2016-05-05 / From The Garden

Exciting New Annuals and Perennials

By Cynthia Gibson

Sweet Tooth Orange Slice zinnia Sweet Tooth Orange Slice zinnia This is a great year for new releases of annuals and perennials. In 2016 there are numerous new hybrids available for your gardens and flowerpots.

Annuals are great in flowerbeds, as they only last one season and then you can introduce a new color scheme the following year. For those who like color with a punch, the zinnia is a stable, no-fail flower that continues to bloom all summer long and makes a great cutting flower. I recommend the Sweet Tooth Orange Slice, which has a deep orange-colored bloom. Grown with blue bachelor’s buttons, you will create a stunning tableau.

The Sweet Tooth would also be smashing when placed next to the Fruit Punch maraschino dianthus, or small carnation. The maraschino is just what it sounds like: a bright cherry-red flower, and their clove-like fragrance is wonderful. Dianthus makes a great plant for edging and comes in over-the-top colors. The flowers are natural clumpers, so one pot can be planted a few inches away from the next. They fill garden corners as long as they are planted in front, as they are short and tuffet-like. They come in pastel shades along with white, but the hot reds, pinks, and bi-colors are the ones to buy. Depending upon how severe the winter is, dianthus will return for a year or two then die out.

Picasso in Blue petunia Picasso in Blue petunia Supertunia has come out with two new petunias named in honor of Pablo Picasso: one is Picasso in Blue, and the other is Picasso in Purple. They are amazing. Mixed with just the right green and purple coleus, they would make for a lovely display on your patio or terrace. The blossoms have a band outlining the petals in a bright shade of green. The contrasting colors offer a dynamic, different, must-have annual.

The new perennials this year are wide-ranging as well. In the variety argyranthemum, aka the marguerite or marguerite daisy, Dress Up Cotton Top is at the top of the list. Boasting white half-snowballs of fleurettes that bob on long green stems, they look like button zinnias, but are indeed mums.

Fruit Punch maraschino dianthus Fruit Punch maraschino dianthus The echinacea, or coneflower, is another interesting blossom. The top looks like a cone-shaped beehive that is surrounded by a skirt of petals. Double Scoop Lemon Cream is the softest lemony yellow you can imagine, and would be a delightful addition to any garden this summer. Echinacea are strong perennials, but love a bit of coddling. Plant them next to a stone wall or in a sunny corner for warmth.

The showy agapanthus is a Zone 8 plant which also does very well as a houseplant. You can give it a trip to summer camp – the patio – and then bring it indoors for the winter. Locally, they usually bloom just in time for the Newport Flower Show in June. The Blue Fountain, an agapanthus newcomer, has flower heads that are a deep azure blue and outstanding! The sword-like green leaves fall toward the edges of the pot, allowing the tall stems of blue flowers to show themselves off.

Dress Up Cotton Top marguerite daisy Dress Up Cotton Top marguerite daisy L.A. Dreamin’ is a hydrangea macrophylla, or large-leafed mophead hydrangea. The breeder of this terrific shrub assures us that it does not need a sprinkling of aluminum sulfate at the base for more blue in your blues. In fact, this new hydrangea features all shades of blue, pink, and lavender growing on the plant at one time.

In the Queen of the Vines (clematis) category, there are 15 new varieties for 2016. The two most striking are Carnaby and Lola. The former is so named because it resembles the striped fabrics associated with the mod ’60s on Carnaby Street in London. A lively, large pink and white flower, it will cover a trellis with its cascade of magnificent blooms. Lola is subtler, with a lavender accented with thin purple stripes running down the center of each petal. It is a stunner.

Now is the time to put these annuals and perennials on your list for the season. They are available at your favorite greenhouses and nurseries throughout the area.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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