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With such a large variety of colorful temptations on the market, how do you choose which one to plant in your garden? This
presentation will show you spectacular annuals and perennials, which have been trialed and evaluated by researchers at the
University of Georgia, and recommended for you. Sit back and enjoy the blooms!
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A little bit of background first. The Trial Gardens at UGA in Athens were established in 1982 by Dr. Allan Armitage and Dr. Michael
Dirr. Dr. John Ruter took over as Director of the Trial Gardens from co-founder Dr. Armitage in July of 2013. The mission of the
Garden continues to include teaching, research, and new plant introductions. The Garden is an essential trialing site for heat and
humidity tolerance for many of the world’s annual and perennial ornamental breeding companies, as most summers the number of
days reaching ≥90F is in the range of 50-60.
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Garden employees work with over 20 of the major ornamental breeding companies from around the world. In 2013, the Trial
Gardens evaluated over 750 annual taxa in ground beds, hanging baskets, and containers. Trials also include numerous perennials
and 200 landscape roses. Overall there are approximately 2000 different taxa growing on less than ¾ of an acre. Several plants have
been introduced to the trade via the Trail Gardens over the past 20 years. This tradition will continue in the future as Dr. Ruter
releases plants from his ornamental breeding program at UGA.
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Every week, 10-12 plants are selected as “Plants of Distinction” for their extraordinary performance in the garden. These plants are
featured on the web site and information about them also is emailed to interested parties. At the end of the season the “Classic City
Awards” are given to the best 10 plants which had exhibited excellent performance throughout the summer. The best cultivars for
each genus also are listed under the “Best of the Best” link on the web site. We will showcase the plants which were awarded the
“Classic City Award” for past two years.
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Data collection begins in early June and is taken every two weeks until the end of September. All data is taken by Meg Green, Trial
Garden supervisor. Having a single evaluator is essential for consistency of data collection. Data is entered into Excel on a tablet in
the garden and is uploaded to our Trial Garden web site (ugatrial.hort.uga.edu). Plants are rated on a scale of 1-5 (5 being best) on
overall vigor, appearance, flower production, and disease and insect resistance. All this data can be found on the web site and is
graphically tracked for each variety being evaluated. Graphing is important as it allows for viewing of performance over time and
shows how the plant performed from early-summer until fall. Data is also shared with the National Trials database
(www.planttrials.org).
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The following symbols are used throughout the presentation to denote suitability of the plant to regions of the state. Sun exposure is
defined as the amount of sun the plant prefers in order to thrive. Full sun is defined as 6 or more hours of direct sun per day; partial
sun or partial shade is defined as 4 to 6 hours of direct sun per day, and full shade is defined as less than 4 hours of direct sun per
day. “A” and “P” refer to whether the plant is an annual or a perennial. The bulldog symbol indicates that the plant was developed
by breeders at the UGA.
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And now, for the winners of 2013!
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Acalyphas, also known as Copperleaf Plant, have provided an incredible variety of colors and textures to our garden for several years.
Originally from Australia, this year’s top eye-popping Acalypha has been ‘Inferno’. Since receiving these plants in early April, the
foliage of ‘Inferno’ has been a bright fiery red. It has continued to intensify in color throughout the heat and rain of our summer,
becoming even more beautiful every day. Our plants were about 3’ tall, well-branched, and never flowered. Under full shade, expect
darker coloration, due to green chlorophyll developing in the leaves.
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Angelonia, also called Summer Snapdragon, has become a favorite in our trial garden over the years, with many performing
beautifully and some performing less well. AngelMist Spreading Dark Purple was sent by Ball FloraPlant as was AngelMist Spreading
White. Both are worthy of high merit, but the purple cultivar edged out its white sister slightly. Both cultivars were planted in
hanging baskets as well as in the ground and thrived in each location. AngelMist Spreading Dark Purple has been a profuse bloomer
for the entire summer. It never had any downtime, remaining a tight mound of dark purple beauty all summer.
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Caladiums have saved the shady areas of our garden where few plants grow, much less thrive. Practically every visitor to our garden
went wild for our caladiums and most of the varieties earned our “Plants of Distinction” honors throughout the summer. ‘Summer
Breeze’ outshone its siblings as they produced more and more leaves that were a beautiful clean white with rosy red veins. These
plants thrived in early sun as well as in deep shade.
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Million Bells have been a favorite for hanging baskets and containers for full sun. Out of the over 80 cultivars of Calibrachoas in our
trial garden this summer, Lindura ‘Light Blue’ has been the best cultivar of all. It remained covered in lovely truly light blue flowers
for the entire summer. We have had this cultivar for a few years, during which time, it has always performed superbly. This award is a
bit over do for Lindura ‘Light Blue’, but at last it is receiving its well-deserved respect.
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From the first Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ which debuted in 2007, we now enjoy a palette of these great plants. The Euphorbias we
have trialed in the past few years have all been completely maintenance-free, beautiful, profuse bloomers. Euphorbia ‘Star Dust
Super Flash’ is no exception. After establishing itself in a container, this euphorbia produced endless flowers. Its habit is carefree as it
spills its flowers over the edges of containers. As temperature dropped in the fall this cultivar went into overdrive producing more
flowers than leaves that resulted in a spectacular floral display. The flowers do not need deadheading. Under less light, these
Euphorbias tend to develop a more open habit, with fewer blooms. However, they can be grown as indoor plants. Perhaps the best
thing about them is that deer stay away from them!
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Globe Flower, Gomphrena is an old-timey plant which has been improved by breeders. The Las Vegas series of gomphrena has
impressed us at UGA for several years. In particular, ‘Las Vegas Purple’ has really made a bold statement in our trials this summer. Its
large gumball sized flowers dot the plants resembling holiday decorative lights. The dark purple flowers contrast pleasantly with the
clean green leaves. As summer warmed, these purple balls multiplied and enlarged. ‘Las Vegas Purple’ resisted any potential
diseases and remained upright throughout our frequent summer rains. It flowered well into the fall.
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Hibiscus ‘Panama Red’ PP20,121 (plant patent #20,121) is an ornamental variety developed at The University of Georgia by Dr. John
Ruter. The plants display an intense red color when planted in full sun, deeply cut foliage, stable foliage color, very large purple
flowers, thrives in hot and humid conditions and flowers heavily during short days (November to April) in zone 10. It also is a fastgrowing, vigorous plant. ‘Panama Red’ can be grown in the garden (needs ‘elbow room’ - 3 feet) or in a large container. Plants of
‘Panama Red’ tend to stay more upright and bushy compared to other varieties. It benefits from an early pinch to encourage basal
branching. Some trimming may be necessary if this plant is grown in a crowded location.
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Early in their development, New Guinea Impatiens bred to be grown in full sun was an anomaly. Now, these beauties growing in the
bright Georgia sunshine thrive beyond imagination as the summer’s heat attempts to bake them. Month after month, ‘Compact Hot
Coral’ from Sakata has exploded in large brilliant deep coral blooms. These plants were indeed compact and never lodged after any
rain shower.
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Sun Harmony ‘Salmon’ has thrived all summer in our unusually wet and not quite blistering hot weather of 2013. These plants were
sturdy and covered in large salmon New Guinea Impatiens flowers. Look out SunPatiens! You now have a strong competitor. This
series broadens and brightens the field of New Guineas for the sun.
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This petunia was practically perfect for the entire summer. Elegant, double rose colored clusters of blooms billowed from its
container continuously for months. The foliage of 'Summer Double Rose' remained attractive even through our rainy summer,
resisting disease and thriving in the summer heat. This cultivar far outlived other petunias and remained a winner into the fall.
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Coleus has become a mainstay in many sun gardens, including our trial garden. So many cultivars have been phenomenal especially
the hotter the weather becomes. ‘Luminesce’ thrived, becoming more colorful as the sunshine intensified. Its compact habit enabled
us to skip cutting the plants back mid-season as all others were and ‘Luminesce’ produced very few flowers. This cultivar was more
maintenance-free than all other coleus in our trials.
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And now, for the winners of 2014!
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This angelonia was in full bloom all summer here in Athens, GA. It started out early by outblooming its competitors and remained
strong through the hottest temperatures. The plants are compact and sturdy. They produce lovely deep, dark rose-colored flowers
on multi-stemmed plants.
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Our calibrachoas were a bit slow to bloom in early summer 2014, however once the flowering began, it was profuse. ‘Superbells
Frost Fire’ has outshone other calibrachoas, producing countless white flowers with a yellow eye. These plants remained compact
while other calibrachoas became spindly and scraggly late in the summer.
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Catharanthus, commonly referred to as Vinca, has been a staple in the summer landscapes. These drought-tolerant annuals have
been bred to tolerate the heat and humidity of the Southeast. We had 14 colors of the Cora series of Catharanthus, this summer and
every one of them has had outstanding performance. The plants were consistent in height and floriferousness. All tolerated the heat,
humidity and irregular rains quite well. The Cora’s have rightfully earned high marks by being flawless all summer and into the fall.
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Perennial favorite, Coreopsis, also known as Tick Seed, has several worthy species which thrive in full sun. Coreopsis ‘Sunshine Suzy’
is not a loud plant that begs for attention, but more of a quiet surprise. The plants were compact, but airy and constantly produced
nickel-sized yellow flowers. Month after month, ‘Sunshine Suzy’ excelled in our climate.
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Coneflower has been receiving a lot of attention by breeders. In addition to its large blossoms and drought-tolerance, the plant is
well-known for its medicinal properties as immune system booster, especially helpful for colds and flu. The Sombrero series has
performed well for us. ‘Sombrero Adobe Orange’ has completely wowed us with its extraordinary beauty. The plants produced
numerous large bright orange cone flowers. This cultivar bloomed longer than any Echinacea we have ever grown. It is truly a
spectacular plant.
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Over the years, the euphorbias have performed well in our garden. ‘Stardust Super Flash’ out-performed others in 2014. The
compact plants were covered by countless small white flowers from April through October. The plants were well behaved, not falling
over, nor infringing on their neighbors.
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An underused but deserving perennial, Heliopsis shines its daisy-like blossoms in spite of drought and heat. ‘Sunstruck’ heliopsis
grew to a mere 6” in height in 2014. Its leaves are variegated and they accentuate the large yellow flowers well. These plants
withstood our heat and humidity and performed beautifully.
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This perennial hibiscus demands attention by displaying its spectacularly large blooms. ‘Royal Gems’ hibiscus has been in our garden
for several years and it has impressed us each year. This cultivar resists the insects that decimate many other hibiscus, the hibiscus
sawfly. ‘Royal Gems’ produces giant deep rosy pink blossoms for several weeks throughout summer. Its foliage remains a healthy
lush green until frost.
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2014 was a great year for our New Guinea impatiens. So many cultivars performed extraordinarily well, including the series Big
Bounce and Bounce. In particular, ‘Bounce Pink Flame’ grew tall, but never lodged. The stems proudly held numerous bright pink
blooms for the world to see.
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Not your grandma’s Alyssum, this ever-present splash of subtle colors is truly impressive! From early in the summer of 2014, it was
obvious this cultivar was on its way to earning the Classic City awards title. It quickly spread and formed a carpet of pink and white
flower clusters. Month after month, ‘Bicolor Pink Stream’ displayed its beauty and perfumed its environment, never surrendering to
the Georgia heat. This alyssum is truly an extraordinary cultivar.
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With a name like that, how could not expect an outstanding performer! Glitterati Ice Queen was grown in hanging baskets in our
garden where they thrived in the hot, blazing sun. The variegated leaves did not brown in the sun, but remained healthy all summer.
This geranium produced numerous orangish-red blooms that were evenly distributed throughout the plants thus creating a lovely
mounding appearance.
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Petunia ‘Supertunia Morning Glory Charm’ performed perfectly through the hot summer. It quickly formed a mound of small violet
blooms with a large white eye. This petunia was loaded with so many small blooms even in the hottest months of the summer. It
never ceased to be a perfect sphere of violet with only bits of green visible.
Fancy Fan Flower has received quite a bit of attention from breeders since the plant was first introduced on the market in the mid
80’s. This Australian native, is a groundcover that forms a dense mat spreading 3 to 5 feet with its fleshy leaves. Best in sun or light
shade with moderate watering. This fan flower amazed us with its perfection throughout the summer. ‘Scalora Amethyst’ was
another cultivar that was obviously a winner from early in the summer. The plants easily grew into a mat of blue blooms atop its
foliage.
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We invite you to visit us on the campus of UGA. At the very least, check out our website and see for yourself!
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