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Garden Edition: Plant stars on the rise

by Linda Coyner

This time of year all the buzz is about new introductions, award winners, and old favorites being reintroduced. Catalogs appearing in mailboxes arent shy about whats new. Nurseries in the avant garde such as Plant Delights and Heronswood are particularly good sources of information. I also check the major plant introducers FloraStar, Monrovia, Proven Winners, Blooms of Bressingham, Ball Seeds. News about award winners should also get special note as well as opinions of those in the industry. If you visited any trial fields, check your notes for whats now in the limelight.

Hopefully we wont have a repeat performance of the Coreopsis Limerock Ruby fiasco, the red coreopsis that didnt winter over for a lot of gardeners. Its now listed as a tender perennial by Blooms of Bressingham and most sources consider it winter-hardy only to Zone 6 (not Zone 4 as originally claimed). Even so, its pretty enough to grow as an annual if the price is right.

Undeterred, Blooms is introducing another gorgeous coreopsis Sweet Dreams, a hybrid of Coreopsis rosea. Its reported to be as vigorous as Coreopsis 'Moonbeam' with thread-like foliage and large bi-colored petals shifting from raspberry to white at the tips. As it matures under high light and temperatures, the raspberry color develops further out on the ray petals. The overall habit is bushy, reaching 18 inches in height and 24 inches in width. Zones 4-9.

Five flowers won the coveted 2004 All-America Selections awards:

Celosia Fresh Look Red and
Fresh Look Yellow
Gypsophila Gypsy Deep Rose
Hollyhock Queeny Purple and
PetuniaLimbo Violet.

Celosia Fresh Look Red also won the 2004 Fleuroselect Gold medal.

Celosia Fresh Look was trialed by the University of Georgia and took home the Classic City Garden Awards for 2003. In those trials, UG reported that Fresh Look Red stood out even more brightly than its yellow version. From early summer, the plants produced an endless supply of bright neon red plumes. Once the main flower started to fade, it was removed and additional plumes emerged. Fresh Look should grow 12 -18 inches tall and spread 12 - 20 inches across.

Another AAS winner, Babys Breath Gypsy Deep Rose is a cultivar of the annual Gypsophila muralis. Babys breath has always been useful for creating airy fillers with its dainty foliage and white flowers, but Gypsy goes further. It promises a generous size flower, often double and semi-double flower; a darker rose color than similar cultivars; and larger flowers, produced in great number over a longer season. The plants grow into a compact mound 8-10 inches tall and spread about 12 -14 inches.

A dwarf hollyhock, Queeny Purple, took the third award. Queeny Purple stands out because of its unusual purple color and the ability to bloom the first year from seed. The frilly edged, 3-4-inch blooms are double with a tuft of short petals in the center of the blossom. Mature plants will reach a size of only about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Most hollyhocks are twice the size, reaching 5-6 feet. (If starting Gypsy from seed, note that it takes 12 weeks for it to bloom, so start seeds indoors in March. Germination may take three weeks.)

Limbo Violet petunia is a unique combination of large flowers on a compact plant. This petunia grows into mounds only 6-7 inches tall, spreading 10 -12 inches, and is covered with large 3-inch wide violet-purple flowers. Limbo Violet is excellent for small garden spaces, containers and formal gardens requiring neat, tidy plants.

While visiting the Ball Seed trial fields a few months ago, several plants caught my fancy. One was the yellow Strawflower Dreamtime Everlasting. A massed planting of the large yellow blooms in mounds made a bold statement. Dreamtime is also available in Antique Shades, Copper, Cream, and Rose Pink. Height is 12 inches tall and wide.

Thunbergia Sunny (Black-Eyed Susan Vine) trellised up a post was not to be passed up. The sun-loving vine grows up to 8 feet. Its also available as Orange Wonder and Lemon Star.

Another vine that couldnt be passed up was a blue-flowering Ipomoea (Morning Glory Vine) Good Morning. Its unique picotee bloom pattern, variegated creamy white and green leaves and a vining yet compact habit. Its also available in pink, red, and violet.

Clumps of Rudbeckia hirta 'Prairie Sun' were scattered throughout the Ball Seed trial fields. Its bold yellow color and 5-inch flower head made a strong color statement. Up close, I could see that the flower petals were tipped in yellow and had an unusual green eye. This green-eyed Susan is a sturdy, 3-foot tall plant. It was All-American Selection in 2003 and a Fleuroselect gold-medal winner.

A gaillardia that caught my eye and has proven itself in my Zone 10B garden, is 'Torch Yellow'. In the University of Georgia trials, the Ball Seed plant generated a prolific display of bright yellow flowers all summer, and was said to be as pretty in October as in July. It earned UGs 2003 Classic City Garden Award.

Another flower that impressed me at Ball Seeds trial fields was Luna Hibiscus (H. moscheutos Luna Blush or Luna Red). Plate-size flowers 6-8 inches across created quite an eye-catching display. Blush has white flowers with a pink blush and dark red eye. Red is deep burgundy. In my garden, that genus insists on having even moisture, and I would expect Luna to be the same. Garden height is 2-3 feet and 2 feet wide. Zone 5.

Perilla Magilla was strategically placed to good effect all over the trial fields. Its guaranteed to be one of the most popular 2004 plants. Whats not to like about its showy coleus-like foliage in hot pink, green, and deep plum? In shade or intense Florida sun, it provides strong color. Mature height is about 3 feet in my garden. Late in the season, a coleus-like flower emerges.

Page Two, Plant stars on the rise>>

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