The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Trial Plants winners for 2015

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Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

One of the great corollaries of being a gardener is the opportunity to try out new plants and new techniques (or rediscovered old techniques). Some shine and some leave us wondering what the fuss is all about.

In the world of gardening annual flowers are under the most pressure to perform. We want them to bloom continuously from spring until fall, regardless of the weather and regardless of our prowess at plant care. Let's face it; plants have to be tough to survive the expectations of Illinois gardeners and the pings and perils of Illinois summers.

The growing season of 2015 brought luxurious rains until September when the spigot turned off and the heat stayed on. Ok for us, but tough route for plants. Over the last few years the phrase "typical summer" is seldom used by gardeners.

Master Gardeners know all about the whimsies of weather; yet they continue to adjust and amend with each changing season. Since its inception in 1997 the Idea Garden at the UI Arboretum on south Lincoln Avenue in Urbana has been a place for Champaign County Master Gardeners to discover, discern, ponder and proclaim what they have learned.

Our main plant trial tattler and volunteer wrangler is our stupendous Master Gardener Ann Tice. Since 2001 she has accomplished the huge task of organizing the plants and people to make the trials a success.

In 2015 under Ann's direction and expertise we continued our relationship with two companies, Ball Horticultural and Proven Winners, to trial 87 different plant cultivars. Plants are trialed in and around our Idea Garden with the help of magnificent Master Gardeners planting, weeding and watering.

Each month Ann compiles detailed evaluations and photographs. Plants are evaluated by Ann along with Master Gardeners Judy Fraker and Pattie Stoffel to determine overall plant splendor, percentage of bloom cover, and tendency toward pest/ insect damage or plant diseases.

Four plants attained perfect scores during 2015 season.

Coleus 'ColorBlaze Velveteen' is "plant perfection". In a container it reaches 3- 3 ½ feet tall, and also fabulous in a sun or shade garden. It's a gorgeous bushy plant with no spindly naked legs typical of some coleus. 'Velveteen' can easily fill the front of a flower border or a whole garden. It holds its own as in the back of a flower garden with its richly colored leaves of burgundy adorned with jewel-like fuchsia centers. All of the 'ColorBlaze' series of coleus were developed in Florida and bred to take the heat and sun.

Coleus 'Campfire' is a stunning plant with an incredible color blend of rust, purple, orange, and a touch of magenta. It can "set off so many other plants in a color scheme from the hot colors of ruby, yellow, and orange to deep mysterious purples and deep burgundies". It's a delight in sun or shade.

Petunia 'Supertunia Orchid Charm' stood out according to the report like a "free flowing waterfall of lavender pink blooms with deeper violet eyes and subtle veining". Similar to others in the 'Charm' series, 'Orchid Charm' "buries its dead" so there is no need to remove old flowers by deadheading.

For the second year in a row Petunia 'Supertunia Morning Glory Charm' keeps its title as a "blooming wonder". It was a smash hit with "billowing blooms of lavender blue with white eyes and silvery white backs fluttering in the wind".

Additional 2015 Winners:

Angelonia 'Orchid Pink'; Coleus 'ColorBlaze Apple Brandy'; Dahlia 'Mystic Illusion'; Petunias Supertunia Honey, Supertunia Pink Star, Supertunia Rose Blast Charm, Supertunia Sangria Charm, Supertunia Violet Star Charm, Supertunia Vista Bubblegum, Supertunia Vista Fuchsia, Supertunia Vista Silverberry; Phlox 'Intensia White'; Rudbeckia 'Tiger Eye'; and Sedum 'Lemon Coral'.

Huge thanks to Ann Tice, Ball Horticultural, Proven Winners and all our valuable volunteers that make our community gardens a success.

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