It's one thing to buy a few petunias at the nursery, plant them in your garden and hope they last the season. It's quite another to plant thousands of flowers in public plots and subject them to Colorado's thick clay soil, drying winds and scorching summer sun and heat.
Each summer, Colorado State University horticulturists in Fort Collins do just that, testing how plants perform in such conditions in part so they can come up with a list of flowers that will be all-stars in your garden.
Temperatures last summer fluctuated widely and highs reached into the 90s and 100s numerous times. It rained less than 2 inches in June and July, the prime growing season for annuals.
But many flowers put on impressive displays. Here are some of the winners.
Best of Show: Diascia "Flying Colors Coral" from Proven Winners had abundant flowers, a vigorous growth habit and good foliage color, making it an outstanding plant throughout the growing season.
Best All American Selection: Rudbeckia "Prairie Sun" from Benary Seeds was chosen for its large golden flowers with bright yellow inner zone and green eye. The flowers were plentiful and lasted into the fall.
Angelonia: "Angelface Blue" from Proven Winners got high marks for its large, full flowers and dark green foliage. It holds its bloom along upright stems and grows with a lush habit.
Begonia (seed): "Cocktail Vodka" from Benary Seed was chosen from more than 20 varieties of seed begonias. This one has dark foliage, bright red flowers.
Gazania: "Kiss Frosty Mix" from Goldsmith Seed. Its silver foliage, various flower colors and numerous blooms made this entry stand out.
Geranium (zonal): Americana "Dark Red" from Goldsmith Plants was picked because of its vigorous and lush foliage color and numerous dark red blooms. It was chosen from more than 180 cultivars.
Geranium (ivy): "Royal Candy Cane," by Selecta, was chosen above all others for its vigorous growth and numerous bright red and white bicolor blooms over a long period.
New Guinea Impatiens: "Super Sonic Lilac," by Fischer USA, had an excellent growth habit with large, pale lavender blooms that lightened up the entire plant.
Impatiens (seed): "Dazzler Rose Swirl" from Ball Seed was chosen for its lush foliage growth with large rose-colored blooms with a splash of white on the petals. Its vigorous growth and numerous blooms made it noteworthy.
Petunia (seed): "Storm Pink Morn" from Goldsmith Seeds was chosen as best grandiflora seed petunia. It has two-tone pink blooms that cover the vigorous plant in an appealing way.
Petunia (vegetative): "Suncatcher Sapphire" from Ball FloraPlant was chosen as best vegetative spreading petunia. It had dark purple blooms that create a carpet of color in a bed or in the container.
Verbena (seed): "Obsession Lilac," by Syngenta Seeds was chosen for its full, lilac-colored flower heads that covered the foliage.
Verbena (vegetative): "Superbena Blue Purple" from Proven Winners had many dark blue blooms on vigorous growth habits. It is appropriate for beds or containers.
Zinnia: "Crystal Orange," by American Takii, was chosen for its compact growth that was covered in blooms all season long. It had good drought tolerance and adapted well to the soil.
© CSU/Denver County Extension Master Gardener 2010
888 E. Iliff Avenue, Denver, CO 80210
Date last revised: 01/05/2010