Earlier this month, I hit the road and drove up to Michigan for the 2016 Garden Plant Tour.
During my three-day trip, I stopped at all five exhibiting locations — Walters Gardens in Zeeland, Mast Young Plants in Walker/Grand Rapids, Four Star Greenhouse in Carleton, Michigan State University in East Lansing and C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield.
Everyone at all of the stops did an amazing job especially considering the temperatures topped 90 degrees each day.
And the plants were really amazing too. They are the stars of the Tour so I asked representatives from each location for their MVPs — Most Valuable Plants — of the 2016 Garden Tour.
Heuchera ‘Primo Black Pearl’ (Proven Winners)
According to Christa Steenwyk at Walters Gardens, ‘Primo Black Pearl’ heuchera was the star in Zeeland. Coral Bells are larger, more vigorous landscape plants with beautifully scalloped truly jet black leaves and rosy purple undersides that show with the ruffling. Its flowers are creamy white, held by rosy pink calyxes.
Heuchera ‘Electric Plum’ (Walters Gardens)
Christina said ‘Electric Plum’ heuchera definitely lived up to its “electric” name during the Tour with its intense purple leaves with charcoal veining. The flowers are as showy as the leaves, with bright rosy pink flowers. The combination of pink flowers and bright purple foliage really stand out against similar varieties.
Petunia ‘Amore Queen of Hearts’ (Danziger)
At Mast Young Plants, Brian Weesies and Laura Robles said ‘Amore Queen of Hearts’ petunia really stole the show this year. Its flowers keep a very consistent pattern always showing the stars and the hearts. Also, it has a great mounded habit that did well in their bed trials as well as in combination pots and baskets. Brian and Laura believe this one is a must add for growers next spring.
Portulaca ‘Colorblast Watermelon Punch’ (Westhoff)
Also at MYP, ‘Colorblast Watermelon Punch’ portulaca was another strong performer. They had many comments from customers about how much they loved this variety. They said it will make great hanging baskets and is a true summer performer.
Petunia ‘Supertunia Bordeaux’ (Proven Winners)
Pat Seibel at Four Star said ‘Supertunia Bordeaux’ petunia really stood out and is a great plant for landscape and containers and it plays well with other varieties. The two-tone flower color is catchy and the interior of the flower just invites you in for a closer look. Bordeaux doesn’t need deadheading and looks clean through the summer. With its multi-color flower, it works well in combinations and it trails nicely to show off the flowers.
Lantana ‘Luscious Citrus Blend’ (Proven Winners)
The other MVP at Four Star was ‘Luscious Citrus Blend’ lantana. Pat said it loves the hot dry sun and flowers better on the drier side. At 30-36 inches, it is one of the taller landscape plants to fill in a spot with its vibrant mix of oranges and reds. It’s a slower grower in cooler weather, but once the heat kicks in, the plant takes off. Butterflies and hummingbirds will be frequent visitors and no deadheading is needed so it is extremely low maintenance.
Begonia ‘Solenia Dark Pink’ (Dümmen Orange)
At MSU, Daedre McGrath and Art Cameron said two different begonias were their MVPs — one for the sun and one for the shade. The hot dry conditions this summer really allowed them to show-off. The Solenia series (Dark Pink is shown here) really loved the sun. They have lots of huge, long-lasting flowers. The foliage has a nice dark green color, although you can barely see it as it is almost completely obscured by flowers.
Rex begonia ‘Jurassic Red Splash’ (Ball Ingenuity)
Rex begonia ‘Jurassic Red Splash’ was the shade lover at MSU. This rex begonia has a striking color pattern and its eye-catching burgundy red and silver foliage helps brighten up shady areas. These plants seemed fast-growing, care-free, and filled out a container quickly.
Raker Trial Gardens
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to catch up with Greg Michalak, who is in charge of the trial gardens at C. Raker & Sons, before he went on a well-deserved vacation. We’ll bring you Greg’s MVPs and more on Raker’s Trial Gardens in an upcoming edition of the Culture Connection.
Plans are under way for the 2017 Michigan Garden Plant Tour. Be sure to mark your calendar for the last week of July and first week of August!
P.S. We also had a chance to take the GPN Drone to Mast Young Plants where we shot a short video of their display gardens. Click here to check it out.