At Colorado State University, we were fortunate to continue our Annual and Perennial Trials in 2020 since we had already started the research when lockdowns first occurred. We had researched all seed varieties, and many vegetative varieties were potted from plugs at this time. We rely a lot on master gardener volunteers, and they were not permitted to volunteer due to many being in the more vulnerable age group. Therefore, we were not able to have any volunteers to help with the planting of plugs in the greenhouse. We scheduled planting days with student workers, faculty, and staff not normally involved with the trials to help with this planting. We were not allowed any master gardener volunteers until mid-June, and then only a few to help with planting the garden Students and faculty involved first hand with garden mainly did all the planting in 2020.
One challenge this summer was the extreme heat, with breaking records for many days almost throughout the month of August as well as very little to no rain during July and August. In early September, we had a 60-degree drop in temperature on September 8 with several inches of snow. We were not able to have a formal evaluation day or consumer day due to restrictions placed on by the University due to COVID-19. We did have an informal evaluation week with about 90-plus industry members evaluating plants, along with some advanced master gardeners. The garden performed exceptionally well despite these extreme weather conditions, with very little to almost no disease problems. Weeds were well kept under control throughout the entire season.
A couple plants that really impressed me this summer included:
- Bracteantha ‘Granvia Gold’ from Suntory Flowers: Flowers were large, along with plant size and abundant throughout the season.
- Coleus ‘Main Street Beale Street’ from Dümmen Orange: This is a multiple year winner due to rich, velvety burgundy leaf color with excellent vigor and a uniform growth habit.
- Petunia ‘Bee’s Knees’ from Ball Flora Plant: The two-tone yellow flower gave great flower power on vigorous well branched plants and great yellow flower color for a petunia.
Where We are Heading in the Future
We will continue to have field trials at our university setting for a real unbiased evaluation under our high light conditions and low humidity. Hopefully we will see some improvements in combo plant selections from major companies in the future.
Overall, given a pandemic and lack of volunteers, we had a great trial at Colorado State University. Here’s a closer look at some other highlights (check out the slideshow above as well).
- Best of Show: Dahlia ‘Lubega Dark Velvet’ from Benary+:
- Best Novelty: Colocasia ‘Heart of the Jungle’ from Proven Winners
- Best New Variety: Centaurea ‘Snowy Owl’ from Terra Nova Nurseries
- Best Container: Petunia ‘Bee’s Knees’ from Ball FloraPlant
2020 ‘Best Of’ Winners
Best of Show: Dahlia ‘Lubega Dark Velvet’ from Benary+: This was a ‘show stopper’ due to the strong contrast between the dark purple/velvet foliage and beautiful bicolor blooms. Plants were extremely attractive all by themselves with the dark foliage coloring and uniform compact growth habit. The prolific flowers were held high above the plants to create maximum show. Blooms had single petals which attracted many bees. Plants did not have having any sign of powdery mildew even late in the season.
Best Novelty: Colocasia ‘Heart of the Jungle’ from Proven Winners: This plant makes a dramatic statement to any landscape with its large, dark foliage. The impressive size and shape creates a very tropical and exotic appearance. It is grown for the beautiful foliage which makes a great structure plant in the garden. It does best in full sun.
Best New Variety: Centaurea ‘Snowy Owl’ from Terra Nova Nurseries: Unique silvery foliage made this plant a standout in the garden. Large, velvety leaves added an interesting textural element. The beautiful gray color made a great combination with other plants. It was highly visible in the garden and very uniform.
Best Container: Petunia ‘Bee’s Knees’ from Ball FloraPlant: The abundant flowers and great two tone yellow color provided exceptional flower power on very vigorous and well branched plants. It was noted for having the best yellow of any petunia in the trial. The color held up very well in the high light intensity of Colorado.
“Best Of…” by Class
Angelonia (container): ‘Serenita Pink’ from PanAmerican Seed: Masses of beautiful spikes of pink flowers filled the container while maintaining a very uniform appearance all season. The bicolor flowers were an attractive combination of pink with dark-burgundy eye.
Angelonia (ground): ‘Archangel Raspberry’ from Ball FloraPlant: Rosey-pink flowers were very abundant and made a very attractive show. They seemed to jump forward towards the viewer. Blooms were large and plants were of medium height. Uniform plants were described as having a good “roundy, moundy” growth habit. Overall, these plants had great vigor with very low maintenance.
Begonia (container, vegetative): ‘Dreams BK Collection Vermillion Red’ from Beekenkamp Plants: The intense red flowers almost glowed in the shade. The multiflora cluster of flowers gave the impression of a really large bloom. Plants were vigorous and had attractive dark-green foliage. This was a repeat winner from last year and noted as a dependable performer.
Begonia (container, semi-trailing, vegetative): ‘Solenia Red’ from Beekenkamp Plants: Plants were noted for its prolific blooming and gorgeous red flowers. It was described as being tough as nails for its ability to continually bloom throughout the heat of the summer. It looked great in a container but did well in the ground also.
Begonia (container, seed): ‘BIG Bronze Leaf Deep Rose’ from Benary+: Vigorous plants had large foliage and large blooms. The vibrant flower color popped exceptionally well in contrast with the deep bronze-green of the foliage. Plants were noted to have good uniformity.
Calibrachoa: ‘Cha-Cha Frosty Lemon’ from Ball FloraPlant: Large, bicolor flowers were a beautiful combination of soft primrose with a deep yellow throat. Plants featured good foliage and a nice tight growth habit. Vigorous plants produced abundant flowers and lots of color.
Celosia (container): ‘Sol Lizzard Leaf’ from Pan American Seed: This plant looked good both in the container and in the ground. The glossy foliage was unique and would look great in a mix combo container. Foliage was darker in full sun. Grown mostly for the foliage, the flowers were considered mostly a bonus, but they added considerable interest with unique crested shape.
Celosia (ground): ‘Bright Sparks Burgundy’ from Syngenta Flowers” The huge, rich-red flowers stood out from all the other celosias. Flower size and color was very impressive, but the prolific blooming added to the impressive show. Plants were uniform but also very attractive by themselves with very attractive burgundy foliage.
Coleus (container): ‘Main Street Beale Street’ from Dummen Orange: A multi-year winner due to its rich, velvety burgundy leaf color which provided color to the garden all season long. Plant vigor was excellent while also maintaining a very uniform growth habit. Flowers were virtually non-existent. Plants performed great in both the ground and containers.
Coleus (ground): ‘FlameThrower Cajun Spice’ from Ball FloraPlant: Foliage was noted for a “crazy” leaf pattern and a showy golden/green edge. Plants had controlled vigor that resulted in a very uniform growth habit. The overall appearance was very attractive, and plants did not have any flower spikes.
Combination: ‘Kwik Kombos Pink Lemonade Mix’ from Syngenta Flowers: The overall appearance of this combo was very vibrant. It was also impressive that all three components looked great together. Plants had good vigor and a good trailing habit over the side of the container. It was a dependable performer in past years as well as in 2020.
Dahlia: ‘Lubega Dark Velvet’ from Benary+: This was a ‘show stopper’ due to the strong contrast between the dark purple/velvet foliage and beautiful bicolor blooms. Plants were extremely attractive all by themselves with the dark foliage coloring and uniform compact growth habit. The prolific flowers were held high above the plants to create maximum show. Blooms had single petals which attracted many bees. Plants did not have having any sign of powdery mildew even late in the season.
Geranium (interspecific): ‘Calliope Large Dark Red’ from Syngenta Flowers: This was another dependable performer, as it has been a multi-year winner and still leads the pack. Flowers were a very impressive dark, rich shade of red with a lot of flower power. Plant had great vigor that were great in the landscape but also good for containers.
Geranium (zonal): ‘Super Moon Red’ from Selecta One: The rich-red flower color was a standout in that it did not wash out in the intense sunlight. Plants were very vigorous and uniform with an excellent overall appearance. Blooming was strong throughout the season. Foliage had nice zonation.
Impatiens: ‘Beacon White’ from PanAmerican Seed: Abundant, clear white blooms covered the plants which really brightened up a shady location. Dark-green foliage helped make the flower color even more bright. Plants had a very uniform growth habit and had the added plus of being disease resistant to downy mildew.
Lantana: ‘Hot Blooded Red’ from Syngenta Flowers: Vibrant flowers had at least three different colors that ranged from deep red to tangerine. Plants had a beautiful and uniform growth habit with abundant flowers on top of plant, producing a lot of flower power.
Lobelia: ‘Glow White Lightning’ from Danziger: Vigorous plants combined with prolific flowering that continued throughout the heat of a record setting summer. The abundant white blossoms were on plants that maintained great uniformity.
New Guinea Impatiens: ‘SunPatiens Vigorous Lavender Splash’ from Sakata: Dark-green foliage made a great flower to foliage contrast that helped make the lavender flowers really stand out. Plants were vigorous but maintained an attractive and uniform growth habit.
Pentas: ‘BeeBright Violet’ from Syngenta Flowers: Flowers lived up to their name with abundant violet flowers that were a favorite of the bees. Plants were noted to be superior due to uniform, compact growth habits and dark-green foliage.
Petunia (container, vegetative): ‘SuperCal Royal Red’ from Sakata: Blooms were a fantastic dark-cherry color which impressed the evaluators with stop-in-your-tracks flower power. Color was held even as the flowers faded. Plants were very vigorous and were well branched that resulted in an excellent growth habit.
Petunia (ground, vegetative): ‘ColorRush White’ from Ball FloraPlant: Large flowers were a good clean white color and very abundant. Plants were vigorous, uniform, and had excellent flower power.
Petunia (ground, seed): ‘Easy Wave Violet’ from PanAmerican Seed: Violet flowers covered vigorous plants that had a great spreading growth habit that resulted in a vibrant blanket of blooms. Plants held up well under adverse conditions and maintained good uniformity even with some shade.
Portulaca: ‘ColorBlast Double Orange *2’ from Westhoff: Showy flowers were noted for vivid shades of orange and double petals. Plants were vigorous and had excellent uniformity.
Salvia: ‘Mystic Spires’ from Ball FloraPlant: Dependable flowering and great growth habit made this a winner both in 2020 and in previous years. Vigorous plants were stately and upright with abundant dark purple flowers. Foliage was clean and glossy. This was another bee-friendly plant that was often buzzing with pollinators.
Scaevola: ‘Abanico Power Laguna Blue’ from Benary+: Plants had impressive vigor and produced large flowers that covered the plants. The showy, blue blooms held their color and were weather resistant. This entry was grown in a container but would work well in the ground.
Thunbergia: ‘Sunny Susy Yellow Dark Eye’ from Benary+: These vigorous plants made great climbers and were perfect for either a trellis or hanging basket. Flowers were a very vibrant lemon yellow with a nice dark-brown throat for added contrast.
Verbena (container): ‘Estrella Blueberry Improved’ from Westhoff: The big, blue flowers stood out against the dark foliage for an impressive overall appearance. The semi-trailing habit worked well in containers but would also do well in the ground. Plants were bred for mildew resistance and looked clean all season.
Verbena (ground): ‘EnduraScape White’ from Ball FloraPlant: Plants would be great for landscapes due to vigorous growth, large plants, and mammoth blooms. Showy, white blooms paired well with many other garden plants.
Vinca (container): ‘Valiant Pure White’ from PanAmerican Seed: Flowers lived up to their pure white name, and the large blooms created a lot of flower power. Plants were vigorous, well-structured and filled the container. The glossy, dark-green foliage made a good contrast with the white blooms.
Vinca (ground): ‘Virtuosa Lavender’ from Sakata: Plants were vigorous and produced abundant large, soft lavender flowers that had a white eye for added interest. The compact and uniform plants did well in the ground, but would probably also look great in a container.
Zinnia (container): ‘Preciosa Orange’ from American Takii: Bright, clear-orange flowers eventually faded to an attractive gold color but were fully double and very prolific. Plants were bred to be more compact with superior branching and they filled the container producing excellent flower power.
Zinnia (ground): ‘Magellan Orange’ from Syngenta Flowers: Large orange flowers were very prolific and very showy. Plants were vigorous, sturdy and did not lodge with overhead watering. Overall appearance was impressive with the vibrant color and uniform growth habit.