Judges Select the Best Plant Varieties from 2009 Annual Flower Trials

Note to Reporters: Top performing varieties at the Annual Flower Trial Gardens from the 2009 growing season and evaluators’ comments on all varieties are available at www.flowertrials.colostate.edu. Selected high resolution images are available by visiting www.newsinfo.colostate.edu and clicking on the headline for this release or at http://www.flickr.com/coloradostateuniversity.

Colorado’s extreme weather – searing heat, severe weather and lack of moisture – can make for difficult growing conditions, especially for flower lovers. In an effort to aid both homeowners and commercial growing operations, Colorado State University has released the results of its “Best of” 2009 annual flower trials.

More than 1,200 different varieties of annuals were either given trial plantings in ground beds or in about 700 containers at the Flower Trial Gardens, 1401 Remington St. in Fort Collins. The garden, west of the University Center for the Arts, is managed by CSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture in cooperation with a committee of local growers, bedding plant personnel and public garden horticulturalists.

“The purpose of this research is to evaluate annual flowers to see how well they perform in Colorado’s high light intensity and low humidity," said Jim Klett, professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Colorado State. Klett manages CSU’s Flower Trial Gardens, the largest flower test garden in the state and one of the five largest in the United States.

Twenty-two seed and vegetative companies from within the United States and worldwide participated in the trials. Judging was held on Aug. 4, 2009, and again on Sept. 4, 2009, to determine the 2009 “Best of” winners.

The Best of Show is Bracteantha Strawburst Yellow from Syngenta Flowers. The prolific, long-lasting, bright yellow flowers were outstanding throughout the season even after a devastating hail storm. The blooms grew well above the foliage and took the summer heat and light early frost.

The Best New Variety is Gomphrena Fireworks from Pan American Seed. It had a large mounding growth habit and would look great in the landscape or as a temporary hedge. The blooms start out round but develop yellow anthers that appear to leap from the foliage.

Alternathera Red Thread from Grolink was chosen as Best Novelty for 2009. This unique edging plant has excellent uniform growth habit. The two-toned foliage has green tops with red undersides giving the plants an overall bronze-purple tint. It makes an excellent edging plant.

Twenty-eight varieties of bedding plants earned a “best” in their categories, while four additional plants earned “superior” ratings. Among the winners were:

• Best coleus was Color Blaze Dark Star from Proven Winners. The impressive dark chocolate leaf color will not bleach in full sun. Plants had great vigor and were uniform in growth habit.
• Americana Dark Red from Syngenta Flowers was voted best zonal geranium. The rich red flower petals on vigorous uniform plants were outstanding. The intense dark red is very dependable for mass displays.
• The best New Guinea impatiens for 2009 was Tamaranda Shocking Pink from Fides North America. The plants stood out from many entries in the trial, maintaining strong flower power throughout the season. The showy flowers rose above foliage.
• Lobularia Snow Princess (Snow Princess Alyssum) from Proven Winners was an outstanding plant that earned a “superior” rating. This alyssum had good heat tolerance, excellent foliage and contrasting fragrant white flowers. It has a vigorous growth habit and makes an excellent edging plant.
• The best seed-propagated petunia was Plush Deep Pink from Syngenta Flowers. It had clean bright pink flowers on uniform mounding plants which made it an outstanding plant in our trials and is a perfect choice for mass displays.
• Supertunia Vista Silverberry from Proven Winners was voted best spreading petunia. It has great flower power alone and excellent plant vigor with a mounding habit. Flowers have dark veins and unique silvery color.
• The committee picked Rapunzel Lilac Verbena from Syngenta Flowers as the best verbena. Plants were consistently covered with lilac blooms offset by fine foliage, creating a delicate look. Flowers were layered throughout the plant.

These 10 plants are just a sample of the 38 varieties of plants that earned the “Best of” distinction. A complete listing, description and photos can be viewed at www.flowertrials.colostate.edu.

Most of the winning plants are available at local nurseries or garden centers for this growing season.