If you’ve ever visited the garden center this time of year, you know you can find plenty of personal assistance. We feel a bit like the Maytag repairman at times. While the surface looks vastly more calm than it does in May, the undercurrent is moving swiftly to meet deadlines for planning and ordering seeds, cuttings, tubers, bulbs and corms for 2015. We attend trade shows and visit several trial gardens during this time of year. They are a vital part of the process of providing you with the best plants and gardening products available.
One of the great joys of late summer is the opportunity to visit the annual trial gardens. Growers and plant propagators send countless rooted cuttings and seed samples to the College of Agricultural Sciences at CSU. Dr. Klett, with his team of students and Master Gardeners go to work growing these samples so we can see how they perform in our Colorado climate. Universities and many businesses across the country participate in such trials, providing the industry with an overall performance review of each of these new introductions. They are often planted, side by side, with plants considered to be the current top performers. This provides a direct comparison between varieties. Last week, many representatives from our industry made the annual pilgrimage to the trial gardens at CSU, to evaluate the plants that propagators hope we will add to our plant production for spring of 2015.
What do we look for in a plant? I suppose it’s something like judging a dog show. We look for the best examples of what that type of plant should be in the garden. We look for qualities that indicate it will be a good performer in our high plains climate and those that suggest they will do well at higher elevations, too. It’s not easy to be quite that selective, sometimes. There are so many pretty plants, it takes a bit of self discipline to avoid distraction from our purpose.
Next year may very well be the “Year of the Petunia”. Some years we see a concentration of new introductions of one particular plant or another. 2015 promises to provide us with some incredible new petunias. There are more new petunias than I could count. Below is just one of the more promising varieties.
Geranium Glitterati Ice Queen is one of the best new plants for 2015. It’s stunningly bright white and green foliage is a standout on its own. The bright red blooms are the icing on the cake, or geranium, in this case. Variegated geraniums of old weren’t the most prolific bloomers but Ice Queen is the polar opposite, producing scads of bold blooms. It’s spreading habit makes it an excellent choice for container gardens, larger hanging baskets and wherever you may need substantial coverage in border plantings.
Coleus are a favorite, here at Echter’s. We’re always on the hunt for new, beautiful foliage to dress up the garden. We look for sturdy stems, the ability to adapt from shade to partial sun, firm foliage that doesn’t flop in the first breeze, colors that don’t fade and resistance to disease. Coleosaurus is one of the more exciting introductions for 2015.
If you’ve been a longtime fan of impatiens, you probably already know about the disease that has been a bit of a challenge to them in recent years. Impatiens Downy Mildew (IDM) can defoliate a group of Busy Lizzys within a week. IDM affects only the traditional Impatiens walleriana. It does not affect New Guinea Impatiens. There are treatments that can be used if you want to stick to the traditional impatiens, but it may be worth giving some of the New Guinea types a try. Since the risk of IDM became apparent, plant breeders have been racing to provide us with alternatives. Bounce and Big Bounce impatiens are the result of such efforts. They provide the flower count of traditional wallerianas while being resistant to IDM.
Look for some stunning new verbenas next season, too. Newer introductions have amazingly vivid colors and large bloom clusters. We look for vivid colors that don’t fade, sturdy stems that don’t break easily in the wind, habits that make them good companions in hanging baskets and planters, and disease resistance.
We can’t give away all the surprises for 2015. When spring arrives, look for more information about new plant introductions for annuals and perennials. If you have some plants on your wishlist, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment or share your list with us on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/echtersgreenhouse
The trial gardens at CSU are open to the public and we encourage you to visit there sometime. They can be found at 1401 Remington Street in Fort Collins.