the large leaves, flowers and stature of this begonia from Benary made it a winner. I categorized this as a thriller for the mixed container, comporting well with many of our fillers on this list. 
 
Coleus ‘Two Egg.’ Once again, the age divide came to light in the choosing of this coleus from GroLink as a Classic City award winner. There was lots of arguing about which colei were deserving of this award, and ‘Two Egg’ was a wonderful performer. I hated the name and argued against it, but was outvoted by the Gen Xers around the table who thought the name was “awesome.” No argument from our visitors, either: It received more than its fair share of flags. 
 
Coleus ‘Mariposa.’ As busy as ‘Two Egg’ is, this Athens Select coleus exudes a classic elegance in the container or landscape. Its colors were eye catching, its performance was excellent and people came back to it time and again. 
 
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks.’ I often write that gomphrenas are underappreciated, perhaps because they don’t have any real bright yellows or oranges, but mainly because they kind of blend in with the rest of the landscape. Not so any longer. We debated about including this big, tall Pan American selection in this prestigious group of winners, but it did all we asked and more. 
 
Usually, globe amaranth would be a spiller or filler, but this one stood 4 feet tall and flowered continuously. It was a little too tall in our climate but the flower color and the buzz it created made it impossible to ignore. It is nice to see a company finally shrug off the chains of “short and compact” and take a chance. 

Fillers & Spillers

Lobularia (Alyssum) ‘Snow Princess.’ As a skeptic of unfounded claims, I was not at all impressed with the rhetoric coming out of Pack Trials this spring about how wonderful this plant would be in the heat. Yada, yada: Heard it all before. 
 
When we received ‘Snow Princess’ from Proven Winners, I planted it in the shade hoping it would survive, and in full sun, knowing it would burn up. Not only did it not burn up in full sun, it lit the place up with its large clean white flowers. And just to make me feel even worse, it looked very good in the shade as well. How wonderful to be wrong!
 
Portulaca ‘Pizzazz Salmon Glow.’ The portulacas are a bit like relatives: They come and they go. The Pizzazz series compares favorably to many of the other better-established series of purslane, but visitors and staff always commented on the color of Danziger’s ‘Salmon Glow.’ None of the cultivars of purslane can boast of flowers that remain open as long as we would like, but the combination of flower power, color and vigor made ‘Salmon Glow’ a winner. 
 
Calibrachoa ‘Mini Famous Yellow.’ Talk about a crowded class of plants! This year we had about 75 calibrachoa cultivars, nearly all of which were new in the last year. To find a series that stands out is difficult enough, but to find a cultivar that stands out from the rest is surprising indeed.
 
The Mini Famous series from Selecta First Class performed well, but the lemon-colored form always attracted eyes and flags. The pastel color is understated but the flowers occur so heavily that it is always visible in a crowded field. All the doubles are better viewed up close where the subtle doubleness can be truly appreciated. 
 
Angelonia ‘Carita Raspberry.’ Of the dozen or so angelonias we trialed this year, many of them performed very well. Two stood out, ‘Spreading White’ from Ball Horticultural Co., and ‘Carita Raspberry’ from Syngenta. The compact habit and the continuous flowering – even through the hot summer months – caught our eyes, but it was the unique color that made this cultivar the top vote getter among angelonias. 
 
Geranium ‘Caliente Orange.’ The dark green ivy-like leaves, the long flowering time and the self cleaning features of the Caliente series made me a fan since it was first introduced. The orange flowers on this selection from Goldsmith Seeds were almost iridescent, and plants could easily be pointed out from a distance. 
 
Of all the classes of geraniums, the ivy series and the hybrids have made exceptional breakthroughs in a thoroughly confused and crowded stage. Like a beacon on a rocky shore, ‘Caliente Orange’ stood out.

Grasses

Pennisetum ‘Fireworks.’ The breeding of pennisetums has been nothing short of spectacular in the last 10 years. From feather grass (Giant Burgundy grass) to millet (‘Purple Majesty’ and ‘Jester’) to napier grass (‘Prince’ and ‘Princess’), these plants just keep getting better. 
 
All stood out in the gardens this year, but it was impossible to ignore the flags in this and the last winner: They were both stabbed to an inch of their lives. 
 
‘Fireworks’ provides a mélange of leaf color, vigorous (but not aggressive) growth and handsome flowers.
Pennisetum ‘Jade Princess.’ What an outstanding introduction. Even at Pack Trials, this one stood out. So I was anxious to see what it would do in the real world. 

It did not disappoint. Of all the plants in the garden, this plant from Ball Horticultural Co. received the most attention throughout the season. The chartreuse foliage combined with sterile dark flowers was an excellent combination, resulting in oohs, aahs and dozens of flags. In the interest of full disclosure, plants declined badly in September, both foliage and flowers falling apart. However, it provided immense pleasure when we needed it and I expect it to be around for some time. 

Leave a Reply

Latest Stories

May 30, 2016

Garden Communicators Conference In September Will Featu…

The 2016 GWA Annual Conference takes place Sept. 16-19 in Atlanta and also includes learning sessions covering horticulture, writing, and more.

Read More
Feature Image Cob 700 (NewLux)

May 29, 2016

Michigan State University Offering Summer Online Course…

The seven-unit course is aimed at greenhouse and ornamental plant growers who want to learn more about the fundamental concepts of how plants respond to light quality, quantity, and duration.

Read More
Sakata Birthday Cake Feature

May 28, 2016

10 Creative Marketing Ideas From 2016 California Spring…

Grower-retailers often look to breeders for ideas on how to increase plant sales with smart marketing plans. The California Spring Trials were filled with great concepts to reach customers.

Read More
Pollinator-friendly perennials are a big hit with eco-concious consumers

May 27, 2016

Which Pollinator Terms Appeal Most To Consumers?

A team from the University of Florida tested several promotional phrases, from the specific ("butterflies" and "bees") to more general.

Read More
Harvest Automation HV 100 Feature

May 27, 2016

Harvest Automation Robot Helps You Move Plants Without …

The Harvest Automation HV-100 robot units use lasers and sensors to handle some of the most labor-intensive tasks in the greenhouse.

Read More
National Garden Bureau California Vegetable Summer Trials

May 26, 2016

California Summer Vegetable Trials In August Will Cover…

The National Garden Bureau is once again organizing summer vegetables trials this August in California, giving attendees the opportunity to visit with several breeding companies.

Read More
IGC App For 2016 Shows

May 26, 2016

IGC Shows Release Free Apps To Help You Plan For Both T…

Free event planning apps for each show are now available for download in the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

Read More
SBI Rack Scanning feature

May 26, 2016

Take Your Data Management To The Next Level

New developments in software technology allow growers to customize inventory, tracking, and labor performance into systems unique to their greenhouse operations.

Read More
Eason 2017 Perennials Guide

May 25, 2016

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials G…

The two guides are available in digital and print versions and offer information from several breeders.

Read More
Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’

May 25, 2016

15 New Perennials For Bees, Butterflies, And Other Poll…

These 15 new perennials, available for retail in 2016 and 2017, will produce colorful flowers and foliage year after year, providing habitat and food for bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and other pollinators.

Read More
P.Allen Smith Cut Flowers

May 25, 2016

Sakata Seed America And P. Allen Smith Extend Partnersh…

Sakata is taking its partnership with plantsman P. Allen Smith a step further to create the P. Allen Smith Home Grown Cut Flowers Collection, a selection of premium cut flower seed hand-picked by Smith and bred exclusively by Sakata.

Read More
Triathlon BA container shot

May 24, 2016

OHP’s Triathlon Biofungicide Now Listed By The Organic …

Triathlon BA is a broad-spectrum preventative biofungicide that provides control of many foliar and soilborne diseases in ornamentals and herbs.

Read More
Costa Farms won International Grower of the Year. Representing the operation, (left to right) were Chuck Zala, Michael Vera, Menachem Ganon, Jose Costa, and Mike Rimland

May 24, 2016

AIPH Seeking Entries For Its International Grower of th…

The International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) is inviting ornamental growers from all around the world to enter the AIPH International Grower of the Year Awards (IGOTY) for 2017. Last year’s big winner was Florida-based Costa Farms.

Read More
Coleus Fancy Feathers Pink (Terra Nova Nurseries)

May 23, 2016

Take A Sneak Peek at Terra Nova Nurseries’ New Coleus F…

A brand-new collection of Terra Nova Nurseries coleus varieties called the Fancy Feathers Series is now available to growers for online orders. The series produces narrow, feather-like leaves and offers a mounded habit.

Read More
Gotham Greens Atrium Style Greenhouse Chicago

May 23, 2016

What’s Good For The Environment Is Good For Business [O…

Investing in technology to become more sustainable “always goes hand in hand,” says Abe VanWingerden, co-CEO of Metrolina Greenhouses. “If it is good for the environment, it normally is good for business over the long term.” That connection was abundantly clear in the responses we received to this year’s Top 100 Growers Survey. VanWingerden points to three investments Metrolina has made as good examples of how technology can reduce an operation’s carbon footprint and pay dividends financially. Its biomass system burns locally sourced waste wood — a renewable resource; its ozone water treatment system cleans irrigation water, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and improving plant quality and precision growing; and electrostatic sprayers reduce water and chemical use, and provide more targeted chemical applications. Other Top 100 Growers have found VanWingerden’s theory to be true, as well. Costa Farms’ investment in solar energy panels on three buildings at its […]

Read More

May 23, 2016

Ian Baldwin Sees Several Garden Trends Developing This …

The garden industry consultant reads the mid-spring tea leaves and sees several trends emerging.

Read More

May 23, 2016

Manhattan’s Urban Garden Center Suffers Second Di…

Two years after a nearby gas explosion destroyed the store in Manhattan's Spanish Harlem, Urban Garden Center had a four-alarm fire that disrupted a popular train route, and the garden retailer is now dealing with an angry community.

Read More
Aerial_view_of_the_Bayer_cross_high_res

May 23, 2016

Bayer Sells Consumer Garden Products Division To French…

The sale to SBM Développement comes just as Bayer AG makes a bid for Monsanto.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]