Each year the K-State flower trial researches new plants that sometimes thrive and sometimes die in the Kansas climate. It's great information to know, so a major part of what we do is transferring that knowledge out to the ornamental horticulture industry and general gardening public. Now that the season has come to a close, let's take a look at what the professionals and Extension Master Gardeners were buzzing about the most from 2014!
Front and center in the flower trials were the 'Big Bounce' and 'Bounce' Impatiens. And WOW did they ever impress! These hybrids are disease resistant against Impatiens Downy Mildew and will likely play a large role in replacing the "standard" Impatiens walleriana that were frequently planted in shady areas up until the recent outbreaks of this disease. The cultivars performed very well in the landscape in full sun and also in pots in the shade. They have a very high density of flowers on the plant that rivals the most florific petunia or other garden annual.
Master Gardeners are always asking what hummingbirds and pollinators flock to the most in the trials, and this new Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' had them very intrigued for those reasons. It's definitely best suited for container plantings where people can inspect it up close. This plant will appeal to those gardeners who are looking for something a little unusual to add to their collection.
Cannas, Cannas, everywhere! New seed-propagated 'Cannova' colors were easy growing and strong performers. The 'Happy' series of vegetative Cannas also impressed, with some cultivars showing very nice flower/foliage color combinations. All these Cannas stayed compact at about 36" in size or less, so they worked in both the landscape and large containers.
Petunias are always one of the largest groups in the trials each year, and it would be a very long post indeed to talk about all the new ones. But one that stood out as groundbreaking is 'Supertunia Morning Glory Charm.' The small flowers looked almost like a Calibrachoa but the vigor and color impact was all Petunia - by July the container was no longer visible due to the blooms reaching all the way to the ground! It's got a beautiful and unusual blue color, too.
The Geranium 'Glitterati Ice Princess' was one of the most vigorous variegated Geraniums we have trialed. All the Geraniums struggled a bit in the early cool weather, but this one held its own and looked great through September.
The Scaevola 'Surdiva' series is already on the Prairie Star list, and the newest 'White Improved' is a fantastic addition. It had a very nice compact growth habit and the plants were packed with white fan-shaped flowers that made a full circle around the stem. It looked great in the landscape and in containers.
Since every year is different on the prairie, these will all need to be tested again before they can be added to the Prairie Star list -- but so far there seems to be some exciting new flowers coming to the market that we can add to our color palette!
We run the annual and perennial flower trials for Kansas State University