Each year plant companies send trial plants to garden writers and public gardens in order to see how they grow in conditions across the country. At the end of the 12-month trial the arboretums, and writers report back to the seed and plant companies. You can see the results from 27 trial gardens at www.planttrials.org/TrialGardens.
Oklahoma State University experiments with vegetable, flower and crop seeds. The crop results are online at www.croptrials.okstate.edu and the vegetable trial results are at http://hort.li/1naX. The Dallas Arboretum trials hundreds of ornamental plants each year and their reports are at www.dallasplanttrials.org.
Blooms of Bressingham and Proven Winners are two of the companies that sent small trial plants to garden writers this month.
Blooms of Bressingham sent bare root plants including double-white Dendranthema Icicle Igloo and yellow-flowering Dendramthema Sizzling Igloo. Dendranthema is the Latin name for cold-hardy mums.
All ten varieties in the Igloo series feature dozens of 2 to 5 inch flowers on each mum. The bare root plants they sent are now in clay pots with regular potting soil and they are already loaded with flower buds.
One of their other wonderful selections is Foamy Bells, Heucherella Buttered Rum. This one is a 7-inch tall shade plant with caramel colored leaves and delicate white flowers. Cold hardy to zone 4 Buttered Rum tolerates hot, humid, summer weather but not wet soil.
Their Cranesbill, Azure Rush Geranium, returns with beautiful blue flowers each summer.
Proven Winners Color Choice sent a few of their new perennials including: Quick Fire dwarf Hydrangea, Superbena Royale Cherryburst, Salvia Colorspires Crystal Blue, Hibiscus Summerific Cherry Cheesecake and Buttonbush Sugarshack.
Quick Fire Hydrangea grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide. The flowers that start in mid-summer and continue into fall are white when they first come out and become rose-pink as they mature. Unusual for Hydrangeas, Quick Fire can take full sun and can tolerate drought conditions. The flowers emerge on new wood so they are pruned late winter before the spring growth begins.
Superbena Royale Cherryburst is a trailing Verbena that spreads cherry red flowers across the ground. It is a new hybrid that resists powdery mildew, is heat and drought tolerant even in full sun.
The Crystal Blue Salvia is gorgeous with spikes of clear sky-blue flowers. Cold hardy to zone 3, it grows to 18-inches tall and 24 inches wide in full sun. Like all Salvias, butterflies flock to the flowers but deer and rabbits leave it alone.
The 7-inch flowers of Cherry Cheesecake Hibiscus are pink and white, resembling cherry juice on the top of a cheesecake. The shrub grows 4 feet tall and wide. It will tolerate any soil but needs regular watering to flower best. Heat and humidity tolerant, and cold hardy to zone 4, it blooms for several months over the summer even in part-shade. The petals are thick enough to withstand summer heat and wind.
The Sugar Shack Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidenta, has doubled in size in the short time since it arrived and will mature at 3 or 4 feet tall and wide. It is a native plant that tolerates wet soil found in bogs and water gardens. The white, fragrant flowers attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds then form red fruit. At 12-feet tall, the native Buttonbush is too large for most home landscapes. Sugar Shack is half that size while retaining all the beauty in its leaves, flowers and fall fruit. You can shape them, cut to the ground in the spring or allow them to grow untamed.
Two of the new Proven Winners annuals are purple-flowering Dark Knight Alyssum, or Lobularia, and Superbells Frostfire with yellow-centered white flowers that are streaked with red.