The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Trial Plants winners for 2016

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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 2016 was a mixed bag for sure. May was cold and windy, just as plants were planted. The rains came but so did the heat. Over the last few years the phrase "typical summer" is seldom uttered 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, Illinois 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 2016 under Ann's direction and expertise we continued our relationship with two companies, Ball Horticultural and Proven Winners, to trial 108 different plant cultivars, along with 4 vegetables. 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, Pattie Stoffel, Joyce Beitel and Pam Hohn to determine overall plant splendor, percentage of bloom cover, and tendency toward pest/ insect damage or plant diseases. Here is a run-down of the top winners as written by Ann Tice.

One plant attained a perfect score during 2016 season.

Hall of Famer and Blooming Wonder - Petunia 'Supertunia Morning Glory Charm'- for the third year in a row a smash hit of billowing blooms of lavender blue, white eyes and silvery white backs.

The fabulous and highly recommended 2016 Gold Medal winners:

Angelonia 'Archangel Blue Bicolor' and 'Angelface Super Pink' - Short, bubbly bloomer 'Archangel Blue Bicolor' perked along all season with clear lavender and white blooms. 'Angelface Super Pink' bloomed later but was worth the wait, as it was loaded with blooms even into October. Fabulous as a tall accent plant for beds or containers.

Canna Canova 'Orange Shades' and Canova 'Mango' - The Canova cannas were grown from seed and amazed us in blooming right out of the greenhouse and through the season. 'Orange Shades' was a glowing beacon of blooms.

Coleus ColorBlaze 'French Quarter' and 'Lime Time' - 'French Quarter' coleus is a huge beauty of chartreuse and burgundy. With plenty of water it can reach 4 feet wide and tall. 'Lime Time' glows a lively chartreuse. Even from a distance it is a stunning accent in the border.

Lantana 'Lucky Red' - Lovely little 'Lucky Red' was a compact, rounded, tidy beauty of 12 inches tall and 14 inches wide with lots of orangey-red blooms.

Several petunias reached Gold Medal status including 'Supertunia Daybreak Charm', 'Supertunia 'Lavender Skies', 'Supertunia 'Pink Star Charm', 'Supertunia Violet Star Charm', 'Supertunia Vista Bubblegum'and 'Supertunia Vista Silverberry'.

Other Gold Medal winners include: Sedum 'Lemon Coral'; Verbena 'EnduraScape Pink Bicolor'; and Zinnia 'Double Zahara Brilliant Mix'.

Huge thanks to Ann Tice, Ball Horticultural, Proven Winners and all our valuable volunteers that make our community gardens a success. Check out our website for more information about the Idea Garden.

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