Plant Trials at the Garden Home Retreat

One of my favorite sayings is, “Let’s throw it at the wall and see if it sticks.”  I love the idea of approaching new things with a laid back attitude.  After all, you never know until you try.  The results can be a stunning success or at the very least a valuable lesson learned.

This philosophy fits in well at the Garden Home Retreat, where we have extensive test gardens for trying new plants and gardening methods.  Everyday, we are able to put this principle to practice.

While I’m deeply interested in all of our experiments, my favorites involve trialing new plants and plant combinations.

This year Proven Winners® has given us several varieties to play around with.  Some of the plants will not be available until 2009 and I feel really lucky to be able to try them early. 

Here are a few that I’ve been especially pleased with and recommend you try in your garden.  I feel certain that you won’t have any trouble with these “sticking.”

Proven Winners Mandalay Flamingo Begonia Mandalay™ Flamingo Begonia (New in 2009) – These begonias have been going gang busters all summer. The huge, bright pink blooms are borne on arching stems giving the plant a graceful, cascading appearance. This is a great choice for hanging baskets .They. perform beautifully in partial sun in my southern garden. The Mandalay™ Begonias are bred to be heat and humidity tolerant so they perform better in my mid-south garden than tuberous begonias. For those gardeners in the northeast, these begonias are able to thrive in bright, full sun conditions and this sets them apart from other Begonias. Other colors available are Mandalay™ Pearl (white) and Mandalay™ Mandarin (deep orange).
Annual except in zones 9 – 10, Full sun to partial shade depending on location, 8 – 12 inches tall.
Proven Winners Superbells Yellow Chiffon Superbells® Yellow Chiffon Calibrachoa – I’ve long been a fan of Superbells® Calibrachoa. I have grown both Superbells® Red and Plum with great success. They have lived up to the promise of disease resistance and heat tolerance. Yellow Chiffon is a new addition to the series and I was excited to see the creamy yellow color. Yellow Chiffon has a trailing habit with healthy foliage and tons of small blooms. The flowers are the palest of yellows and blend well with cool palettes.
Annual except in zones 9 - 10, Full sun, 7 to 10 inches tall, Hummingbird Favorite.
Proven Winners Senorita Rosalita Cleome Senorita Rosalita® Cleome – I think I’ve found a place for this Cleome in just about every flower bed in my garden. Wherever there is plenty of sunshine you’ll find her. I planted a huge drift of Senorita Rosalita® at the Garden Home Retreat. The plant’s heat and drought tolerance make it a good fit for the location. Senorita Rosalita® is odorless with sterile flowers meaning they don’t produce seeds and has no thorns; all qualities that add to its appeal for many gardeners. The lavender pink blossoms are produced all along the stem, not just at the top.
Annual except in zones 8 - 11, Full sun, 24 to 48 inches tall.
Proven Winners Colorblaze Sedona Coleus Colorblaze™ ‘Sedona’ Coleus (New in 2009) – I am Coleus crazy. With all the new varieties, this plant is definitely the easiest way to add color to the garden. Colorblaze™ ‘Sedona’ is an unique rusty bronze named after the Sedona Mountains. It is beautiful companion to blue blooms. The undersides of the leaves are a rich plum, which inspired me to partner it with metallic purple Persian shield. My garden gets intensely hot in summer so I planted this coleus in dappled shade.
Annual except in zones 10 - 11, Partial sun to shade, 18 to 24 inches tall.
Proven Winners Totally Tempted Cuphea Totally Tempted® Cuphea – If you love red, then this is the flower for you. Totally Tempted® has tubular blooms with a lavender throat and cherry red petals. The color combination reminds me of blooms on fuchsia plants. Where the fuchsia is hard for me to grow because of the summer heat, Totally Tempted® has been a carefree bloomer. I have planted it alongside chartreuse pineapple sage and wine colored 'Gail’s Choice' alternanthera (Joseph’s Coat). It’s a great choice for containers and grows best in rich soil.
Annual except in zones 9 - 11, Full sun, 10 to12 inches tall.
Proven Winners Rockapulco Impatiens Rockapulco® Impatiens series – These Impatiens made my top ten list of plants for the shade. The miniature rose-like blooms are an exceptional addition to areas of low light. I’ve used Rockapulco® in both containers and flower beds with great success. This year, I’ve planted Rockapulco® Orchid in a drift along a path that connects the shade garden to the front lawn. It’s been very prolific and doesn’t seem to mind the heat at all. Rockapulco® is available in white, rose, purple, appleblossom, dark orange and red.
Annual except in zones 10 - 11, Full to Partial Shade, 10 – 20 inches tall.
Proven Winners Luscious Citrus Blend Lantana Luscious™ Citrus Blend™ Lantana (New in 2009) - The blooms on Citrus Blend™ are clusters of tiny brilliant red-orange flowers with a few yellow ones in the center. It seems the hotter it gets, the more this plant flowers. I have it planted in my home garden and at the Garden Home Retreat. At both locations, it has performed exceptionally well. It's a great choice for gardeners who need to be water wise.
Annual except in zones 10 - 11, Full sun, 24 to 36 inches tall.
Proven Winners Supertunia Bordeaux Petunia Supertunia® Bordeaux Petunia – I’ve been growing Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum for several years. The blooms never stop and the densely mounding habit of the plant itself is outstanding. Whether planted in the ground or a container Supertunia® Bordeaux has the appearance of a frothy ocean wave being more trialing than mounding. I just love this plant. The blooms are a pale pink with a deep plum throat and veins.
Annual except in zones 10 - 11, Full sun to partial shade, 16 to 24 inches tall.
Proven Winners Lo and Behold Buddleia Lo & Behold™ ‘Blue Chip’ Butterfly Bush (New in 2009) – Hallelujah! Finally a miniature butterfly bush. Lo & Behold™ ‘Blue Chip’ stays under 3 feet tall. Talk about versatile. It’s petite size means it can be grown in mixed flower borders, containers or even en masse as a deciduous ground cover. This variety of butterfly bush also blooms continuously without deadheading or pruning. And that’s continuously not in cycles. The deep blue, fragrant flowers appear from early summer through fall. Like other butterfly bush, Lo & Behold™ ‘Blue Chip’ attracts butterflies, but isn’t appealing to deer. This is the first growing season for me to try this plant and it’s done really well. I can’t wait to see how it performs in its second year once it’s established.
Perennial in zones 5 - 9, Full sun, 20 inches tall, Fall Garden Favorite.
Proven Winners Pinky Winky Hydrangea Pinky Winky™ Hardy Hydrangea – I’m a big fan of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Pee Gee’. I like the creamy white blooms that fade to green as they mature. It’s also such an easy hydrangea to grow. Unlike the mophead types (Hydrangea macrophylla), Hardy Hydrangeas will grow in cold climates, don't change bloom color according to soil pH and bloom on new wood so they can be pruned in either fall or spring. So I was thrilled to try out the latest addition to the family, Pinky Winky™. Pinky Winky™ flowers emerge white and as it matures the older blooms at the base turn pink resulting in a shrub with enormous, bicolor blooms. Unlike ‘Pee Gee’ the stems on Pinky Winky™ are sturdy so the heavy blooms won’t flop over, which is a major improvement. I don’t know how many times I had to prop up my ‘Pee Gee’ hydrangea after a heavy rain.
Shrub in zones 3 – 9, Full sun to partial shade, 6 to 8 feet tall, Fall Garden Favorite.
Proven Winners Let's Dance Moonlight Hydrangea Let’s Dance™ Moonlight Hydrangea (New for 2009) – This mophead hydrangea is the latest reblooming introduction. The Let’s Dance™ series of hydrangeas produce flowers on both old and new wood. The blooms are big and colorful. This series of hydrangeas is a good choice for gardeners in zone 5 that have trouble with mophead hydrangeas overwintering. Often times with older mophead varieties that only bloom on old wood, flowers are affected with late spring frosts, but with Let’s Dance™ Moonlight if flowers are affected on old wood there will always be flowers growing on new growth (new wood). That makes this a revolutionary and outstanding introduction for hydrangeas. My soil is alkaline so the huge flower heads were bright pink and faded to green. Blooms are blue in acidic soil. The foliage is an attractive glossy green that turns to a bronze red in fall.
Shrub in zones 5 – 9, Full sun to partial shade, 3 to 5 feet tall, Fall Garden Favorite.
Proven Winners Big Sky Echinacea Big Sky™ Echinacea series – Last year, I planted Harvest Moon™ and Sundown™ from the Big Sky™ series. This summer the effort has really paid off. I am so pleased with the stunning display of blooms. Harvest Moon™ is a medium yellow and Sundown™ is bright orange bloom. Also in the series are ‘Summer Sky’ (salmon), ‘Sunrise’ (lemon yellow) and ‘Twilight’ (rosy red).
Perennial in zones 4 – 9, Full Sun, 30 to 36 inches tall, Butterfly Garden Favorite.
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