Annual Surprises And Perennial Favorites

The Trial Gardens at the University of Georgia host two open houses each year–one for the commercial industry and another for the gardening public. In my last column, I shared the overall annual favorites of the commercial industry and the gardening public. In this column, I share the annuals the industry and public surprisingly preferred, as well as the perennial favorites of both parties.

The Surprises

Plants that are not necessarily big sellers caught the public eye at the trial gardens this year and, in some cases, the industry’s eye as well. Here are some of the lesser-known varieties, but ones that often finished as top 10 vote getters when flagged by the industry or the public.

Mimulus ‘Curious Orange.’ This Proven Winners variety was the biggest surprise for me, as mimulus historically has done poorly in the South. It broke the public top 10, sporting dozens of flags. The industry doesn’t get it yet, as it was not chosen. Hopefully, the industry will come around in time.

Dahlia ‘Dark Angel Dracula.’ This was another breakthrough here in the South, where dahlias struggle with the heat. This GroLink dahlia was in the top 10 in industry voting, and it was also flagged by the public.

Bulbine ‘Compact Yellow.’ This GroLink variety was quite an eye catcher and ranked sixth overall by the public.

Pentas ‘Stars and Stripes.’ ‘Stars and Stripes,’ from Athens Select, was the talk of the pentas. Its variegated foliage and deep red flowers attracted the most flags by far.

Gomphrena ‘Audray Purple Red.’ This American Takii gomphrena was one of many excellent globe amaranths in the garden. Tough and dependable, this should be a mainstream plant.

Calibrachoas. The biggest surprise is that none was chosen by either group. This is a reflection of numbers–we have more than 75 cultivars–rather than quality. In fact, I believe people simply couldn’t make up their minds. In our minds, the breeding by Selecta First Class and Fides is ahead of the pack.

Begonias. As expected, none of the wax begonias caught the eyes of either group, although the Big series from Benary looks very good to us. However, free-range cultivars like ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Anna Fiele’ garnered significant flags. The popularity of these old mainstays bodes well for begonias like PanAmerican Seed’s ‘Gryphon.’

The others. Hemigraphis (waffle plant), Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata’ (variegated tapioca) and a few other oddball plants also garnered significant votes from both groups. Propagation issues dog the latter, but I’m not sure why we don’t see more of the former.

Perennial Favorites

In the summer, the annuals make the biggest splash but they are surrounded by perennials of every ilk in the trial gardens. I don’t think the industry folks paid much attention, but the public certainly did. Only a handful received significant flags, but with perennials, timing is everything.

The overall vote getter with the public was hydrangea ‘Limelight.’ It was in its full glory, and if this is not a wakeup call to be growing a few select woody plants as part of your mix, you have your head in the sand. Other perennial standouts were:

Rudbeckia ‘Henry Eilers.’ This is a relatively new cultivar from Terra Nova Nurseries that looks spectacular here in July and August. It shines later the further north you go. ‘Early Bird Gold’ from Dupont, which did well in the voting, is one of our favorites. Darwin’s ‘Pot of Gold’ was a favorite, too, but both were distant seconds to Henry.

Echinacea. We have more than 20 cultivars here, but the one in full flower when people were in the garden was Terra Nova’s ‘Firebird,’ one of our favorites, and Darwin’s ‘Pure Green Jewel,’ which I predict will quickly become a major player in the coneflower business. Order these now.

Phlox. Lots of phlox were on display but Syngenta Flowers’ ‘Peacock White’ and Darwin’s ‘Peppermint Twist’ were the big winners by the public. Nothing else came close. Neither was in flower when the industry was there.

Roses. The David Austin roses garnered many public votes. This is our first year with the Austins, so we are not yet ready to make any recommendations. However, the public absolutely loved ‘Lady Emma Hamilton.’ ‘Charlotte’ came in a close second.

Belamcanda ‘Hello Yellow.’ This Brent & Becky’s Bulbs blackberry lily has bright yellow flowers and, when in bloom, always catches the eye. It certainly did for the people in the garden.

Crinum ‘Bradley.’ This was hidden behind some larger plants but the public found it anyway. ‘Bradley’ has handsome pink flowers, is an easy grower and a variety gardeners will eat up.

Many more plants received flags, and if the events were held at a different time, I am sure different plants would have received more (or fewer) votes. There were very few “dogs” in the trials, but there is no doubt some plants are simply better than others in the heat and humidity of the UGA Trial Gardens. These are real data from real people under real landscape conditions. I hope they prove useful to you real growers and retailers.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The Gaillardia

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Annual Meeting Date

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
Evolvulus Blue My Mind

February 24, 2015

Blue Ribbon Bloomers For Greenhouse Production

Grow what consumers want! Surveys show that blue is one of the top preferred colors of today’s consumers. Here are twelve top recommended blue-flowering Proven Winners annuals and perennials to suit your spring production cycle.

Read More
Latest Stories
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More

February 18, 2015

California Spring Trials Sneak Peek: New Annuals For 20…

If you're like us and you can't wait until the 2015 California Spring Trials to see some of the new genetics that will be hitting the market in 2016, never fear. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out our slideshow to see some of the new annuals making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Athena Brazil Salvia 'Brazilian Purple'

February 18, 2015

ForemostCo And Athena Brazil Unite To Supply Unrooted P…

ForemostCo, Inc. and Athena Brazil have forged a working relationship to support each other in the unrooted perennial cuttings market for North America. The partnership, geared toward accommodating increasing demand for unrooted perennial cuttings in North America, adds diversity to a recently consolidated market.

Read More

February 17, 2015

Poinsettias Had Their Best Year In Many In 2014

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Growers were encouraged by high plant quality, enthusiastic shoppers and a stronger, less saturated market for poinsettias throughout the selling season. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish.

Read More
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

February 17, 2015

Geranium Hybrid ‘Biokovo’ Dubbed 2015 Peren…

Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo,' a naturally occurring hybrid of G. dalmaticum and G. macrorrhizum, is the Perennial Plant Association's top pick for 2015 Perennial of the Year. Learn why this tough, landscape geranium took home the prize.

Read More
Costa Farms' Season Premier 2015

February 4, 2015

Costa Farms’ 2015 Season Premier Reveals Newest V…

The annual Season Premier at Costa Farms in Miami, Fla., is the industry's very first peek at new varieties for debut the following year, even before the California Spring Trials, heralded widely as the jumping off point for new varieties. This year's event revealed breeders' best and brightest new varieties for 2016, shown in field trials, landscape trials and containers at Costa Farms tropical trial gardens. Plant breeders presented their new varieties to buyers and members of Lowe’s grower panel. Growers, brokers and other allied industry members, including Home Depot growers and buyers, were also able to peruse the grounds to see how the new varieties fared in the winter trials. Later this season, the hot and humid conditions at Costa’s summer trials will help identify the true performers.

Read More

January 28, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces Additional 2015 Winne…

All-America Selections has announced more 2015 AAS Winners, bringing the grand total of introductions for the 2015 gardening year to 25. The seven winners join the 12 announced last November and six announced last July. This year, AAS has had the most winners in one year since 1939.

Read More

January 28, 2015

Holiday Plant Trends And New Varieties

Growers had mixed feelings about the 2014 poinsettia season according to Greenhouse Grower's 2014 Poinsettia Survey. Read about their plans for 2015 and stay up to date on 14 of the newest cyclamen and poinsettia varieties on the market.

Read More

January 21, 2015

Pantone Marsala Plants To Grow In 2015 [Slideshow]

Marsala, an earthy wine-red color, is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2015, and it presents a great marketing opportunity to showcase Marsala-colored plants for outdoor and indoor decorating. Enjoy this round-up of plants with Marsala hues.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Liven Up Indoor And Outdoor Living With 24 New Tropical…

Uniquely colored foliage and vivid blooms are just two of the great features new tropicals and foliage plants add to energize indoor and outdoor spaces.

Read More

January 13, 2015

Take Purdue University’s Survey On Vegetatively P…

Do you have problems callusing or rooting vegetatively propagated perennials? The Purdue University Floriculture Lab would like to help you with these problems, but first the research team there needs your help.

Read More
Poinsettia 'Charon Red'

January 6, 2015

Dan Schantz Farm 2014 Poinsettia Trial Recap And 2015 D…

The 2014 Dan Schantz Poinsettia trials featured more than 170 poinsettia varieties. Here's a summary of the event, as well as a 2015 date for your calendar.

Read More

December 31, 2014

Engage Busy Consumers With Modern-Day Tropical And Foli…

Contemporary tropical and foliage plants fit right in with the hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century. Their versatility lends itself to countless uses both inside the house and out on the patio.

Read More

December 30, 2014

2015 California Spring Trials Are Just Around The Corn…

Are the California Spring Trials on your schedule for 2015? Before the busy growing season sidelines your plans, use this handy resource to get a jumpstart on registering for your trip.

Read More

December 29, 2014

Top 5 Slideshows Of 2014

These popular slideshows from 2014 highlight everything from new perennials, to new veggies, to California Spring Trials.

Read More

December 29, 2014

Suntory Makes Spirits Bright With Princettia Displays

Suntory Flowers started to introduce its varieties to sister company Beam Suntory by collaborating on a holiday interiorscape featuring Princettia at Beam Suntory's offices in Deerfield, Ill., near Chicago.

Read More

December 17, 2014

Small-Size Plant Varieties For Small-Scale Gardens [Sli…

Miniature and dwarf-sized varieties are perfect for containers, small-scale outdoor gardens and miniature gardening. See what breeders and growers have to offer in new varieties and past favorites.

Read More

December 17, 2014

Plant Ratings From 2014 Trials Now Available In Plant T…

Now that North American trial grounds have completed their 2014 trialing season, the National Plant Trials Database has more than 15,000 plant ratings for the horticulture industry’s use in planning for 2015.

Read More