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September 2017
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Summer annuals get grades

<p>'Henna' coleus from Simply Beautiful Plants.</p>

'Henna' coleus from Simply Beautiful Plants.

As the growing season winds down, this is a good time to look at some of the new annuals trialed in the garden this summer.

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Eye candy at horticulture show

'Jade Princess,' an ornamental millet, has a blend of green, pink and brown flowers and gets 3 to 4 feet tall. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

'Jade Princess,' an ornamental millet, has a blend of green, pink and brown flowers and gets 3 to 4 feet tall. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

A few weeks ago, Irvin Etienne, a horticulturist from the Indianapolis Museum of Art and a fellow member of Garden Writers Association, and I went to OFA in Columbus, Ohio, the country’s largest horticulture show, a circus really, of new plants, better potting mixes, conveyor belts and watering machines.

There were several plants that I thought were spectacular, including a new, annual ornamental millet, ‘Jade Princess’ (Pennesetum glaucum) and ‘Blue Emotion’ Salvia farinacea or the annual sometimes called mealy cup sage. The millet had a rich molasses fragrance several feet away. The salvia’s tall, blue spikes were thick and richly colored.

'Blue Emotion' salvia gets about 20 inches tall and wide. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

'Blue Emotion' salvia gets about 20 inches tall and wide. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I also could tell that interest in succulents remains on the rise, with several new introductions, including ‘Cante,’ an Echeverias, which is almost eerie in its brightness.

echeverias cante2

'Cante' Echeverias (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Petunia popularity on the rise

Easy Wave Plum Vein petunia. Photo courtesy Pan American Seed.

Easy Wave Plum Vein petunia. Photo courtesy Pan American Seed.

Greenhouse Management & Production, a trade publication, reports that the lowly petunia was a top choice among public visitors to the Trial Gardens at Ohio State University.

“Petunias were the early favorites of consumers in a preference evaluation conducted at the OSU annual trials. Bart Hayes, annual trial manager, said preliminary results showed that Easy Wave Plum Vein and Sanguna Lipstick petunias both rated an average score of 4.6 out of a top score of 5. Not far behind was Jamboree Hot Pink petunia with a rating of 4.58. In 4th place was 45-Yellow marigold. Rounding out the Top 10 were Petitunia Happy Dream petunia, Versa Crimson Gold coleus, Babuda Deep Gold marigold, White Manaus euphorbia, Purple Flash ornamental pepper and Denver Daisy rudbeckia. Hayes said cool temperatures in spring and early summer resulted in smaller, less developed plants. A return to normal temperatures in July helped plants recover. No serious disease or pest problems occurred.”

Three no-fail annuals for summer delights

Babywing pink begonia (Photo courtesy Proven Winners)

Babywing pink begonia (Photo courtesy Proven Winners)

Three low-maintenance annuals are definitely worth growing this summer.

Babywing begonia is a subdued cousin of the fabulous dragon wingbegonia, all the rage a few summers ago and still on the list ofall-time great plants. Babywing’s (Begonia x hybrida) green leaves are smaller, but its pink or white flowers are just as large and showy.

The plant is heat tolerant and does not need deadheading. Babywinghas a mounded growing habit and will get up to 15 inches tall and 10inches wide.

Babywing does great in sun or shade. You do not have to remove thespent flowers, called deadheading. Grow in containers, window boxes orin the ground. Allow to dry out between watering.

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