MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Features

February 1, 2012

Try new plant varieties this year

— There will be lots of exciting plant varieties on the market this spring as breeders and growers have designed new improved plants in more colors with better disease resistance. Here are a few to look for and ask your favorite nursery about.

Coreopsis verticillata sweet marmalade is a new color of an old favorite garden flower. This one grows a foot tall and has apricot-orange flowers. Shorter than the ones we usually grow, sweet marmalade would be good for containers or the front of a border. Cut off the first flush of summer flowers and the plants will bloom again later in the season. Coreopsis verticillata is a drought resistant, thread-leafed variety that will spread slowly by underground rhizomes.

Petunia suncatcher pink lemonade is one of a series of new petunias that will be featured for hanging baskets and containers. Suncatcher petunias are mounding plants, make lots of flowers, love the sun and need less water. Available from High Country Gardens www.highcountrygardens.com.

Daisy-like osteospermum margarita nano yellow is one of the new margarita nano colors. Commonly called African daisies, they are easy to grow, heat tolerant, and need no deadheading or pinching. They are perennial in their native Africa but are grown as annual flowers here. In northern California, the highways are densely planted with African daisies where they bloom and spread all summer.

Centaurea black sprite is the latest purple-black flower to come on the market. The combination of gray-green leaves and spidery sunbursts of flower petals make them popular as cut flowers.  Centaureas are in the easy-to-grow aster family and have common names such as hardhead and knapweed. From the Mediterranean, they grow best in borders or rock gardens where they can receive full sun and grow in relatively dry conditions. They grow up to 14 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

Everybody loves blanket flowers. The flowers of the native variety have an orange-pink center with yellow tips on the petals. The new varieties, commotion moxie, frenzy, and tizzy, have been bred to have many more petals, looking semi-double when they are in bloom. They grow up to 2 feet tall and wide, love the sun and are drought tolerant. These thrive in poor soil but do not like clay because it stays too wet. Do not fertilize.

New gaillardia or blanket flowers you can grow from seed include Arizona apricot from Thompson & Morgan (www.tmseeds.com). Arizona apricot grows only 1 foot tall and the daisy flowers are 3 inches across. The plant has dark green leaves and the flowers have apricot centers and yellow petal tips. It takes two weeks for seed germination with temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees so they can be planted indoors at the end of March or outside in pots.

Every year there are new verbena colors. A couple of years ago, there were new ones called tropical breeze purple and white, lascar red with eye, lanai peach, aztec coral and rapunzel magenta. This year the introductions include estrella salmon star and seabrook’s lavender, which has clusters of lavender flowers with a dark eye. They will flower almost until the first frost. They grow 3 inches tall and spread 2 feet wide in full sun.

Renee’s Garden Seeds (www.reneesgarden.com) is introducing a new container bush-zucchini called astia. The plants are compact and the zucchini grows close to the stem for easy picking. The seeds are started late spring in big pots of fertilized soil. It takes about 50 days from seed planting to harvest.

Each of us gardeners has our favorites that we plant every year; adding something new doubles the fun.

You can find more information about dozens of new introductions at www.GreenhouseGrower.com and on my garden blog at http://allthedirtongardening.blogspot.com.

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