Petunia (spreading) 'Tidal Wave Silver'  (83913 bytes)

Best Annuals for 2004

From Colorado State Univerity Cooperative Extension

Each year hundreds of varieties of new annual flowers are planted in beds and pots at the Colorado State University trial gardens in Fort Collins.

The site has become a tourist stop in late summer, when most of the flowers are in full bloom. It offers the casual gardener and the devoted horticulturist a view of what's to come as seed companies compete for the "best" designation in a range of categories.

The beds and pots are planted and tended by students in the department of horticulture and landscape architecture under the direction of professor James Klett, with help from the Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners in Larimer County.

In early August, the winners are chosen by a group of more than 50 judges from the green industry, trial garden advisory committee, master gardeners and Colorado State University staff.

The "best-of" award is given if there are at least 10 cultivars in the same category and one is superior. The "Other Outstanding Plants" awards recognize plants with superior qualities but fewer than 10 cultivars from which to choose.

Look for these winners from the 2003 trials at your local garden center.

Best of Show: Petunia (spreading) "Tidal Wave Silver" (All American Selections and PanAmerican Seed) - White flowers with shades of dark lavender were profuse and very showy. This plant lived up to its name with a large mounding growth habit and exceptional vigor (see above photo).

Phlox 'Intensia Lavender Glow' (25509 bytes)Best New Variety: Phlox "Intensia Lavender Glow" (Proven Winners) - Often considered a temperamental plant to grow in Colorado, the Intensia series generated an enthusiastic endorsement as a superior selection. The entire series produced plants that were one large mound of flowers with exceptional uniformity and an attractive soft lavender color.

Best All American Selection: Celosia plumosa "Fresh Look Red" - Uniform plantsCelosia plumosa 'Fresh Look Red' (26058 bytes) produced flowers that stayed a strong deep red from early in summer through mid-September while other varieties faded noticeably. Plants did not require any special care.

Best Argyranthemum: "Vanilla Butterfly" (Proven Winners) - Cream-colored flowers with yellow around the eye blanket the entire plant. The fine-textured foliage is attractive, and the growth habit of the plant is uniform.

Best Begonia (wax): "Eureka BL Scarlet" (Syngenta Seeds) - The entire Eureka series was designated as superior to all the other wax begonias in the trial but the "Eureka BL Scarlet" was designated best because of good branching, dark foliage and prolific scarlet flowers.

Best Calibrachoa: "Superbells Cherry Red" (Proven Winners) - A multitude of bright red flowers and vigorous plants were excellent throughout the season. This plant looked good in containers and even in beds with more clay soil.

Best Dahlia: "Oregon" (Fides North America) - This dahlia excelled by having large scarlet/red flowers on a compact plant. Flowers were more numerous than other dahlias.

Best Gazania: "Kiss Frosty Mix" (The Flower Fields-Goldsmith) - A pleasing mix of colors and large flowers were combined against a backdrop of unique gray foliage. Plants also were uniform in appearance.Ivy geranium 'Pink Blizzard' (26975 bytes)

Best Geranium (ivy): "Pink Blizzard" (Fischer USA) - This plant continually had a superior number of flowers and made a striking splash of pink in the garden even from a distance. Plants were uniform and did well in both containers and in the ground.geranium Maverick Scarlet'  (25211 bytes)

Best Geranium (seed): "Maverick Scarlet" (The Flower Fields-Goldsmith) - A robust plant that produced many flowers with a bold scarlet color. Plants were uniform in overall appearance.

Best Geranium (zonal): "Rocky Mountain Dark Red" (Fischer USA) - Prolific, large red blooms were one of many nice qualities about this geranium. Plants were dark green with an excellent uniform growth habit.

Best Impatiens (seed): "Swirl Mix Monet" (PanAmerican Seed) - A soft mix of coral and pink flowers made a soothing display throughout the summer. Plants were vigorous and uniform.

Best Nemesia: "Sunsatia Coconut" (Proven Winners) - Prolific white flowers and good plant vigor made a striking combination.

New Guinea Impatiens 'Sonic Amethyst'  (33969 bytes)Best New Guinea Impatiens: "Sonic Amethyst" (Fischer USA) - This plant was selected for the exceptionally large lavender flowers and uniform growth habit.

Best Osteospermum: "Soprano Light Purple" (Proven Winners) - This free- flowering plant continued to produce beautiful light purple flowers throughout the heat of the summer and late into September. The plant was also commended for a compact growth habit and healthy green foliage.

Best Petunia (grandiflora): "Ultra Blue Improved" (The Flower Fields-Goldsmith) - Vigorous plants produced a solid display of dark blue flowers on healthy plants.

Best Petunia (multiflora): "Symphony White" (American Takii) - Flowers were massed together to form a solid carpet of white. Plants had a uniform and low growth habit.

Best Petunia (spreading): "Easy Wave White" (PanAmerican Seed) - Plants were covered by numerous flowers with a true white color. Plants were very uniform and did well in both beds and container.

Best Snapdragon: "Sultan Light Yellow" (The Flower Fields-Goldsmith Plants) - Very uniform and low-growing plants were consistently covered by showy light yellow flowers during both the heat of the summer and cooler temperatures into the fall.

verbena 'Lanai Lavender Star'  (29693 bytes)Best Verbena: "Lanai Lavender Star" (The Flower Fields-Goldsmith Plants) - This plant maintained a solid flower display of lavender from early in the summer through mid-September.

Best Vinca: "First Kiss Rose" (Benary) - Vigorous plants with good uniformity had a plentiful display of rose-colored flowers throughout the entire season.

Best Zinnia: "Dreamland Coral" (American Takii) - The uniform, mounded plant of coral-colored flowers was an excellent plant throughout the growing season. It remained resistant to powdery mildew through mid-September.

Other Outstanding Plants

Argryanthemum "Sunlight" (The Flower Fields-Ecke Ranch) - "Sunlight" was a standout for the solid canopy of bright yellow flowers atop vigorous plants of beautiful foliage and great uniformity.

Bidens ferulifolia "Solaire Compact Yellow" (Proven Winners) - This plant had a compact growth habit and attractive dark green foliage. Numerous yellow flowers were very showy.

Calibrachoa "Callie Purple" (The Flower Fields-Goldsmith Plants) - Prolific purple flowers combined with plants that maintained a dark green color in beds while many others turned cholorotic because of soil conditions.

Dianthus "Dynasty Red" (Ball Seed) - Dark red flowers with double petals flowered throughout the heat of the summer and late into September. Overall appearance and growth habit was very uniform.

Perilla "Magilla" (Ban Flora Plant) - Purple, white, red and green made a fantastic montage of foliage colors. Plants were uniform and did well in both sun and shade containers.

Rudbeckia hirta "Toto" (Benary) - A favorite for the prolific yellow flowers that lasted late into the season. Plants were very uniform and dwarf.


Colorado State's W.D. Holly Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC) at 630 W. Lake St., in the southwest corner of the campus, has been home to the annual trial gardens since they began in 1979. In 1998, the university was chosen as one of two All-American Selection outdoor test gardens in Colorado.

The gardening public is welcome to visit the trials this season at High School Park on College Avenue and Remington Street in Fort Collins. For a complete research repot of the annual trial gardens, contact the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523. There is a charge to cover the cost of printing, handling and shipping.

Photos: Jim Klett

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