Colorado State University trial garden

Oct 22, 2019
Best of the Best at CSU By Jasmina Dolce

Summer has come to an end, and fall is in full swing with winter just around the corner. For some of us in places like the cool Midwest (bbrrrr, Chicago), prime gardening season already seems like a distant memory as temperatures have dropped dramatically, leaves have fallen and the furnace has officially been turned on.

But these cool days provide the perfect opportunity to analyze the year’s newest introductions and their performance in various plant trials.

Colorado State University recently announced its “Best Of” winners from its annual flower trial in Fort Collins. The purpose of the trial garden at CSU is to evaluate the performance of different plants under the unique Rocky Mountain climate. The growing conditions are characterized by high altitude, intense sunlight, drying winds, severe hail, large fluctuations between day and night temperatures, and season-long need for irrigation.

Each year, more than 1,000 different bedding plant cultivars are featured in the trial. They are evaluated for vigor, uniformity, floriferousness and tolerance to climatic stresses.

This year, the plants were evaluated once on Aug. 6 and again on Sept. 12. The votes are finally in, and you can read about the winners and view images at

Here is a small selection of the “Best Of” annuals from the 2019 CSU trial.

Best of Show: Dahlia ‘City Lights Purple’

This plant’s dark foliage and flowers made a dramatic statement in the garden. It boasted excellent uniformity with upright plants that did not flop despite overhead irrigation. It was a favorite of the bees.

Dahlia City Lights - Colorado State

Best Novelty: Begonia ‘T-Rex Ruby Slippers’
Terra Nova Nurseries

Grown primary for the foliage, Ruby Slippers features huge red leaves with a silvery edge that make a great contrast for color and texture with other plants in the garden. It can be used in the ground or containers.

Begonia T-Rex - Colorado State

Best New Variety: Petunia ‘Headliner Dark Saturn’

Unique flower color was impressive with a bold, creamy yellow and a dark star-shaped eye. The plants had strong vigor and created a uniform blanket of blooms in containers. Plants stood up to the heat very well.

Petunia Headliner Dark Saturn - Colorado State

Best Bacopa: ‘Betty White’
Green Fuse Botanicals

The trailing habit of this bacopa worked great in containers. The white flowers were abundant and contrasted nicely with the dark foliage. Flowering continued the entire season.

Bacopa Betty White - Colorado State

Best Bidens: ‘Campfire Flame’
Proven Winners

With shades of orange, red and yellow that fade to a nice rustic color, this bidens had a striking effect in containers. Blooms were prolific and kept a solid canopy of color throughout summer and into September.

Bidens Campfire Flame - Colorado State

Best Lantana: ‘Havana Sunrise’
Dümmen Orange

This heat-loving plant offers good branching and large umbels of flowers over dark green foliage. Flowers were very attractive with shades of pink, cream and yellow. It had uniform growth and looked great in containers.

Lantana Havana Sunrise - Colorado State

Best Osteospermum: ‘Tradewinds Lemon Zest’
Syngenta Flowers

This mid-summer bloomer amazed visitors to the trial with its yellow, daisy-like flowers that were bright, bold and abundant. Plants had a good symmetrical  growth habit with good vigor.

Osteospermum Tradewinds - Colorado State

Do you plan to grow any of the above varieties for the 2020 season? Have you been able to attend any plant trials this summer? If so, do you have any favorite performers? Shoot me an email at [email protected], and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

— Jasmina


Jasmina Dolce

Jasmina Dolce is managing editor of GPN magazine. She can be reached at [email protected]

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