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Annual Flower Trial Garden releases list of winning flowers

April 6, 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 the CSU Annual Flower Trial Garden.

CSU's Annual Flower Trial GardenThe garden, which spans nearly three acres on the east side of the Fort Collins campus, is a northern Colorado showpiece with a focused research purpose: Each year, the CSU Annual Flower Trial Garden tests the growing ability of more than 1,000 varieties of annual bedding plants, analyzing 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 CSU 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 the CSU 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.

'Best-of' winners from 2011

Argyranthemum Flutterby YellowBest 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

Lantana Bandana Rose ImprovedThe 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 Hibiscus Mahogany Splendorwinner 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

Pinto Premium SalmonBest 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

SunPatiens Compact Blush PinkBest Gaillardia – “Galya Yellow Spark” from Danziger

Best Geranium (ivy) – “Cascade Acapulco Compact” from Syngenta flowers

Best Geranium (seed) – “Pinto Premium Salmon” from Syngenta Flowers

Best Geranium (zonal) – “Calliope Dark Red” from Syngenta Flowers

Best Ipomoea–“Desana Bronze” from Suntory Flowers, Ltd.

Supertunia Vista BubblegumBest 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.

Best Osteospermum –“Margarita Cool Purple” from Fides North America

Zinnia Queen Red LimeBest 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

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

The CSU 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.