Best In Show: 2012 Field Trials Results

Best In Show: 2012 Field Trials Results

Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit'

The plants that came through this season’s trials still looking like winners are truly tough. With record-setting temperatures and drought conditions ranging from mild to severe throughout much of the country, new varieties were thoroughly tested.
We asked trial managers from around the country to send us their top performers, as well as the weather conditions during the trial period. Fifteen responded, and the results are shared below.


We did not receive results from any trials in the Northeast or Pacific Northwest. While not every new plant was trialed in every garden, a few cultivars made it onto more than one list of best performers.

Two coleus, Plectranthus ‘Chocolate Covered Cherry’ and P. ‘ColorBlaze Marooned’ were among these, as well as Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice,’ Evolvulus ‘Blue My Mind’ and Begonia ‘Whopper Red With Green Leaf’ and B. ‘Whopper Red With Bronze Leaf.’

The one perennial that made multiple lists was Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit,’ which received the 2013 All-America Selection Flower Award. Several series performed well in multiple trials: angelonia Serenita, catharanthus Cora, verbena Temari, lobularia Stream, petunia Surfinia, geranium Caliente, geranium Calliope, verbena Lanai, plectranthus Under the Sea (coleus)and the petunia Potunia series.
There were many other outstanding performers, varying by region. We’ve included a summary here. For complete trial details and photos, visit

Mid-Atlantic And Southeast

Trial managers from Louisiana to North Carolina reported exceptionally hot conditions with many days over 100°F. Rainfall was adequate, except there was too much of a good thing when Hurricane Isaac came through.

Lucas Greenhouses, Monroeville, N.J.
Lucas mainly trials vegetative varieties from Syngenta, along with a few seed-grown varieties and introductions from other companies. In 2012 Lucas tested more than 200 varieties.

Favorite Series
■ Pelargonium Calliope series (geranium)
■ Pelargonium Caliente series (geranium)
■ Catharanthus Cora series (vinca)
■ Begonia Big series
■ Impatiens Sunpatiens series
■ Lantana Santana series

Best in Show
Pelargonium ‘Calliope Hot Rose’ (geranium)
Catharanthus ‘Cora Red’ (vinca)
■ New Kwik combo – Bandana Lemon Meringue Mix
■ New Kwik combo – Bandana Lemon Squeeze Mix

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn.
The University of Tennessee has two trial sites, allowing them to evaluate varieties in the eastern and western climates within the state. This year, 250 annuals and 25 perennials were trialed.

Best in Show
■ Angelonia ‘Serenita Lavender Pink’

Top Performers
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Dreamsicle’
Capsicum ‘Chilly Chili’
Celosia ‘Arrabona’
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
Evolvulus ‘Blue My Mind’
Hibiscus ‘Peppermint Schnapps’
Lobularia ‘Blushing Princess’
Verbena ‘Temari Cherry Red’
Zinnia ‘Uptown Whitewall’

University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.
Trial supervisor Meg Green says she plants as many of each cultivar as they can, often putting plants in multiple locations. While the region had adequate rainfall, it also suffered through weeks of 100°F+temperatures.

Best in Show
Lobularia ‘Lavender Stream’
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’
■ Clerodendrum ‘Starshine’
Pelargonium ‘Caliente Orange’ (geranium)
Impatiens ‘Sunpatiens Electric Orange’

Top Performers
Begonia ‘Baby Wing White with Bronze Foliage’
Plectranthus ‘ColorBlaze Marooned’ (coleus)
Calibrachoa ‘Mini Famous iGeneration Orange’
Calibrachoa ‘Lindura Light Blue’
Begonia ‘Ikon Bronze’
Petunia ‘Sanguna Light Blue’
Petunia ‘Peppy Lavender’
■ Caladium ‘Blushing Bride’
Plectranthus ‘Honey Crisp’ (coleus)
■ Mixed petunia basket ‘S4 Combo’

JC Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, N.C.
The arboretum trials nearly 600 varieties, and like much of the country, experienced a very hot summer. Unlike much of the country, excessive rain was also an issue, with more than 8 inches falling in July alone. The arboretum listed many top performers — for the complete list go to 2012.

Top Performers
In the ground
■ Petunia Supertunia series
Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’
Euphorbia ‘Star Dust White Flash’
■ Lantana Bandana series
Mecardonia ‘Gold Dust’
Capsicum ‘Loco’
■ Ipomoea Illusion series
Angelonia ‘Serenita White,’ ‘Serenita Lavender Pink’
Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket’

In containers
Calibrachoa ‘Mini Famous iGeneration Orange’
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Dreamsicle’
Impatiens ‘Sunpatiens Compact White Improved’
Catharanthus ‘Cora Cascade Strawberry’ (vinca)
Scaevola ‘Bombay Dark Blue’
Heliotropium ‘Scentropia Dark Blue’
■ Mixed container – Kwik Kombo Night in Pompeii mix

Costa Farms, Miami, Florida
Costa’s trial ran from November 2011, to June 2012. The highest average monthly temperature was 84°F with an average of 80 percent humidity and rainfall of 22 inches over that period.

Top Performers
■ Phlox Phloxy Lady series
■ Begonia Big series
■ Gaillardia Galya series
Mecardonia ‘Magic Carpet Yellow’
Kniphofia ‘Rockette Yellow’
■ Petunia Littletunia series
Petunia ‘Ray Rim Purple’
Gaillardia ‘Gallo Yellow Improved’
■ Impatiens Sunpatiens series
■ Agastache Nectar series
■ Argyranthemum Beauty Yellow series
Helichrysum ‘Silver Star’

Louisiana State AgCenter – Hammond Research Station, Hammond, La.
Allen Owings, trial manager, says the trials experienced average temperatures this summer with above average rainfall. Hurricane Isaac’s arrival in late August provided an extra challenge. The trials include warm-season annuals, roses, grasses and perennials.

Best of Show
Salvia ‘Amistad’

Top Performers
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
Pennisetum ‘Cherry Sparkler’
Begonia ‘Baby Wing White Bronze Leaf’
Salvia Lighthouse series
Cleome ‘Señorita Blanca’
■ Begonia Monza series
Cuphea ‘Trend Purple Red’
Plectranthus ‘Chocolate Covered Cherry’ (coleus)
■ Gomphrena Qis series


This region baked this summer, enduring weeks of sustained high temperatures in the 90s and often in the 100s. Most of the area experienced moderate to severe drought.

North Dakota State University Horticulture Demonstration and Research Plots, Fargo, North Dakota
About 250 varieties were grown this year; 25 were shade plants and 225 were full sun. An All-America Selections Display Garden is also included. Weather conditions were warmer and drier than usual.

Top Performers
■ Celosia Fresh Look series
■ Angelonia Serena series
Petunia ‘Supertunia Indigo Charm’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Sangria Charm’
Capsicum ‘Sangria’
Agastache ‘Raspberry Daquiri’
Ipomoea ‘Blackie,’ I. ‘Margarita,’
    I. ‘Sweet Caroline Bronze,’ I. ‘Sweet  
    Caroline Yellow’
■ Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’
Pennisetum setaceum
■ Many spreading petunias

University of Wisconsin West Madison Agricultural Research Station, Madison, Wis.
Extreme drought conditions were present this summer, with the garden receiving just 12 inches of rain between April 1 and late September. Dry winds and low humidity added to the pressure of trying to keep the 388 cultivars of annuals well-irrigated.

Best of Show
■ Evolvulus ‘Blue My Mind’

Top Performers
Celosia ‘Colours Dark Red’
Osteospermum ‘Voltage Yellow’
Catharanthus ‘Cora Red’ (vinca)
Gazania ‘Kiss Frosty Red’
Angelonia ‘Archangel Raspberry Improved’
Pentas ‘Butterfly Red’
Begonia ‘Whopper Red With Bronze Leaf’

University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, Minn.
Nearly 500 varieties are trialed at this garden. Rainfall between May 1 and September 26 was 3.37 inches below normal. Temperatures were above average May to July, but were below in August. However, there were 10 days of more than 90°F degrees between May and August.

Top Performers (Annuals)
Begonia ‘Whopper Red With Bronze Leaf’
Angelonia ‘Serena Blue’
Pentas ‘Northern Lights Lavender’
Begonia ‘Million Kisses Devotion’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Raspberry Blast’
Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’
Diascia ‘Darla Orange’
Plectranthus ‘Fuseables Chocolate Symphony’ (coleus)
Calibrachoa ‘Million Bells Bouquet Brilliant Pink’
Petunia ‘Surfinia Patio Blue’

Pike Creek Horticulture Center, Gateway Technical College, Kenosha, Wis.
With precipitation 25 to 50 percent below normal from June to September and high temperatures, this garden battled a severe drought. At press time, rainfall was still 3.5 inches below normal.

Best In Show
Begonia ‘Whopper Rose With Green Leaf’ and B. ‘Whopper Rose With Bronze Leaf’
Begonia ‘Baby Wing Pink’

Top Performers
■ Pansy Cool Wave series and pansy Spring Matrix series
Angelonia ‘Serenita Purple’
Angelonia ‘Serenita Raspberry’
Petunia ‘Shock Wave Deep Purple’
Capsicum ‘Sweet Heat’
Leucanthemum ‘Buttercream’
Celosia ‘Fresh Look Yellow’
Lavandula ‘Ellagance Purple’
Lavandula ‘Ice’

C. Raker & Sons, Inc., Litchfield, Mich.
Record high temperatures and sustained highs in the mid-90s plus significantly lower-than-average rainfall were hallmarks of the season at the Raker Trial Gardens. These conditions also caused higher than usual insect pressure, but conversely, less of the “wet weather” diseases.

Top Performers
Begonia boliviensis ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’
■ Petunia Surfinia series
■ Verbena Temari series
Cuphea ‘Trend Lavender’
Begonia ‘Whopper Red With Green Leaf’ and B. ‘Whopper Red With Bronze Leaf’
Heuchera villosa ‘Kassandra’
Zinnia ‘Dreamland Coral’
Scaevola ‘Suntastic Yellow’
Plectranthus ‘Under the Sea King Crab’ (coleus)
■ Catharanthus Cora series (vinca)

University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill.
This area had extremely hot, dry weather — the longest prolonged drought and excessive heat since 1988.

Best in show
Salvia farinacea ‘Sallyfun Blue Emotion’

Top Varieties
Catharanthus roseus ‘Victory Pure White’ (vinca)
Zinnia ‘Profusion Knee High Red’
Zinnia ‘Profusion Coral Pink’
Zinnia ‘Profusion Yellow’
Zinnia marylandica ‘Uptown Pink Champagne’
Salvia farinacea ‘Sallyfun Snow White’
Petunia ‘Whispers Star Rose’
Petunia ‘Famous Violet Picotee’
■ Pelargonium Caliente series (geranium)
■ Torenia Kauai series (in full sun)

The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Growing conditions were ideal during the planting and establishment periods. From June to the end of August the weather was unusually hot and dry. September brought cooler weather and some rain.

Top Performers
Capsicum ‘Loco’
Plectranthus ‘Chocolate Covered Cherry’ (coleus)
Caladium ‘White Dynasty’
Caladium ‘White Diamond’
Begonia ‘Whopper Red With Bronze Leaf’
■ Impatiens Magnum series
Petunia ‘Potunia Plus Red’
Petunia ‘Surfinia Wild Plum’
Petunia ‘Surfinia Deep Purple Mini’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Fuchsia’
Petunia ‘Supertunia ‘Sangria Charm’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Bordeaux’

And with cooler weather:
Pelargonium ‘Master Idols Scarlet Red’
■ Pelargonium ‘Americana Dark Red’
Pelargonium ‘Calliope Lavender Rose’ (geranium)


Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.
CSU tests approximately 1,100 varieties from 20 different breeders. This year the weather was extremely hot and dry with little if any rain from early July to mid-September. Many days the temperature reached 100°F.

Best Of Show
Dahlia ‘XXL Hidalgo’

Best New Variety: Lantana ‘Luscious Berry Blend’
Best Novelty Plant: Tecoma ‘Bells of Fire’

Top Performers
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’
Pelargonium ‘Caliente Fire’ (geranium)
Impatiens ‘Impreza White’
■ Impatiens ‘Supersonic Magenta 08’
Petunia ‘Whispers Star Rose’
■ Impatiens ‘Sun Harmony Salmon’
Verbena ‘Lanai Deep Purple’
Lobularia ‘Lavender Stream’
Pennisetum glaucum ‘Jade Princess’

Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma City, Okla.
The weather conditions were variable in the spring and hot in the summer, with temperatures reaching up to 114°F. Most plants were grown in the sun, but some were in the shade. Nearly 140 varieties were grown this year, mostly from seed.

Best In Show
Begonia ‘Whopper Rose With Green Foliage’ (trialed in shade)

Top Performers
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
Canna ‘South Pacific Scarlet’
Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’
Rudbeckia ‘EZ Gro Gloriosa Garden Leader RS’
Dianthus ‘Dash Pink’
Zinnia ‘Crystal White’
Gomphrena ‘EZ Gro Gomp Purple Garden Leader’
Catharanthus ‘EZ Gro Hotlik White (vinca)
Catharanthus ‘Garden Leader’ (vinca)
Capsicum ‘Cubana Red’
Angelonia ‘Serenita Raspberry’

Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Overton, Texas
This was one of the few trials that had normal, seasonal temperatures and rainfall with just occasional heat spells.

Top Performers
Catharanthus ‘Cora Red’ (vinca)
Capsicum ‘Cubana Red’
Geranium Sarita series
Begonia ‘Baby Wing White’
■ Begonia Big series
■ Begonia Whopper series
Impatiens ‘Dazzler Salmon Splash’
Impatiens ‘Salmon Improved’
Impatiens ‘Center Stage’
■ Lobularia Stream series
■ Lobularia Princess series
■ Mecardonia ‘Magic Carpet Yellow’
Evolvulus ‘Blue My Mind’

Welby Gardens, Denver, Colo.
Welby Gardens trialed 920 varieties indoors in containers. At their trial open house, 180 industry members voted on their top ten choices.

Top Performers
Verbena ‘Lanai Candy Cane’
Oxalis ‘Allure Ebony’
Angelonia ’Alonia Big Indigo’
Calibrachoa ‘Aloha Fire 2012’
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Lemon Slice’
Gaillardia ‘Galya Corneto Blaze’
Petunia ‘Potunia Plus Papaya’
Plectranthus ‘ColorBlaze Marooned’ (coleus)
Plectranthus ‘Under the Sea Gold Anemone’ (coleus)
■ Petunia Queen Bee series

Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, Texas
Like the trials at Texas A&M, the Dallas Arboretum experienced relatively normal temperatures this season. Low humidity caused some burn and stress on several cultivars. More than 3,300 cultivars were trialed in 2012

Top Varieties
Catharanthus ‘Cora Cascade Strawberry’ (vinca)
Celosia ‘Intenz’
■ Gazania Gazoo series
Acalypha ‘Tiki Tropical Tempest’
Heliotropium ‘Simply Scentscational’
■ Begonia Heat Elite series
Ageratum ‘Blue Diamond’
■ Salvia splendens Sizzler series
■ Pelargonium Tornado series (geranium)
Hibiscus ‘Mahogany Splendor’