10 September 2009

What I learned from the MSU annual trails

I've been browsing through the Michigan State annual trial gardens this summer and, as usual, getting ideas, and learning new things. I love university trial gardens -- it is a great way to get objective, local information about new cultivars. Most universities with a good horticulture department (read, land-grant state universities) run trials, and a quick google search will usually turn up a university trial in a climate similar to your own. Most compile their results on their websites, but there is nothing like visiting and seeing all the plants in person.

And here's what I learned from the gardens this year:

There are a lot of intense new coleus out there

But nothing comes close to my long-time favorite, 'Sedona'
This is a new Gomphrena, 'Fireworks' The growth habit is fantastic, almost like a Verbena bonariensis.
I'm not too sure about the color though -- it is a screaming pink (brighter than it looks in this image). I want that growth habit with the color of my favorite Gomphrena, 'Strawberry Fields.'
Here you see the long beds formally filled with petunias which have rotted and died. Lesson being: Petunias don't like cold, wet summers. Yet another reason not to plant the wretched things.
One plant I am definitely going to try next summer is this Colocasia 'Heart of the Jungle'
As you can see, huge plants, a good 4 and a half feet tall with luscious dark leaves.
But I was even more excited by what I saw close up: Runners and baby plants like a strawberry. Colocasia are easy to over winter indoors, and all those babies mean one expensive plant could result in lots of free plants the next year. Definitely on the "to buy" list.

What have you seen this summer that's been added to your list to grow next year?

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