Top Performing Perennials

Rosa 'First Impression'

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 arebeing 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 Plants): 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 Plants): 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.  

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Top Performing Perennials

  1. Thanks for this list! I am passing it along to our plant buyers & growers at Homewood Nursery & Garden Center, Raleigh, NC.

More From Varieties...

April 1, 2015

Philadelphia Flower Show Draws More Than 250,000 Attendees With Disney Pixar Movie Theme

With more than 250,000 consumers attending the prestigious Philadelphia Flower Show in March each year, it's a great opportunity to get flowers and gardening products into the public eye. This year's show displays took on family favorites at the movies, with a focus on Disney and Pixar films. Check out some of the highlights in our slideshow.

Read More

April 1, 2015

Peace Tree Farms Grows Its Customer Base

Over the past five years, Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, Pa., has concentrated on growing its business by providing plant material for the displays at the illustrious Philadelphia Flower Show. We caught up with Peace Tree Farms’ Lloyd Traven to ask about how the Flower Show figures into his business plan.

Read More
protecting bees and pollinators video

March 31, 2015

New Video On Protecting Bees And Pollinators Educates Horticulture Industry Professionals

A new educational video that provides information on the horticultural industry’s essential role in bee and pollinator stewardship is one result of industry collaboration by the Horticultural Research Institute, AmericanHort, Society of American Florists and the American Floral Endowment. “Protecting Bees & Pollinators: What Horticulture Needs to Know,” narrates the current state of bee and pollinator health, provides information on factors that impact pollinators and the environment and underscores the beneficial role horticulture plays in providing healthy pollinator ecosystems.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 31, 2015

California Summer Vegetable Trials To Be Hosted By Nati…

Vegetable breeding companies will come together this August to host the Summer Vegetable Trials in California. Like the long-standing California Spring Trials that are held annually in California, attendees will have the opportunity to visit breeding companies' trial sites in seven locations throughout the state, from August 20-21, 2015. National Garden Bureau (NGB), the non-profit organization promoting gardening on behalf of the horticulture industry, is organizing and publicizing this event on behalf of its members.

Read More

March 25, 2015

13 New Shrubs You’ll Find At The 2015 California …

Woody ornamentals serve as the foundation of many great landscapes, but beyond their traditional uses, shrubs also add color, structure, texture and interest to small gardens and even containers. Check out this slideshow to see some of the newest introductions you’ll get to see at this year’s California Spring Trials.

Read More

March 23, 2015

Update To Armitage’s Greatest Perennials & Annuals …

A new update to the Greatest Perennials & Annuals app narrows the gap between consumers and grower-retailers, while providing more of Armitage’s top picks and growing advice for success with plants.

Read More
2014 Poinsettia Season Report

March 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Seas…

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. 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. Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Survey received 143 responses from growers around the country. Here, you can download the complete results of the survey, by filling out the form.

Read More
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer BloomStruck' from Bailey Nurseries

March 17, 2015

Michael Dirr Slated To Address Attendees At Hydrangeas …

Dr. Michael Dirr to deliver the keynote address at Hydrangeas 2015 conference, hosted by the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society in partnership with Endless Summer Hydrangeas. The conference will take place at the historic Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, Mass.

Read More

March 17, 2015

16 New Blooming Potted Plants You’ll See At The 2…

Blooming potted plants are perfect gift items, and they put the finishing touch on any style of home decor. So when new varieties come on the market, growers and retailers alike take note of plants they know are going to make consumers happy. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new blooming potted plants making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Salvia 'Ember's Wish'

March 11, 2015

Annual Salvias – Not Just Red Bedding Plants Anym…

Salvias are popular — and they need not all be the same. Here are a few you know well, and perhaps a few you do not. All are easy to grow and may be found through a broker or grower.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

March 11, 2015

Memoirs Of A Plantsman: Q & A With Allan Armitage

In light of the upcoming release of Dr. Allan Armitage's memoir, "It’s Not Just About the Hat — The Unlikely Journey of a Plantsman," Greenhouse Grower caught up with him for an in-depth Q & A about his newest work and what he’s planning next.

Read More

March 10, 2015

How To Determine When To Buy Herbaceous Perennials In V…

Exposing herbaceous perennials to cold temperatures, also known as vernalization, can yield a range of effects, especially on flowering. Beth Engle of SHS Griffin covers whether vernalized liners or unvernalized plants make the best sense for your sales windows.

Read More

March 4, 2015

California Spring Trials Preview: 32 New Perennials For…

Perennials are hot and if this preview of the 2015 California Spring Trials is any indication, there are going to be some great new perennial introductions for 2016. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new perennials making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years …

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
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