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...
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 25, 2017

Kelly Norris: Diversity is the Key to Growing the Ornamental Grass Market

Offering a selection of ornamental grasses that cater to customer needs will keep sales from stagnating.

Read More

April 25, 2017

41 New Vegetative Petunias From California Spring Trials 2017: Northern Sites

With the abundance of new introductions for the 2018 retail season, we’ve made it easier for you to sift through them by separating out the vegetative petunias from the Northern sites, which includes selections from Westhoff Flowers, Sakata Ornamentals, Danziger, Proven Winners, and Syngenta flowers.

Read More
Begonia Spectre Silver Terra Nova Nurseries

April 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begonia Varieties

Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.

Read More
Latest Stories
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 25, 2017

Kelly Norris: Diversity is the Key to Growing the Ornam…

Offering a selection of ornamental grasses that cater to customer needs will keep sales from stagnating.

Read More

April 25, 2017

41 New Vegetative Petunias From California Spring Trial…

With the abundance of new introductions for the 2018 retail season, we’ve made it easier for you to sift through them by separating out the vegetative petunias from the Northern sites, which includes selections from Westhoff Flowers, Sakata Ornamentals, Danziger, Proven Winners, and Syngenta flowers.

Read More
Begonia Spectre Silver Terra Nova Nurseries

April 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases Two New, Attractive Begon…

Stardust is the latest addition to Terra Nova Nurseries’ existing T Rex Begonia series, and Silver is the first introduction to the company’s new Spectre Begonia series.

Read More

April 18, 2017

Cool Combos From CAST 2017 – Editor’s Choic…

With container gardening becoming more of a lifestyle among consumers than a trend, and breeders continuing to put more effort in container mixes and components, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't share some of the special combinations that not only caught my eye at California Spring Trials, but absolutely took my breath away and made me want to immediately get started gardening.

Read More
Danziger New Hires

April 16, 2017

Danziger Invests in Continued North American Business G…

As part of a new business structure for its North American market, Mike Fernandez has been appointed Market Manager North America for Bedding Plants and Perennials, and Kate Zvara was named as Key Account Manager and Retail Specialist.

Read More
Florida Flower Trials

April 12, 2017

Looking for Info on New Varieties for Hot Climates? Che…

The Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association’s Florida Flower Trials, which are focused on new and improved varieties able to thrive in the extremes of Florida’s climate, are a great opportunity to connect with national breeders.

Read More
Lupinus Staircase Series (Green Fuse Botanicals)

April 11, 2017

Begonias, Celosias Among Dr. Allan Armitage’s Favorites…

Check out some of Allan’s top picks from his final day at CAST 2017, which included visits to Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova.

Read More
Rex Begonia container mix at Green Fuse Botanicals

April 11, 2017

Green Fuse Botanicals’ Rex Begonias and First Looks; Fl…

Here are the highlights from Green Fuse Botanicals and Floranova on the last day of CAST 2017.

Read More

April 7, 2017

Hort Couture Wows With Farm to Table; Florist Holland R…

On the last day for GroLink and the second to last for the Greenhouse Grower team, the wealth of genetics, marketing programs, and announcements were pleasing to our eyes, ears, and hearts.

Read More

April 7, 2017

California Spring Trials Day Five: Notable New Plant Va…

See some of the new varieties for 2018 displayed at Ball Horticultural and GroLink Plant Company on day five of California Spring Trials 2017.

Read More

April 7, 2017

PanAmerican Promotes Pentas, Plug-and-Play, and Veggies…

On Day 5 of the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team hit the Southern California Trials and saw a multitude of new introductions and exciting programs.

Read More

April 7, 2017

CAST 2017: Musings of a California Spring Trials Rookie…

The number of opportunities presented to me are enough to make me rethink my location, but I still have a lot of big decisions to make for the future.

Read More

April 6, 2017

Dr. Allan Armitage’s Top Picks From Ball and GroL…

Here are Dr. Allan Armitage’s five variety picks, plus one display, from on Day 5 of CAST 2017.

Read More

April 6, 2017

Dümmen Orange Provides Retail Concepts; Terra Nova Offe…

Greenhouse Grower hit the Central Coast of California on our Day 4 of California Spring Trials, and what we saw was inspiring and exciting.

Read More

April 5, 2017

California Spring Trials Day Four: New Plant Intros fro…

The Greenhouse Grower team saw loads of memorable plants during day four, as it visited Dümmen Orange, Chisan Orchids, and Windmill Nursery. Dümmen had several notable introductions, including Wild Romance New Guinea impatiens in Blush Pink and White, which inspired the theme of its displays. One of the standout displays was its perennial combos with some new leucanthemum additions. Chisan Orchids in Los Alamos, CA, with Israeli breeders Hishtil, Jaldety, and Cohen Propagators, was a new stop on the route this year. Hishtil has a new gaura series out that includes a compact, low-growing variety, ‘Baby,’ with a mass of pink blooms. Cohen displayed Verbena ‘Mickey Red Rose,’ a unique bi-color that looks like a mixed combo, and Jaldety featured an interesting Cyperus prolifera. Windmill Nursery was the last stop of the day, with breeders Terra Nova Nurseries, Kientzler, J. Berry Nursery, and KiwiFlora. Terra Nova had several new heuchera for show, including ‘Onyx,’ which is a mounding, […]

Read More

April 5, 2017

CAST 2017: Musings of a California Spring Trials Rookie…

Set-aside all the varieties - I have come to the realization that being a grower is where I belong.

Read More

April 5, 2017

Dr. A’s Day Four Top Varieties for CAST 2017

Check out Dr. Allan Armitage's top five picks from visits to Dummen Orange, Chisan Orchids, and Windmill Nursery during day four of California Spring Trials 2017.

Read More

April 4, 2017

Dr. A’s Day Three Picks for CAST 2017

Take a look at Dr. Allan Armitage’s top five favorites from the American Takii, Sakata, and Floricultura stops during the 2017 California Spring Trials.

Read More