Vaughn’s View: Resilient, floriferous and stunning summer performers
In my January article, I highlighted and described 13 of the top 25 top performing annual introductions for 2023 that I observed in the 2022 summer trials. The chosen few that captured my attention were in multiple summer trials in the south, southwest, midwest, Rocky Mountain and eastern regions that I visited from February through early September. The characteristics or attributes that set them apart were durability, heat and rain tolerance, consistency, flower stability, floriferousness, and eye-catching flower colors. University summer trial results had been released when I wrote this article in early November 2022, and many of the annuals I have focused on were recognized as award-winning performers in specific trials. My observations and evaluations on the final 12 varieties were based on the impact and distinctiveness of these new introductions throughout the summer trial season.
1. RUDBECKIA SUNBECKIA SERIES
Bull Plant Genetics
(Pictured above) This hirta hybrid series was introduced to the American market in 2020 with eight varieties, and was expanded to 16 varieties for 2023 with many new flower forms and colors. The series has been flashy and colorful in the trials the past three years and is finally recognized by the industry with a strong presence in the marketplace. The series matures at 14 to 16 inches, is well branched with strong stems and, most impressively, has large flowers covering the foliage canopy. This is a long-day plant for summer and fall sales in gallon or 2 gallon production with an 8 to 10 week finish time. No pinch is required, and the plants will flower through early fall. There are many trial award winners in the series. Laura received the top performer award at the Welby trials the past two years, and Maya was a consumer favorite at the Colorado State trial. I planted four varieties as thrillers in my sun container trial in late June, and the plants flowered prolifically until frost. The accompanying photograph of Sarah is from the Colorado State trial in early August 2022.
2. PETUNIA ‘SURESHOT BLUEBERRIES & CREAM’
The breeding and introduction of novelty petunias continues unabated with many new introductions for 2023. The new Blueberries & Cream was conspicuous and exceptional in multiple trials with bright purple/blue flowers with a distinctive white picotee margin. When I evaluate novelty petunias, I consider color stability and well-defined color separation. Blueberries & Cream manifested these characteristics throughout the country with outstanding summer hardiness. It was a top consumer favorite in the Mast trial, received high ratings in the Penn State trial and was an overall winner in the University of Georgia trial. The SureShot series replaces the ColorBlitz series for 2023 with six uniform varieties having identical flower size, excellent branching and a seven-day flowering window. Four new colors will be introduced for the 2024 season. The accompanying photograph is from the Gardens at Ball trial in August 2022.
3. SALVIA ‘SALLYFUN BLUE LAGOON’
This new farinacea selection really popped in the trials last summer with strong radial branching, upright architecture and vibrant dark blue flowers. It maintained this rich coloration throughout the summer, and this color stability is a hallmark of the Sallyfun series. Blue Lagoon is a medium-habit selection and augments the current series, which now comprises five varieties. The series had production applicability in quarts, gallons and as a thriller in mixed containers. I used this new variety as a thriller in my container trial, and it maintained its habit and color retention until frost. The accompanying photograph is from the Plantpeddler trial in August 2022.
4. ‘SUNPATIENS COMPACT PURPLE CANDY’
Sakata expanded the SunPatiens color range with new bicolor selections in the compact and vigorous series for 2023. Many of these new introductions were in the trials, including the compact varieties, Lavender Splash and Purple Candy, as well as the vigorous varieties, Peach Candy and Pretty Pink. I could have highlighted any of the new selections, but the one with the most sizzle and vivacious flower pattern was Purple Candy. The bicolor rose and magenta flowers were well defined, vibrant and non-fading from early spring in the southern trials though early fall in the northern trials. Purple Candy was a top consumer favorite in the Mast trial and received high performance ratings in multiple trials. The accompanying photograph is from the Colorado State trial in mid-September 2022.
5. PETUNIA ‘FUN HOUSE PEACH MELBA’
The petunia world changed dramatically in 2011 with the introduction of the Crazytunia collection from Westhoff. Since then, we have had an explosion of stunning bicolor, iridescent and polychromatic petunia collections from multiple breeders. Syngenta launched the Fun House collection in 2022 with Potpourri and followed up with three colors for the 2023 season: Amethyst Sunshine (which I highlighted in my June 2022 Costa Premier article), Papaya and Peach Melba. These new selections offer more vigor and earliness than Potpourri with dynamic and distinctive flower patterns and colors. As I traveled from the southern to the northern trials throughout the summer, Peach Melba captured my attention with its striking and well-defined peach/rose eye with a transitional light peach margin. It demonstrated excellent flower stability and well-defined color separation in a wide range of regional summer conditions. The Fun House varieties will offer colorful and creative components in patio containers and baskets. The accompanying photograph is from the Plantpeddler basket trial in mid-August 2022.
6. ZINNIA MARYLANDICA ZYDECO SERIES
Zydeco zinnias are the first interspecific series in the Syngenta zinnia portfolio, and it is a significant and exciting development in the zinnia world. This series is comprised of four colors: Cherry, Deep Yellow, Fire and White. It combines the fully double flowers of the Z. elegans species and the mounded and bushy architecture of the Z. marylandica species. The superb characteristics are the large double flowers, saturated colors, prolific flower canopy and summer long heat, humidity, and rain tolerance. I was impressed by the season-long performance in many regional trials where the series received high performance ratings. The series will offer production versatility in packs, mixed containers and baskets. The accompanying photograph is from the Young’s Plant Farm container trial in early June 2022, and it illustrates the four colors, the flower size, uniformity and timing.
7. SALVIA ‘ROCKIN’ DEEP PURPLE IMPROVED’
Just when you thought ‘Rockin’ Deep Purple’ could not get any better, the new and improved variety entered the market for 2023 with a more compact habit and better branching to match ‘Rockin’ Fuchsia’, which is the benchmark in the collection. This variety manifested these improvements in southern and northern trials. It was recognized as the best new variety in the Colorado State trial and received high performance ratings throughout the country. This new selection will offer many of the same attributes as the original selection, which are sterility, sturdy stems, dark foliage, deep purple corollas with black calyxes and prolific flowers positioned above the foliage. This improved variety will be more compatible in patio containers as well as landscape beds. I have grown many of the Proven Winners salvia and other salvia varieties in my container trial and beds for many years, and Deep Purple is the most outstanding hummingbird magnet plant I have ever grown. The accompanying photograph is from the Colorado State trial in September 2022.
8. VERBENA ‘LASCAR ORANGE LAVA’
I saw this new verbena selection in the 2022 Costa Premier spring trial in late February and again in late April, and I was impressed by its unique, vivid, and highly saturated bright orange-red petals, its earliness, and the prolific flower canopy. I highlighted this new variety in my June 2022 article for its hot color and floriferousness, and it continued to demonstrate these attributes throughout the summer and early fall. This series consists of 13 varieties, which includes the new selections Blue+White, Purple+White and Orange Lava. Orange Lava was a top performer in multiple trials last summer and was a grower and consumer favorite. I grew Orange Lava in my container trial and it flowered profusely throughout the summer. I trialed dozens of current and 2023 introductions, and Orange Lava was the only plant to withstand two consecutive nights of freezing
temperatures in mid-September, and it continued to flower until late September. Orange Lava, with its unique color and highly saturated flowers, will have outstanding application in mixed containers and baskets. This is a medium vigor series with excellent uniformity, mildew resistance and semi-trailing habit. The accompanying photograph is from the Raker-Roberta’s container trial in August 2022.
9. SALVIA ‘BLUE CHILL’
When I visit a trial, my attention is consistently attracted to the most eye-catching variety in the trial, and this was the case in my visit at the Costa Premier spring trial. The new interspecific salvia ‘Blue Chill’, with its light blue flowers and prolific flower canopy rising above the foliage, grabbed my attention immediately. It is a sport of ‘Mystic Spires’ with a taller, upright habit and similar flower timing. The prolific inflorescences are long with multiple branching, and the light blue hue was consistent and stable throughout the summer season. It received high performance ratings at Penn State and Young’s Plant Farm. This is a low-maintenance, heat- and drought-tolerant selection, and a pollinator magnet with application in large patio containers and landscape sites. The Ball FloraPlant salvia portfolio is extensive with multiple interspecific and guaranitica varieties available for multi production application. The accompanying photograph is from the Raker-Roberta’s trial in mid-August 2022.
10. PETUNIA ‘SUPERTUNIA MINI VISTA YELLOW’
The Supertunia Mini Vista series added three new varieties for 2023: Midnight, Scarlet and Yellow. All three were exceptional throughout the summer, but I was enamored of the new Yellow in the early trials at Costa last February and throughout the country as the season progressed. The optical power and significance of the color yellow cannot be overstated. It is the first color to jump out at a distance. This new Mini Vista Yellow was brilliant in all the summer trials, manifesting luminous, vivid, stable and bright flowers. There are eight Proven Winners recipes for 2023 with the new Vista Yellow as a component. There are now nine varieties in this quintessential series and the new Yellow is the earliest flowering variety. The attributes of the Mini Vista series are self cleaning, dense branching, vigor, floriferous, and heat, humidity, and rain tolerance. This is a series that goes the distance year after year and is outstanding as a filler or spiller component in containers and baskets with added landscape application in beds. The accompanying photograph is from the Raker-Roberta’s basket trial in August 2022.
11. VERBENA ‘LASCAR BLUE+WHITE’
The three new Lascar verbena introductions by Selecta were exceptional in all the trials in which they were entered; I think it is important to highlight ‘Lascar Blue+White’ with its polychromatic light violet, blue, and white petals. I was impressed by the eye-catching flowers, the color retention throughout the summer, the flower size and the outstanding heat tolerance. The accompanying photograph from the Penn State trial on Aug. 31, 2022, demonstrates the heat tolerance and enduring summer performance of this variety.
12. VINCA ‘TATTOO ORANGE’
This is undoubtedly the most unique novelty vinca series in the industry, and it has been expanded with ‘Tattoo Orange’ for 2023. This new selection, striking with its orange petals and dark centers, was in multiple regional trials. The series consists of six tropical colors that offer bold and distinctive flower patterns, creating exceptional and impactful components for sun containers. In the retail environment, the Tattoo varieties are most impressive when displayed together to compare and contrast the diverse color range. The accompanying photograph is from the Metrolina trial in late August 2022.
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