Top Performing Perennials

Sedum 'Lemon Ball'

Athens is known as The Classic City of the South. Many of you have visited this lovely college town. The Classic City awards are based on garden performance over the entire season in the Gardens at The University of Georgia (UGA), where spring is glorious, and summers are hot, often dry and rather miserable.

Every year we discuss, we debate, and we fight over the best plants in the garden. Well, not really, because the best plants, like cream, seem to rise to the top. When I ask my team (Meg, BJ or the student workers) what plants they think have performed the best over the entire year, we tend to agree.

Choosing perennials is a little different than choosing annuals. Few perennials flower all season long, but we do not select one-week wonders; and if they are not flowering, the foliage should not detract from the plant. We try to choose mainstream bedding plants as well as a few off-the-wall plants that should be grown more. However, this year for the first time, we have included landscape roses in our bag of perennials. They seem to be neglected by everyone other than rose growers, so let’s get off the pot — they are perennial and they are being grown alongside other herbaceous perennials.

You will agree with some our choices and disagree with others. Regardless, get them on the shelf so the consumer can have a fair chance of success. These are presented in no particular order.

Rosa ‘First Impression’ (Greenheart Roses): I cannot tell you how impressed everyone is with this rose. We received it last year and knew nothing about it. The foliage is glossy green, absolutely bulletproof for disease, and it flowered and flowered and flowered. The vibrant yellow blossoms caught the eye of all who passed by and simply would not be ignored. Some people do not like the “quilling” of the flowers as they mature, but that’s like not liking an ice cream cone because it melts. It’s a great plant.

Rosa ‘SunRosa Red’ (Suntory): I was very pleased to see a rose program develop from one of best flower breeders. Suntory unveiled two colors (yellow and red) in this dwarf rose series at the California Spring Trials in April. I was taken with their retail-friendly size and wanted to evaluate leaf health and flower power in the very challenging heat and humidity of Athens. ‘SunRosa Red’ was glorious, and even though it was considerably smaller than all other roses we were grading, the plants more than held their own. And, here it is — on our most prestigious award list. Need I say more? This rose has healthy foliage, a short stature (12 to 15 inches tall) and flowers all season. It’s a real winner.

Helleborus ‘Pink Frost’ (Heuger Trading Co.): Without doubt, the breeding of hellebores has changed dramatically in the last five years. With dozens of flowers standing erect above the leaves, handsome foliage and heat and cold tolerance, the new breed of hellebores will make major inroads to the hellebore market that is already established in this country. We have trialed more than 50 new hellebores in the Trial Gardens, and ‘Pink Frost’ is outstanding. There are many others behind it, but I expect this cultivar to be important for many years to come.

Lavandula ‘Silver Anouk’ (Darwin Perennials): Lavender seems to fit in everywhere, as an herbal favorite and an outstanding companion plant in the landscape, to its use in perfumes and oils. We have trialed many fine lavenders at UGA, looking for one that will flower well and, more importantly, maintain its habit and clean foliage throughout the season. In hot, humid climates, that is not an easy find. ‘Silver Anouk’ does all those things brilliantly and provides the added bonus of silvery foliage, a characteristic that sets it apart on the retail shelf and the garden bed.

Echinacea Sombrero series (‘Hot Coral,’ ‘Solero’) (Darwin Perennials): A lot of press has been generated extolling the virtues of these plants. I have been one of the extollers and do so again, with pleasure. So many echinaceas are so much better now than even five years ago, and it is increasingly difficult to find any that stand out. These two do. Their compact habit, reasonably healthy foliage and ability to initiate vibrant flowers for a long period of time puts them on this list.

Sedum ‘Lemon Ball’: What a wonderful surprise this turned out to be. As a potted plant in the spring, these absolutely flew off our shelves during our plant sales. The chartreuse foliage and the vigorous habit simply attracted eyes and wallets — all plants were gone in an hour. In the garden, they simply grew bigger and produced a round, shimmering ball of leaves. Flowers formed but are definitely secondary. I am not sure of the breeder; we obtained plants from James Greenhouses in Bogart, Ga., and they are part of the Treadwell Program from Perennial Farm, Md.

Dianthus ‘Garden Spice Fuchsia’ (Fides Oro): Over the years, we have trialed more than 50 different dianthus, all touted as being better than the one before. Some were, most were not. The Garden Spice series has always been one of our highest-rated groups of plants, year in and year out. The silver-gray foliage and the handsome double flowers in many colors should be the number-one choice for growers, retailers and landscapers who include dianthus in their plant selection. ’Garden Spice Pink’ has earned this award before; ‘Garden Spice Fuchsia’ is just as good.

Hibiscus ‘Royal Gems’ (Fleming’s Flower Fields): The perennial hibiscus are slowly going through a transition, from large-flowered big plants to large-flowered compact forms. Big flowers are selling points, but while many of the hibiscus we have trialed are stunning, they simply are too big to ensure repeat sales. I believe there is a tsunami of more compact material in breeder pipelines, but right now, ‘Royal Gems’ is quite exceptional. The dark-green foliage enhances the beautiful rose-pink blooms, and while the flowers are indeed large, they appear even bigger because of the compact size of the plant. People stopped, asked about it and admired. Without doubt, all perennial hibiscus have problems — still a little too large, not sufficient breaking, insect problems — but heck, what would breeders do without problems to solve? ‘Royal Gems’ will soften the criticism of this fine plant; give it a try.

Heuchera ‘Georgia Peach’ (Terra Nova): Having trialed way too many coralbells in the last 10 years, we were a wee bit leery of another onslaught, which we knew was just around the corner. However, we have been in love with ‘Caramel’ and a few others for a number of years, and then ‘Georgia Peach’ came along. We have evaluated this cultivar for nearly three years, and it has risen to the top of the heuchera basket. Everyone comments on it in the spring; it is reasonably handsome in the summer, and if temperatures don’t get too cold and there isn’t too much snow, it can look very good in winter. Regardless, in the pot, there is a shopper-stopper. Congratulations to Terra Nova.

Gaura ‘Belleza Dark Pink’ (Darwin Plants): Gauras are always a tough sale — plants often grow too leggy, don’t flower when needed and get lost in the landscape. There are some fine gauras; however, nothing eye-popping has come forward lately. We are pleased to sing the praises of ‘Belleza Dark Pink.’ We noticed how the plant kept flowering all season, with a gentle haircut to help it along. Plants are not dwarf, but nor are they out of control. The flower color is rich and foliage is healthy. If a new gaura is on your list, take a close look at this one.

Coreopsis ‘Solanna Golden Crown’ (Danziger): The common tickseed (C. grandiflora) is hard to get excited about. Not that growers don’t appreciate the rapid growth and first-year flowering, and not that gardeners and landscapers don’t appreciate the bright colors, but they usually disappoint by the end of the season, and are seldom “perennial.” We have looked at the Solanna series for a couple of years, and ‘Golden Crown’ has been impressive. It made this list because it’s early flowering, tough, has bright, big, double flowers and reasonable foliage. For a common tickseed, that is a feat to be proud of.  If it looks good next year (year three), I will shout its name to the heavens. GG

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New Markets

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Innovation Day

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strategy

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Allan Armitage At Tradeshow

May 15, 2015

Allan Armitage On Plants: We Are Alive And Well, Thank …

Allan Armitage tells why the horticulture industry is about the people, not the plants, not the marketing and not the social media, and why horticulture is here to stay.

Read More
Coleus-Campfire-BallFloraPlant

May 6, 2015

Costa Farms Releases 2015 Midseason Top Performers

Costa Farms has announced the mid-season top performers in its 2015 Season Premier Trial Garden. Its research and development team has been working to grow and evaluate hundreds of varieties and their findings have been published online.The plants presented in the report have thrived in Miami’s mid-spring conditions. Every spring, the company’s research and development team trials more than 500 varieties of annuals, perennials and tropical plants from plant breeders around the world. All of the varieties have been tested in Costa Farms’ 2-acre Season Premier Trial Garden in Miami, Fla. The team assesses the plants for abundance of bloom, crop uniformity and overall performance. Within the report, the varieties are organized by their color. “There’s one thing pretty much everyone who shops has in mind when they step into a garden center: color,” the report states. Because of that, the report is divided by hue, so everyone can zero in on their favorite. Click here to […]

Read More

May 1, 2015

18 New Grasses To Grow

Ornamental grasses fit in with the needs of today’s landscapers and consumers better than ever. Whether your customers are looking for creative solutions for patio containers or a mass planting in a landscape, some of the 18 new varieties included here are sure to meet the need.

Read More
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific …

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, H…

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
Danziger_Coreopsis_Solanna Glow1

April 22, 2015

Industry Perspective: McHutchison’s Vaughn Fletch…

Vaughn Fletcher with McHutchison Horticultural Distributors is part of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence For Industry’s Choice Panel. Fletcher recounts some of the standout varieties he saw while visiting Danziger "Dan" Flower Farms and Beekenkamp during California Spring Trials.

Read More
Lomandra-Platinum-Beauty-Ball

April 22, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds A Lot To Love On His Last Day At T…

On the last day of the 2015 California Spring Trials, Allan Armitage and the Greenhouse Grower team visited three stops that accounted for 12 breeding companies. From annuals and perennials to herbs and strawberries, Armitage found plenty to get excited about.

Read More
Viola 'Yellow Purple Wing'

April 21, 2015

Benary Combines Fun Marketing Ideas With Strong New Pla…

It's no surprise that Benary, which built its company on begonia breeding more than 100 years ago, still has a magical touch when it comes to the genus. Two standouts among a field of great introductions were begonias.

Read More
Syngenta CAST 2015

April 21, 2015

Syngenta’s Getting Crafty With Containers

Containers seem to be the name of the game for Syngenta, perhaps because the company knows that the consumer garden of today and of the future is on the deck. From Kwik Kombos to veggies, Syngenta’s California Spring Trials display provided a variety of options and information that growers and retailers can use to drive consumer success. Bengal is a new series of F1 seed gerberas in six classic colors. The big brother to the popular Jaguar gerbera series, Bengal gerberas have a larger flower but remain compact in containers, and they’re ideal for six-inch and larger pots. The grandiflora F1 hybrid Tritunia series is a compilation of genetics from three different petunia lines, to allow Syngenta Flowers to declutter the market and growers to simplify their orders. Tritunia is available in 20 colors and three mixes. Kwik Kombos, Syngenta’s line of mixed containers, is a big deal for the breeder and […]

Read More
Danziger CAST 2015

April 21, 2015

Danziger Highlights The Best Of Its 2016 New Variety In…

After a long day during California Spring Trials (CAST), Vice President of Marketing Chanochi Zaks highlighted the cream of the crop among Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm’s new varieties. Check out the slideshow to see the 10 varieties that CAST attendees were most excited about.

Read More

April 20, 2015

Three Michigan State University On-Demand Webinars Offe…

The first rule of effective insect and disease control for vegetables is to take action to prevent problems before they occur. But in order to do that, you need to have an effective pest and disease management strategy in place that incorporates best practices to ensure a successful outcome. Michigan State University offers three pest and disease management on-demand webinars that will get you started and keep you on the right track.

Read More
PW_Sakata_CAST15-4

April 20, 2015

Sakata’s Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ Steals The Show In S…

Since January, when I first saw celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ in the landscape at Costa Farms’ Season Premier, I knew it looked like a great plant that would garner some serious attention. And sure enough, up and down the trials road, people were talking about Sakata’s hot new introduction. Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ is a seed-propagated, plume-type celosia that is said to actually perform better with less fertilizer and water. If it’s fed too much, its dark leaves lose their reddish-purple coloring and turn green, and by restricting water, it tends to bloom more. It tends to be a more vigorous plant than other plume-type celosias, and its large blooms are quite attractive. Sakata also introduced a new series of African Marigolds. Proud Mari comes in Orange, Yellow and Gold, and has huge, fist-sized flowers that bloom vigorously. New colors in SuperCal petunias are L.A. Yellow and Pink, and they are fabulous additions […]

Read More

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plant…

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winn…

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Gazania hybrid 'Amber Ice' (Cultivaris)

April 17, 2015

The 80/20 Theory Approach To Inventory Selection Is Put…

Tim Runte of Calloway Gardens is a member of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Here, he shares how he determines which plants shown at this year's California Spring Trials will make the cut at his retail stores.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Trends At California Spring Trials: AmericanHort’…

Michael Geary, CEO and president of AmericanHort, hit the road during California Spring Trials, and noted trends he saw at many of the stops. Here's one that he says we'll need to consider carefully.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Golden State Bulb At Spring Trials Has Great Appeal For…

While Golden State Bulb is a smaller stop at California Spring Trials, it’s always a treat. You not only get to see less common plants like calla lilies and eucomis, you also get to meet the passionate breeders who developed the plants you’re seeing. For plant geeks, this is a fun stop. First up, the Aloha Lily series of pineapple lily or eucomis was introduced last year, and a new variety, the dark red Kona, joined the lineup. The team at Golden State would like to see this sweet-scented series treated much like orchids by consumers. Like orchids, Aloha Lily does well in low light and has blooms that last two to three months. Now that homeowners have grown accustomed to having orchids, it just may be time to test which other long-flowering plant they would be willing to embrace. Golden State would like to see consumers approach callas in a […]

Read More
PW_calibrachoa_holy moly1

April 17, 2015

Proven Winners Shows Off Its Newest Plant Rock Stars At…

With its wide assortment of plants, great presenters and an amazing location atop a hill at a spa/resort, Proven Winners is a can’t-miss stop during California Spring Trials. The Greenhouse Grower team first visited with Proven Winners’ nursery partner, Spring Meadow, where we got to see the new shrub introductions. Shrubs Proven Winners has two new hydrangea series. The Let’s Dance series is third generation breeding and boasts strong reblooming and a compact habit. The new mountain hydrangea, ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff,’ is another rebloomer and grows to 1.5- to 2-feet tall. Its leaves take on a purple hue when they encounter cool night temperatures. The attractive new Gem Box ilex, an ink berry holly, is suggested as a boxwood replacement for those areas being hit with boxwood blight. It grows to 2- to 4-feet tall and takes full to part sun, but cannot take full shade the way boxwoods can. Spring Meado Nursery  is […]

Read More