Every year, my local Colorado State University experts put more than 1,000 flowers on trial in a huge and gorgeous summer-long display. The showy trial garden includes many completely new hybrids and varieties. Their trial garden is one of hundreds of display gardens for the yearly All-America Selections.
Just in time for spring gardeners, here are three of the newest AAS winners, and three of the other best new flowers available for 2011 gardens. According to our favorite garden geek shirt, “Friends don’t let friends buy annuals.” Therefore, we focus on perennial flowers with one notable exception.
Arizona Apricot Gaillardia (Gailardia x grandiflora): The overall AAS flower winner for 2011 is an apricot-colored 3-inch-wide daisy-like flower with yellow edges. Also known as a blanket flower, the Gaillardia is said to look like Native American blankets, but this new cultivar is lighter than standard gaillardia, and blooms for longer. Flowers can last from early summer into fall.
Summer Jewel Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea): This smaller red annual is the AAS bedding plant winner for 2011. The plant reaches 20 inches tall, and is covered from spring through fall with a tower of ½-inch flowers that attract hummingbirds and goldfinches. Of course, this flower breaks the annuals rule, but it might be worthwhile because it blooms from spring through fall.
Shangri-La Marina Viola (Viola cornuta): This 6-inch plant blooms with a 1¼-inch viola with a dark blue and white center with light blue petals. It flowers heavily in early spring, and is the AAS cool-season bedding plant winner. The viola attracts bees and butterflies. It is a short-lived perennial that is hardy to zone 6, but it may be grown as an annual farther north.
Avalanche white sun daisy (Osteospermum ‘Avalanche): This drought-tolerant daisy is the only new flower among the esteemed Plant Select winners for 2011. Plant Select is a program that recommends hardy, beautiful and underutilized plants for the arid, weak-soiled Rocky Mountain region. Plant Select chose this cultivar because it is more disease-resistant than other sun daisies. It has thick, evergreen foliage and the white daisies bloom from April through summer in zones 4 to 9, and up to 8,000 feet in elevation.
Fama Deep Blue Scabiosa (Scabiosa caucasica): This long-blooming giant 4-inch flower is the darkest blue scabiosa available, with a silver center. It is one of the National Garden Bureau’s favorite new plants. The plant is hardy in zones 3 to 7, and does best in full sun. It attracts birds, bees and butterflies to boot.
Boogie Woogie Rose (Rosa Miniature): Finally, we pick our favorite new rose. The miniature Boogie Woogie’s petals have one reddish orange side and one yellow side. It grows in full sun, and is hardy in zones 4 to 10. It is a great, easy-growing, disease-resistant rose for those intimidated by growing roses. Just plant in rich, well-drained soil, and make sure to keep it well-watered.