Vaughn’s View: Perennial parade
I have written numerous Greenhouse Product News articles over the past seven years on rapidly developing new and exciting perennial introductions that were in regional trialing and testing programs throughout the United States. During this time, we have seen the development of innovative breeding technologies for improving the genetics and the traits of new perennial series and stand-alone introductions.
The breeder is focused on bringing new varieties to the market quicker, with earlier flowering, longer flowering times, flower size, improved and distinctive colors, summer and winter hardiness, flower orientation, uniformity and an improvement in timing. These breeder goals result in programmability, consistency, reduced crop time, a diversified offering and quick turns on the retail bench for the grower and retailer.
These new perennials benefit the consumer with ease of maintenance, color longevity, durability and a wide selection of choices for multiple applications in beds, landscape sites and containers. This article is focused on new and current perennial varieties from multiple breeders in the following trial sites that I visited this summer: Costa Premier spring trial, University of Georgia (Athens), Young’s Plant Farm, Metrolina Greenhouses, Dallas Arboretum and Colorado State University.
My focus is on the flower brightness, flower presentation and power of color.
AGASTACHE RUGOSA ‘BLUE BAYOU’
This was one of the most floriferous Agastaches that I saw this summer. It was featured in the Metrolina trial and when I visited in late June, I was impressed by the compactness, performance and vibrant indigo- blue flowers that covered the entire plant. This plant will match the performance and hardiness of ‘Rosie Posie’ and ‘Peachie Keen’. In my opinion, ‘Rosie Posie’ is one of the best Agastaches in the industry and if this variety can match it for performance, it will be an exceptional selection for the landscaper and consumer. It matures at 16-18 inches and is hardy to Zone 5a.
LAVANDULA ANGUSTIFOLIA LAVENIZE ‘SILVER FOREVER’
Pacific Plug And Liner
The angustifolia Lavenize ‘Silver Forever’ is the latest addition to the Lavenize series. The five varieties in the collection have different bloom times and habits. ‘Silver Forever’ was the most floriferous lavender and manifested the best silver foliage in the Costa Premier spring trial in early May. The deep purple flowers contrasted beautifully with the bright silver foliage. This series has been bred for earliness, improved branching, flower color, and hardiness. The series is hardy to Zone 5 and matures at 14-18 inches.
COREOPSIS GRANDIFLORA ‘SOLANNA SUNSET BRIGHT’
This new Solanna introduction was incredibly consistent in performance insouthern and northern trials this summer. This new introduction is from Danziger breeding and is available from ThinkPlants and multiple liner suppliers. It is first-year flowering, well-branched, self-cleaning, with flower positioning well above the foliage and large golden yellow flowers with a red eye. It was the most colorful and resilient coreopsis that I saw in trials this summer. Vernalization is not required for bulking. It matures at 15-18 inches and is hardy to zone 5. The accompanying photograph is from the Metrolina trial in late June.
ECHINACEA DOUBLE SCOOP ‘RASPBERRY DELUXE’
Four varieties have been added to this series for 2024: ‘Orangeberry Deluxe Improved’, ‘Watermelon Deluxe’, ‘Raspberry Deluxe’ and ‘Strawberry Deluxe’. The new introductions were in multiple trials and manifested outstanding flower coverage, flower color stability and large drooping ray petals with a showy central pompom cone. The series is first-year flowering, possesses fully double flowers and demonstrated compactness, color stability, excellent branching and eye-catching flowers. The Deluxe introductions will match the Sombrero series in timing, branching and floriferousness. The series is hardy to Zone 4 and matures at 20-24 inches. The accompanying photograph is from the Costa premier spring trial in May.
ECHINACEA HYBRIDA ‘GIDDY PINK’
This perennial article would be incomplete without a Terra Nova Echinacea selection, and the variety that demonstrated excellent branching, a prolific flower canopy and uniquely colored bright pink double flowers was ‘Giddy Pink’. It is a stand-alone variety and demonstrated floriferousness and excellent branching in the Colorado State trial. It is hardy to zone 4 and matures at 18-24 inches.
SALVIA NEMOROSA ‘PINK PROFUSION’
This Salvia is the Proven Winners 2024 National Perennial of the year, and this distinction is well deserved. The Profusion series is characterized by a compact and dense habit, a prolific flower canopy and consistent re-blooming potential. ‘Pink Profusion’ was introduced in 2020 and has been entered in multiple trials every year.
It has demonstrated a dramatic and striking presence in trials and gardens with its vibrant dark pink flowers and even darker pink calyxes. It was impressive in mass plantings at Walters Gardens last August and consistent in multiple regional trials this summer. This variety matures at 16-20 inches and is hardy to Zone 3. All four Profusion varieties are marketed by Proven Winners. The accompanying photograph is from the Metrolina trial in late June.
RUDBECKIA FULGIDA VAR. SULLIVANTII ‘GOLDBLITZ’
I only saw ‘Goldblitz’ in the permanent perennial bed at Colorado State University, but it was a “WOW” plant with a mass of color in the trial bed. This is a Fleuroselect Gold Medal winner for 2023, which is well-deserved based on its attributes and garden performance. It is an early flowering black-eyed Susan with an upright, clumping habit and stiff, well-branched stems. The flowers are positioned above the foliage canopy manifesting incredible color. It is a first-year flowering selection that does not require vernalization and will finish 14-21 days earlier than Goldstrum with greater uniformity. This variety will provide an economical input selection for natural day-length growers. It matures at 24-28 inches and is hardy to Zone 3. ‘Goldblitz’ is the next generation in Rudbeckia fulgida breeding.
ECHINACEA HYBRIDA ‘RED OMBRÉ’
The Artisan collection consists of ‘Red Ombré’, ‘Orange Ombré’ and ‘Yellow Ombré. I chose to highlight ‘Red Ombré’, but I could have chosen any one of the three. This is the first F1 hybrid seed collection available in individual colors. The collection offers uniformity in plant structure and seed germination, is first-year flowering and produces a prolific flower canopy, consistent flower size and vibrant colors. The average height is 18-28 inches, and the plants are hardy to Zone 4a. The collection is available from plug and liner suppliers for 2023- 24. The accompanying photograph is from the Colorado State University trial in early August.
MONARDA DIDYMA ‘BEE MINE PINK’
The Monarda ‘BeeMine Pink’ was the most floriferous Monarda in the Metrolina trial in late June and in the Colorado State trial in early August. The vibrant, frilly electric pink flowers formed a colorful canopy over dense mint green foliage. The BeeMine series consists of Lavender, Red and Pink. This is an early flowering, medium-height series that matures at 15-18 inches. The foliage was clean and showed no signs of powdery mildew in either trial.This is a uniform first-year flowering series for sunny locations and is a pollinator magnet. The Darwin Monarda lineup is impressive with the compact Balmy series, the mid-size BeeMine series and the more vigorous Sugar Buzz series. The accompanying photograph is from the Colorado State trial.
RUDBECKIA HIRTA ‘PAWNEE SPIRIT’
This new Rudbeckia seed selection from Benary was stunning in southern and northern trials. It is the compact sister of ‘Denver Daisy’ with outstanding large yellow ray petals and a conspicuous dark reddish burgundy center. It matures at 18-24 inches and is hardy to Zone 4. It is extremely uniform and early flowering, and its garden performance in high temperatures, humidity and rainy conditions was exceptional. Benary offers a commanding selection of Rudbeckia varieties and ‘Pawnee Spirit’ will become a significant and salient offering in perennial programs. The accompanying photograph is from the Young’s Plant trial in late June.
SALVIA NEMOROSA ‘DARK MATTER’ & ‘PINK NEBULA’
Last year Danziger introduced the stand alone variety Salvia ‘Dark Matter’ with vibrant, large purple florets on strong inflorescences. It flowered early with a prolific flower canopy in trials last summer and continued that performance in regional trials this year.
Salvia ‘Pink Nebula’ is the new introduction for 2024. The large rosy-pink florets and dark stems on upright and durable inflorescences were impressive. The characteristics of note are earliness, reblooming potential, first-year flowering, no bulking or vernalization required, strong radial branching and intense flower saturation. Both varieties mature at 16-20 inches, flower timing is similar and flower size and ultimate height are identical. Both varieties are hardy to Zone 4 and are available from multiple liner suppliers or ThinkPlants in unrooted form.
PHLOX PANICULATA LUMINARY ‘BACKLIGHT’
Phlox Luminary ‘Backlight’ is the newest addition to the Luminary collection and it manifested in multiple trials the attributes of mildew resistance, heat and humidity tolerance, a strong upright habit and well defined and prolific pure white flower panicles that contrast nicely with the dark green foliage. It demonstrated its resilience, heat and humidity tolerance, pure white flowers and floriferousness in the Dallas Arboretum perennial bed in early July following eight weeks of adverse environmental conditions, and its toughness and durability in the Colorado State trial in August. ‘Backlight’ is an important addition to the collection. White reflects the most light in the garden and this Phlox has adaptability in moonlight garden settings, full sun locations and will provide essential contrast in any perennial bed. This series matures at 28-30 inches and is hardy to Zone 3a.
RUDBECKIA HIRTA MINIBECKIA ‘FLAME’
This Rudbeckia was introduced in 2020 and continues to impress every year in regional trials. It has been awarded a Plant of Distinction at the University of Georgia, Athens trial and has won many other performance awards over the last three years. It is self-branching and has a dense upright habit with striking large semi-double yellow ray flowers with a red center and large central cones. It flowered profusely in the trial beds in Georgia in late June and in the field and container trial at the Dallas Arboretum in early July. This continuously blooming variety will provide eight weeks of color under adverse conditions of heat and drought and has application in landscape beds and containers. It matures at 18-24 inches and is hardy to Zone 5.
We have a plethora of Rudbeckia selections to choose from and the Minibeckia ‘Flame’ has demonstrated its resilience and value to the industry. The accompanying photograph is from the University of Georgia, Athens trial in late June.