Browse through the pictures for a sampling of what they have on display. We don't know the specific cultivar names but tried to put the plant types in the captions.
For many of us, hospitals invoke anxious feelings. They are places we tend to visit only when there is trouble. How refreshing it is, then, to walk around the campus of the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, KS with its bright and cheerful flower beds! From the parking garages to the building entrances, these are some of the most beautiful and colorful garden displays around. It really makes a big difference to elevate one's mood when surrounded by such lovely landscaping. I find myself purposely going by the hospital, not for any health-related issue, but just to catch a few glimpses of color! Well done, KU Med!
Browse through the pictures for a sampling of what they have on display. We don't know the specific cultivar names but tried to put the plant types in the captions.
Golf courses are usually dominated by one color - GREEN! It's the horticulturists on staff who are charged with adding some color and texture to the landscaping and clubhouse to brighten up the areas for members. I had the privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes tour from Anna Ramey at her place of work, Mission Hills Country Club in Mission Hills, Kansas. Anna has long been a supporter of the K-State flower trials and the Prairie Star program. She and I had been seeing each other once at year at the Flower Field Day for the last nine seasons, so it was fun to get a glimpse of what she does for the rest of the year!
Anna chooses flowers that deliver season-long color. A large bed by the clubhouse entrance makes a big statement with a mix of grasses, flowers, and foliage plants. Smaller accent gardens are tucked into the landscape, brightening up the surroundings and adding visual appeal. Many of the building are accented with large planters and hanging baskets. Some of her favorite Prairie Star winners include Coleus 'ColorBlaze Dipt in Wine,' Begonia 'Dragon Wing Red,' Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost,' Mandevilla 'SunParasol', and Ageratum 'Artist Blue.'
Since they often hosts weddings in the summer, Anna mostly uses white on the patio of the clubhouse. Vinca 'Titan White' has been one of her favorites. It thrives despite getting watered infrequently, and doesn't have issues with budworm or high fertilizer requirements. I like how elegant it looks with the planters of succulents and foxtail ferns!
Anna has chosen some great perennials in addition to the annuals that are on display. Native grasses and their cultivars like the switchgrass 'Northwind,' prairie dropseed, and little bluestem are dotted throughout the landscape. These are also on the list of Prairie Bloom perennials that K-State recommends for the region.
Click through the photos to see even more creative uses of flowers and lots of Prairie Star winners! While country clubs will always be primarily centered on their golf courses, they certainly wouldn't have the same panache without all the flowers.
This post features the flowers grown in the container trials that are new additions to the Prairie Star list of recommended varieties for 2016. These cultivars did not do as well when planted in the ground here at the Kansas State University flower trials, but are wonderful for patio planters.
The full list of Prairie Star plants for use in landscapes and containers can be viewed at our sister website, or downloaded from the KSRE Bookstore.
Some highlights from the 2016 winners:
There are SO MANY different Petunia colors to choose from, it can be overwhelming! For this year we have a mere seven new additions, which seems much more manageable. If you like the smaller-flowering types, 'Supertunia Morning Glory Charm' is a must. The plants are vigorous but will keep a nice round shape instead of spreading out haphazardly. They are covered with petite blue flowers.
Also on the more compact side, 'Success' Petunias have done well for us, with the Pink and White colors being added to our Prairie Star list. These are seed propagated varieties for all you gardeners who like to start your own plants!
Many gardeners went wild for the petunia 'Supertunia Pretty Much Picasso' a few years ago, and now there's another color, 'Picasso in Pink.' This cultivar did very well in the containers, cascading all the way to the ground and displayed unique pink flowers with chartreuse edges.
One of the most breathtaking container displays from the last two years has been Calibrachoa 'Aloha Tiki Neon.' The blooms are large and abundant and really are close to neon (but in a pleasant way)! It was easy to spot this container from across the parking lot. 'Cabaret White' was one of the best performing Calibrachoa cultivars in terms of growth and flower presentation, and a unique new color in the trials was Calibrachoa 'Conga Orange.'
For shadier areas we now recommend two New Guinea Impatiens in the Divine series - 'Orange' and 'Orange Bronze Leaf.' These cultivars were tough enough to keep blooming through the hot Kansas summers.
It's time to announce the Prairie Star winners for 2016! These annual flowers had two years of excellent ratings in the K-State flower trials. It is a diverse selection of plants that have thrived despite flooding rains and sweltering heat. Look through the pictures and see what you like!
You can also view the full Prairie Star list on our other website and print an updated publication from the K-State Bookstore to take with you when you start shopping for flowers this spring. The next installment will feature the new additions in the "Containers" section.
Some highlights from the new winners:
The impressive Geranium 'Glitterati Ice Queen' was one of the toughest Geraniums in the trial, even with its glamorous variegated foliage. It brightens up displays with its white edged leaves and delicate red flowers.
If you're looking for low maintenance and drought tolerant flowers, try Gomphrena 'QIS Carmine' and 'QIS Red.' These tough plants bloomed all summer and are great for cutting to add to flower bouquets.
A new addition in the "Foliage" section of the Prairie Star list is the Ornamental Grass Pennisetum 'Sky Rocket.' These mounded plants grew about four feet high and displayed white variegated foliage and abundant plumes.
We don't see many Dahlias tough enough to make it on the Prairie Star list, but 'XXL Taxco' is a new addition this year. Featuring dark red flowers on stems long enough for cutting, it is a standout performer that bloomed all summer, especially late into September. We couldn't help but gush about how well it did at some of our demonstration gardens on our Facebook page this year!
Something a little different is Echibeckia - a cross between Echinacea (Coneflower) and Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan). 'Summerina Orange' proved to be very uniform and displayed beautiful orange flowers. Although we did not trial it as a perennial it is supposed to be hardy in our Midwest zones.
Impatiens 'Bounce Pink Flame' is a hybrid that can be planted in sun or shade and is a solid patch of color. Unlike the traditional Impatiens walleriana, this hybrid is not susceptible to Impatiens Downy Mildew disease.
Dianthus 'Jolt Pink' is an All-American Selections (AAS) winner that did very well in our climate. The blooms are long-lasting and brightly colored.
If you want to attract some pollinators to your garden, there are three new Salvias on this list. The blue-flowered Salvia farinacea 'Mannequin Blue Mountain' is a prolific bloomer, and 'Playin the Blues' has tall flower spikes on large stocky plants. Salvia coccinea 'Summer Jewel White' is an AAS winner that thrives in the summer heat and is a favorite of the bees and butterflies.
The Canna 'Cannova' series is a trial garden standout. The plants thrive with little care and put on loads of big flowers. They're fairly compact for cannas, reaching heights of about three feet. There are even more colors coming that we will trial in 2016, so stay tuned...
January is the prime time for paging through seed catalogs and websites to figure out what you're going to grow in your garden this year. While we - of course! - urge you to remember the Prairie Star list of flowers that thrive in the prairie climate, there are many other award programs out there. The oldest and one of the most prominent is the All-America Selections (AAS) program. If you're a veteran gardener, chances are you've seen the logo in a magazine or on a packet of seeds. But for newbies or those who aren't familiar with the designation, let's take a moment to review what the program is, why it matters, and what some of our favorite new winners are.
AAS started trialing flowers and vegetables in back in 1932. Trial sites are located throughout North America and entries are evaluated by independent judges. Our K-State Olathe Horticulture Research and Extension Center is a site for both the Ornamental and Edible trials. Entry cultivars must be brand new to the market, and they are grown and compared to varieties already on the market to see if they have significant improvements that would merit an award. For 2016 we will be testing 15 flower entries and 29 edibles, in addition to the holdovers and winners - it's a big undertaking!
To be a National AAS winner a cultivar has to receive high ratings from test sites all over the country. That is no easy feat! So if you see the AAS seal, you can be sure it's a notable variety. The judges are rating the plants with the home gardener in mind - this means they are making life easier for you by determining what has a good chance of growing well in your garden. The plants are judged on a wide range of criteria, from color and blossom fanciness on the flowers, to yield and taste on the edibles. Disease, insect, and deer resistance are looked at, too!
A relatively recent development in the AAS program is assigning Regional winners (Kansas is in the "Heartland" district). This is expanding the list of award winners to some crops that otherwise have difficulty performing at a high level in the different climates throughout North America.
So what looks good for our gardens? AAS releases the names of winners three times a year. Check in on their website frequently or follow our Facebook page for updates. There are some great ones! Following are pictures of some of the winners grown at our site in Olathe that we feel did exceptionally well.
In terms of fast-growing foliage plants it's hard to beat Sweet Potato Vine, or Ipomoea. This year we had a great new series in the K-State trials: SolarPower. These plants stayed compact (the plots looked like they had been edged with a string trimmer, but it wasn't necessary!) and were very well-branched. The deeply lobed leaves add a lot of texture to the landscape or container planting.
The Sweet Caroline series has been on the Prairie Star list for a long time, and the new color 'Sweetheart Lime' performs at an appropriately high level. The leaves are a bright green with a very subtle red around the margin that looks sort of like someone outlined it with a pen.
There are many great Sweet Potato colors to choose from on the Prairie Star list, with different growth habits ranging from sprawling to compact. The vining Sweet Caroline 'Sweetheart Red' has young leaves that are green and age to a dark red color. Very striking!
A neat development is the 'FloraMia Nero' cultivar of Sweet Potato that has flowers in addition to the attractive foliage. These plants aren't as vigorous and spreading as others, but they still have a nice presence and work well in combination plantings.
Continuing on with some highlights from the 2015 K-State flower trials...
Petunias are always one of the largest groups of entries in the trials, and there are so many different colors and types out there. Last year one of the best performers was 'Supertunia Morning Glory Charm,' and it is having another stellar year in the container trials. We love the vibrant blue color and it is always packed with blooms. The Supertunia Charms have a more compact habit and smaller blooms, making them great choices for where you want a mound of color. Look for this cultivar on the 2016 Prairie Star list!
Check out how the Supertunia Charms look in the landscape! The new 'Violet Star Charm' has incredible vigor and is impressive with its striped flower display.
A neat new sunset color in the Supertunia line is 'Honey.' This plant is not only uniquely beautiful but also tough. It withstood wet conditions in the field better than many other cultivars.
Another petunia that has garnered interest is 'Sweetunia Johnny Flame.' The velvety flowers look stunning paired with dark-leaved plants like sweet potatoes and grasses.
A vigorous spreading petunia with some serious flower power is 'Tidal Wave Red Velour.' This cultivar is also a 2015 All-America Selections Winner, so it has proved itself in trials throughout North America.
We love the 'Sundenia' Dipladenia series. This is a bush-type cultivar instead of vining, so no trellis is required. It still sends out lots of tendrils and makes a very full pot display. The 'White' is a prolific bloomer and the 'Red' has a beautiful dark color and slightly large flowers (though the blooms did fade at bit in the peak of the summer heat).
For adding color to shady areas it's hard to beat Impatiens. The new 'Lollipop' series has performed very well and were some of the brightest pots in the shade container trials.
The semi-double begonia 'Evi Pink' was also impressive in the shade containers. One of the most prolific bloomers, it was not as affected as some of the other cultivars by the temperature swings from cool to hot.
Check in next week for an update on new Sweet Potato cultivars and more!
Looking out over the flower trial beds now, it's hard to believe we have faced major challenges this year like flooding and soil cracking and invasions from rabbits and weeds. Plants are amazing in their resilience, and much of what has survived has gone on to look fantastic in this August heat!
If you haven't been able to make it to one of the Field Days at the horticulture research center, fear not! We will feature some of the highlights from this year over the next few posts. Some cultivars are new, others have been on the market for a while - but it's always nice to have a reminder of what does well!
There are some excellent Coleus in the shade containers this year. ColorBlaze 'Apple Brandy' provides some interest with bright bi-color leaves. The smaller leaves along the whole stem fill in any gaps, making a really attractive display. The ColorBlaze series is on the Prairie Star list and it looks like this cultivar will be a great addition.
The Main Street series of Coleus has also been very impressive in the shade containers. These plants are very well branched with nice growth habits - the pots looked full without being lanky. They're also very slow to bloom, which is usually a desirable characteristic for a plant that is more focused on the foliage and not the flower.
We'll step away from the shade and see some things that like it hot. Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan) is a good choice for Kansas, and 'Denver Daisy' has had another great performance this year. Hard to beat that eye-catching bloom!
People in this area of Kansas love their Blue Salvia, or Salvia farinacea. One of the best in the trial this year is 'SallyFun Sky Blue.' It's got more flower stalks than other cultivars, and the bright color stands out in the landscape.
For a different look, the Salvia farinacea 'Playin the Blues' offers lush foliage on a bushier plant. The blooms are not as plentiful, but the stalks are longer and display a rich blue color. Both of these are very nice options for landscape plantings and pollinators love them!
Speaking of pollinators, here's a cool new plants - Asclepias 'Monarch Promise.' It's an annual milkweed that butterflies love, plus it provides some very unique variegated foliage. The leaves have a pinkish tint to them, making them quite beautiful. This is a great plant for the gardener who has it all and is looking for something a little new - and wants to provide some pollinator habitat in the process!
The Sedum 'Lemon Coral' is another cultivar that has been on the Prairie Star list for years, but it's nice to be reminded of it's awesomeness! It withstood all the different weather that was thrown at it without ever looking disheveled. The succulent lime-green foliage brightens up small spaces and containers, and mixes well with other species.
Stay tuned for more picks next week!
We run the annual and perennial flower trials for Kansas State University