This the Garden Column for the week of January 20.
By James Romer
Master Gardener Coordinator
Iowa State University Extension
Seven new annual flower cultivars were given All-America Selection awards in 2006. To receive this award, the selection must possess unique or improved characteristics compared to existing cultivars. The large number of award winners makes this year a great opportunity to try some new flower cultivars.
Below are brief descriptions of the 2006 All-America Selection annual flower recipients. For more information check out the All-America Selection winners Web site at: www.all-americaselections.org.
Dianthus 'Supra Purple'
Dianthus 'Supra Purple' is a vigorous plant that flowers well under hot summer growing conditions. It also has a long bloom season. The fringed rosy purple flowers are produced on 12-inch plants. 'Supra Purple' is recommended for containers and rock gardens. In addition, 'Supra Purple' may overwinter and flower next spring. The color is more of a rosy-purple than deep purple.
Diascia 'Diamonte Coral Rose'
Diascia (twinspur) is native to South Africa and until recently was virtually unknown in the United States. Diascia 'Diamonte Coral Rose' is an improved cultivar that possesses hybrid vigor, earlier flowering, and a long bloom season. 'Diamonte Coral Rose' flowers are five-lobed and tubular with backward pointing spurs. 'Diamonte Coral Rose' plants form a dome-like shape and work well for container use. Planting them close to the edge will encourage the plants to cascade over the sides. 'Diamonte Coral Rose' is a frost tolerant annual. Plants perform best during cool temperatures, but will tolerate summer heat.
'Diamonte Coral Rose' needs a full sun growing location and combines well with other cool tolerant annuals, such as snapdragons or dianthus. Exceptional garden performance was observed in Iowa from 'Diamonte Coral Rose.'
Nicotiana 'Perfume Deep Purple'
Nicotiana 'Perfume Deep Purple' produces star-shaped, deep purple flowers on 10 to 12 inch tall plants. The flowers also emit a strong fragrance in the evening. The deep purple flower color is another distinction from other nicotianas. 'Perfume Deep Purple' needs a sunny location and is a good choice for container culture.
Pinching, pruning or deadheading is not required to maintain blooms all summer. Quite heat tolerant, plants need minimal maintenance. Water and fertile soil are needed for consistent bloom.
Ornamental Pepper 'Black Pearl'
'Black Pearl' is a striking black foliage plant. The well-branched plants produce pearl-sized peppers. As the peppers mature, they turn from black to red. 'Black Pearl' grows taller and wider developing into a black pyramid shape with minimal care. 'Black Pearl' is exceptionally heat tolerant and requires minimal water and fertilizer. There are no serious insect or disease problems. Caution, while edible, the peppers are very hot. 'Black Pearl' is a nice complement incorporated with silver, white or pastel flowering annuals.
Salvia farinacea 'Evolution'
'Evolution' is the first Salvia farinacea with lavender flower spikes. 'Evolution' provides continuous color from early summer to the first hard frost. Plants reach a height of 16 to 20 inches. Native to Texas, Salvia farinacea is heat and drought tolerant. 'Evolution' is low maintenance. No deadheading is needed and it performs best in a full-sun location. Plants are quite adaptable and can be grown in patio containers or ceramic pots. The lavender flower spikes can be cut, dried and used as everlasting flowers.
Viola 'Skippy XL Red-Gold'
'Skippy XL Red-Gold' earned the prestigious AAS Award because of its unique color combination, flower shape and size, and continuous bloom. Flowers are ruby red to violet red with a whiskered golden yellow face. The round 1.5-inch flower is similar to a pansy, and larger than many viola blossoms. The continuous bloom is attributed to the plant's ability to bud and flower under a wide range of temperatures.
Zinnia 'Zowie! Yellow Flame'
'Zowie! Yellow Flame' is a 2 foot tall zinnia with bicolored flowers. The 3 to 4 inch wide flower heads have scarlet-rose centers and yellow petal tips. The bicolor pattern appears to be consistent from one plant to another. As expected, there are more desirable traits from 'Zowie! Yellow Flame.' 'Zowie! Yellow Flame' will prove its long flowering season with dazzling blooms from early summer to final killing frost.
'Zowie! Yellow Flame' is highly recommended for containers because plants are heat and fairly drought tolerant. With zinnia plants in containers, gardeners will find less time is spent watering.