Classic City Awards For Annuals

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Classic City Awards For Annuals

The Classic City Awards are presented in November after months of evaluation in The Gardens at UGA. Of the thousands of species and cultivars, only a few performed well enough all season to earn the coveted award. Plants are evaluated on foliage quality, flowering performance, disease and insect resistance, and most of all on the ability to sustain landscape performance through heat, humidity, drought, rain, open houses and fall football games.

All evaluations are based on a rating of 1-5, with a 5 being excellent. The plants must have extraordinary flowers or foliage that caught the eye over the season, and in general, received a final grade of at least 4.5 out of 5.0 in the final tallies. We awarded 10 winners in annuals and 10 in perennials.

Geranium ‘Calliope Dark Red’

Every year, we receive about 60 new geraniums to trial, and often, it is difficult to get excited about one more red geranium. In general, most zonals struggle in the heat of the summer, although ivies fare considerably better. Last year, we awarded Caliente, the first of the ivy-zonal hybrid series, this award. This year we are proud to do the same with its cousin, ‘Calliope Dark Red.’

In a hanging basket, it performed well all season. It pulled away from the ivy leaders with its persistent color and quality in the ground beds, where it outshone its zonal competitors with brilliant dark red color, persistent dark foliage and season-long performance.

Begonia ‘Ikon Blush White’

Every year we receive “surprises,” that is plants that quietly catch our eye every time we pass them. These are also plants that are a bit hidden in The Gardens yet when pointed out, you wonder how you missed it.

Such was the case of ‘Ikon Blush White.’ The soft light green leaves contrasted with blushes of pink and white from the flowers. It was always in flower and we never did see any problems with the foliage. We trialed plants in a basket and a container, and both performed wonderfully.

Scaevola ‘Surdiva White’

Suntory has always been on the cutting edge of new introductions, and its fan flowers have always impressed us. In the heat and humidity of the Southeast, good fan flowers are important. Last year, we presented ‘Cajun Blue’ this award. This year, we have a non-blue fan flower we can get excited about.

The Surdiva series was particularly eye catching this year, and ‘Surdiva White’ won hands down. There were many excellent blues, but having a white scaevola we could use in combination plantings made all the difference.

Purple Flash capsicum
Capsicum ‘Purple Flash’

Capsicum ‘Purple Flash’

During our open houses in June, we asked industry visitors and consumers alike to flag the plants that caught their eye. With incredible color, impressive vigor and knock-your-socks-off gaudiness throughout the garden, we were more than a little surprised when, at the end of the days, the most flags had been stuck in this planting.

Actually, we weren’t surprised long, because as we studied it more and more, the beautiful multicolored foliage, the good flowers and the dark fruit just kept looking better. The disease-resistant foliage and its easy-to-maintain dwarf habit sealed the deal.

Coleus ‘Henna’

Coleus, coleus, coleus, have we not petunia-ed these things to death yet? The answer is a resounding no, and it seems even better ones arrive each year. We had many fine coleus this season, and it was hard to pick one that was significantly better than others.

However, visitors were ooh-ing and aah-ing over this one throughout the season, even when we cut it back in late July. It is hard to describe how many and what colors are part of the leaves, but henna is one of them, to be sure. The foliage was not the least bit intimidated by the heat, humidity and full sun in The Gardens.

Diamond Heart colocasia
Colocasia ‘Diamond Heart’

Colocasia ‘Diamond Head’

During and after the Pack Trials this year, so much fuss was made over this group of plants bred by Dr. John Cho at the University of Hawaii that we had to have them. Thanks to our colleagues at James Greenhouse down the road, we obtained the entire series in June. They took a little while to get up to speed, but they soon became the foliage beacons in The Gardens. While they were all good, ‘Diamond Head’ was spectacular.

This is not a plant for in front of the front door, as it soon was 5 feet tall and equally wide. What impressed everyone was the deep black shiny foliage that stood up on its own, seldom falling over as taros are want to do.

Angelonia ‘Serena White’

We have trialed many angelonias over the years. They have all had some positive characteristics. However, few have rivaled the exceptional performance of ‘Serena White.’ The plants reached a maximum height of 15 to 18 inches and remained in a tight clump throughout the season.

‘Serena White’ blooms the entire summer without any downtime as seen in other cultivars. The plants were completely covered in clean, pure white flowers for months earning it this coveted award.

Acalypha ‘Bronze Pink’

For a second year, we have been enamored with acalypha ‘Bronze Pink.’ From the minute we laid eyes on it, we and all visitors were in love. The plant grew to approximately 5 feet in height, but was no behemoth. Large florescent pink and burgundy leaves graced the purple stems, withstanding any weather thrown its way.

Sunpatiens Vigorous Coral
‘SunPatiens Vigorous Coral’

‘SunPatiens Vigorous Coral’

Not too long ago, the thought of planting New Guinea impatiens in the full blazing sun was absurd. However, with Sakata’s excellent breeding and intense selection under hot, bright conditions, these plants have lived up to their billing. All of the SunPatiens series provided outstanding performance in full sun, and all could have been presented this award.
We chose ‘Vigorous Coral’ because of its exceptional ornamental value and slightly better performance. We loved the variegated foliage that complimented the deep coral blooms so well. ‘SunPatiens Vigorous Coral’ will stop you in its tracks, demanding a second look.

Petunia ‘Red Ray’

It is difficult to find a petunia that stands above others because of the sheer numbers being trialed and the improvement in all petunias in general. Petunias had more than a few problems in the garden this year, but several cultivars performed particularly well in spite of the heat, humidity and soil problems.

In particular, Danziger’s ‘Red Ray’ was outstanding. Throughout the summer, ‘Red Ray’ flowed out of its container, spilling hundreds of real red flowers for all to admire. While other petunias waned, ‘Red Ray’ withstood our climate admirably.

Allan Armitage (allan@greenhouse grower.com) is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

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