Fort Collins, Colorado, USA
March 30, 2012
It’s time to pull on the gardening gloves. And if you want to know what flowers to plant during the 2012 growing season, a great list of possibilities comes from Colorado State University’s Annual Flower Trial Garden.
The garden, which spans nearly 3 acres on the east side of the Fort Collins campus, is a northern Colorado showpiece with a focused research purpose: Each year, the Annual Flower Trial Garden tests the growing ability of more than 1,000 varieties of annual bedding plants and analyzes their performance in Colorado’s harsh growing conditions.
Dozens of expert evaluators rate the plants for vigor, growth pattern, bloom and other characteristics. The trial results help home gardeners identify annual bedding plants that are most likely to succeed.
The Annual Flower Trial Garden – also a vital training ground for CSU horticulture students – is part of a network of trial gardens at land-grant universities nationwide. It’s the largest garden of its kind west of the Mississippi River, said Jim Klett, faculty coordinator and professor in CSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.
Winners from the 2011 evaluation are below and are available to home gardeners from area nurseries and garden centers for the 2012 growing season. For more description and photographs, visit www.flowertrials.colostate.edu.
“Best-of” Winners from 2011
Best of Show – Argyranthemum “Flutterby Yellow” from Paul Ecke Ranch
Intense flowering and bright yellow color make this variety stand out in any garden. Plants were uniform both in growth habit and flowering. Constant bloom throughout the summer made it rank the highest. “Flutterby Yellow” has proven to be a consistent variety over time; it was “Best Argryanthemum” in 2010.
Best New Variety – Lantana “Bandana Rose Improved” from Syngenta Flowers
The vibrant multicolored flowers on this Lantana looked good even as they aged. Plants have a uniform, tidy growth habit with healthy green foliage. Another superior feature is that it produces virtually no fruit or seeds and saves its energy for a constant show of blooms.
Best Novelty – Hibiscus “Mahogany Splendor” from PanAmerican Seed
Plant has impressive vigor and beautiful dark mahogany-colored foliage. It is adaptable to both drought/heat as well as growing in ponds as a water plant. It is a fast grower with a height of 3 feet to 5 feet and a great choice for the back of a border. Flowering was non-existent in our trial, but the plant was selected as a winner because, as one evaluator stated, it had plenty of “boom without bloom.”
Best Angelonia – “Carita Purple 09” from Syngenta Flowers
Best Begonia (tuberous) – “Rhine Dragone Pink Hope” from Dummen USA
Best Bidens – “Sunbeam” from Ball FloraPlant
Best Calibrachoa – “Callie White 11” from Syngenta Flowers
Best Combo – “Kwik Kombo Fire and Ice Mix” from Syngenta Flowers
Best Dahlia – “Hypnotica Lavender” from Fides North America
Best Euphorbia – “Diamond Frost” from Proven Winners
Best Impatiens (seed) – “Impreza White” from PanAmerican Seed
Best Gaillardia – “Galya Yellow Spark” from Danziger
Best Geranium (ivy) – “Cascade Acapulco Compact” from Syngenta flowers
Best Geranium (seed) – “Pinto Premium Salmon” from Syngenta Flowers (photo)
Best Geranium (zonal) – “Calliope Dark Red” from Syngenta Flowers
Best Ipomoea – “Desana Bronze” from Suntory Flowers, Ltd.
Best Lantana – “Bandana Rose IMP” from Syngenta Flowers
Best Lobelia – “Techno Heat Electric Blue” from Syngenta Flowers
Best Marigold – “Narai Orange” from AmeriSeed Inc.
Best New Guinea Impatiens – “Super Sonic Magenta 08” from Syngenta Flowers
Best New Guinea Impatiens (sun) – “SunPatiens Compact Blush Pink” from Sakata Seed American, Inc. (photo)
Best Osteospermum – “Margarita Cool Purple” from Fides North America
Best Petunia (seed-spreading) – “Easy Wave Neon Rose” from PanAmerican Seed
Best Petunia (veg-mini) – “Littletunia Sweet Dark Pink” from Danziger
Best Petunia (veg-spreading) – “Supertunia Vista Bubblegum” from Proven Winners (photo)
Best Portulaca – “Pazzaz Tangerine” from Danziger
Best Salvia greggii – “Sally G Flamingo” from Danziger
Best Torenia – “Rose Moon” from Danziger
Best Verbena (mounding) – “Tapien Salmon” from Suntory Flowers, Ltd.
Best Verbena (vigorous) – “Costa del Sol Pink” from Paul Ecke Ranch
Best Zinnia – “Double Zahara Fire” from PanAmerican Seed
“Other Outstanding Plants” from 2011
Nicotiana “Whisper Mix” from Floranova
Light pink and white flowers sway in the air on tall stems, which gives a delicate and fanciful feel to a garden. It can make a great landscape plant or it can be used in the back of a border. Plants had basal leaves with good vigor and healthy appearance.
Pennisetum “Skyrocket” from Eason Horticultural Resources
The showy variegated foliage and vigor made this an exceptional plant. The graceful pink plumes would add great texture to any garden. Leaf blades are a medium green with a white-striped margin, and the plant as a whole is very low maintenance.
Phlox “Astoria Peach” from Suntory Flowers, Ltd.
The soft-peach flower color combined with prolific flower power throughout the entire summer made this an obvious standout. Plants had good uniformity and vigor.
Zinnia “Queen Red Lime” from Benary
Unique flower color was the primary feature of this variety. It also earned a lot of comments for vigor, prolific blooms and uniform plants. Flowers have a unique coloring due to young center petals starting out as a lime green color and maturing to a mauve color on the outer petals. The tall statuesque growth habit makes it a good cut flower. Plants were noted for being powdery mildew resistant.
CSU’s Annual Flower Trial Garden receives no direct public funding. Rather, it is funded primarily by fees from plant-breeding companies that submit entries to the yearly trial. The garden also receives donations from industry associations, foundations, nurseries, plant producers and other companies in the green industry.
The Trial Garden, which draws thousands of visitors each year, relies on student gardeners, volunteers and industry supporters and experts who help provide detailed analysis of plant performance.
The outcome of this research is valuable to the industry and home gardeners alike. That’s because the Rocky Mountain region has unique growing conditions, characterized by high altitude, intense solar radiation, drying winds, severe hailstorms, large fluctuations between day and night temperatures and a season-long need for irrigation.
For more information about the CSU Annual Flower Trial Garden, visit www.flowertrials.colostate.edu.