Petunias, Angelonias and Hibiscuses

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It’s summer at the Trials Gardens at UGA and there are plenty of plants on which you can feast your eyes. But while we’re strolling through the gardens, let’s take a look at some of the highlights this year in petunias, verbenas and hibiscuses.

Petunias

There are probably more than 150 petunias here in Georgia. Among the top-performing petunias are:

- ‘Suncatcher Pink Lemonade’

- ‘Purple Vein Ray’

- ‘Surprise Black Jack’

- ‘Potunia Yellow’

- ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’

- ‘Whispers Red’

I’ve always enjoyed Danziger’s ‘Sun Ray,’ but I’m also impressed with ‘Purple Vein Ray’–especially as a container combination like the one UGA planted with Floranova’s ‘Field of Dreams’ ornamental corn.

‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ from Proven Winners works well with other plants in containers, too. In the trial gardens, I tried ‘Vista Bubblegum’ with ‘Twisted Dart’ juncus this year and it’s performing wonderfully. Syngenta Flowers’ Whispers series has a number of fine petunias, as well. The more I walk around, the more I notice ‘Whispers Red.’ But there are many other fine selections in the series.

The black petunia phase may be nearing a close, but I’m still impressed with the newest black petunia on the market: ‘Surprise Black Jack.’ Without a doubt, Dömmen’s Black Jack has been the best black petunia this spring. We have all been most impressed with its performance in the garden so far this year.

Dömmen’s Potunias have been a hit this year, as well. Papaya and Yellow are both outstanding. Their bright flowers are perfect with other combinations in containers.

But perhaps the most spectacular petunia has been Ball FloraPlant’s ‘Suncatcher Pink Lemonade.’ It’s looking beautiful here in combination with ‘Black Pearl’ pepper. Everyone looks at it.

Angelonias

We’re trialing 20-plus angelonias this summer and they’re in full bloom. There are, however, a handful of angelonias that stand out from the pack. They are:

- ‘Alonia Blue’

- ‘Archangel Blue’ and Pink

- ‘Carita Purple’ and Raspberry

- ‘Serena Pink’

- ‘Sungelonia White’

There are at least a dozen flags from our public open house in Syngenta’s ‘Carita Purple.’ This is by far the most outstanding summer snapdragon in the trials, and it has been for weeks.

‘Alonia Blue’ from Danziger has also been outstanding and was a winner last year, as well. Another great blue is Ball’s ‘Archangel Blue,’ which is taller than the other two but flowering well and worthy of my recommendation.

For a pink, ‘Archangel Pink’ has caught my eye, although ‘Serena Pink’ is also doing well. People really enjoy the color of ‘Carita Raspberry.’ It is quite different. Plants seem to stand out, but its habit is a little lanky and, if not for the unique color, would not be on this list. ‘Sungelonia White’ from Suntory Flowers is the best white in the trials at this point.

Hibiscuses

Fifteen or more hibiscuses are in the trial gardens, but again there are several standouts. They are:

- ‘Peppermint Schnapps’

- ‘Brandy Punch’

- ‘Carafe Bordeaux’

- ‘Cranberry Punch’

- ‘Royal Gems’

I love ‘Peppermint Schnapps’ with its handsome pink flowers lined with darker pink veins. It easily grows five feet tall. ‘Brandy Punch’ also has wonderful large pink flowers. It’s not as tall as ‘Peppermint Schnapps’ but can still reach four feet. The dark centers make a lovely contrast with the petals.

Two handsome dwarf selections are ‘Carafe Bordeaux’ and ‘Cranberry Punch.’ I love them both, and neither grows taller than three feet. However, the plant that has blown everybody away with its extra-large flowers is ‘Royal Gems.’ The flowers are the largest I have ever seen–as big as a satellite dish or perhaps two dinner plates. Unbelievable!

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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