Garden Path 10.16.07
By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
The “new is better” syndrome is what keeps the economy in our capitalistic nation going. Some people opt for a new car every year, others for whole housefuls of new furniture every time color or style whims come and go.
If the economy depended solely on people like me, we’d be in a state of chronic depression. Our “new” cars are already a couple of years or more old when we get them, and we’re still housekeeping with some of the same furniture we acquired half a century ago.
But plants, well that’s another story. The “new is better” promoters manage to snooker me at least a few times every year. Once in a while I am glad they did when this plant or the other comes to be a fixture in our garden after proving its mettle when stacked up against old varieties.
The National Garden Bureau issues a poop sheet every year on new varieties of flowers — annual and perennial — that for all the world makes it seem that any of them would be superior to older types of the same genera and species. It is beholden to us gardeners to try them on for size to see if they really are better. Or, better yet, have a friend do it and report to you on the result. Of course, you will lose a year in the effort, but not the money that would be lost on the lackeys.
At any rate, there are a few flowers listed to hit the market next spring that intrigue me and enough paeons about them might induce me to try at least some of them.
I like some celosias, particularly the spiky upright types. The are good contrasts to most other annuals, which offer a rounded, dumpy habit. Think marigolds and impatiens. Then too, celosias offer nice red shades that are useful in my red border.
New next spring is celosia ‘Spiky Purple,’ which is described as purple-red. Sounds a great deal like magenta to me, but in the right setting — say up against a batch of orangy rudbeckia — it might not be bad. Fortunately celosia is almost always in bloom when purchased in six-packs, allowing close inspection and color comparison with other plants.
Calibrachoa has become a rising star in the annual sky since it hit the market a few years ago. The little petunia-like flowers are so prolific they obscure the foliage on a healthy specimen.
Most often seen in hanging baskets and other containers, calibrachoa is also fine in the open ground, spreading widely like ‘Wave’ petunias, but with smaller flowers in many more colors than the petunia range.
‘MiniFamous Double Blue’ calibrachoa will be introduced next spring. As the moniker would suggest, the flowers are double and blue. Just how “blue” we shall see, since there are precious few true blue flowers. Most of those that are called blue are really mauve, purple or violet or something in between.
At any rate, whether blue or not, the double calibrachoa should be an interesting addition to the annual palette.
It’s pansy and viola time. Mid-October is optimum for setting them, after the heat of summer has waned but before the ground is too cold to inhibit root establishment.
One of my favorite varieties is ‘Antique Shades,’ which has been around for some years. The colors are in a range of tans, ecru, beige, pink, yellow and blends of them all.
Now comes those colors in ‘Cello Antique Shades,’ which is said to stand rigidly upright on short stems, displaying the flowers above the foliage, an important consideration with pansies.
They won’t be available until next spring, when I hope I’ll have no pansy planting to do, since those I’m planting now will have clumped up over winter and will be putting on a show. If all goes well, that is.
I grow plenty of the foolproof perennial rudbeckias in my mixed borders. Annual ones appear at our street verge, where they self-seed voraciously. The latter have, over the years, reverted from the named varieties I originally planted there to plain yellow ones.
A first generation hybrid annual rudbeckia — a breakthrough in breeding — will be on the market next spring. ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ is claimed to have more uniform flowers than open pollinated types and reduced susceptibility to powderly mildew. It will reach to 24 inches and would thus be a good mid-range plant in a mixed bed.
It is important to deadhead annual rudbeckias in order to keep them blooming longer. Once they set much seed they fold for the season.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger on 10.16.07