Annuals Scene, Act I

Drama: Cultivate17, the BIG national show for what annuals are on trend and hot for future garden fashion       
Setting: Columbus, OH
Date: July 15-18, 2017
Cast: Hundreds of horticulture professionals


Trend: Larger flowers, even broader color range

Angelonia, or Summer Snapdragon

This is newer to gardens, gaining tremendous popularity in the last ten years. The long-lasting flowers have been described as "orchid-like" on vertical spikes, snapdragon fashion, in a wide range of colors including blue. Plants are vase-shaped and bushy with attractive foliage. Loves sun and heat, has moderate fertilizer requirements. Dead-heading will pay big flower dividends. Versatile in beds, containers and as a cut flower.  

Calocephalus brownii 'Bed Head'

This plant will be the comic relief in your containers. Looking like an 8" ball of silver sagebrush, this little beast thrives in dry, hot, porous soils. So, site in sun or partial shade, but keep dry. 'Bed Head' should be music to the ears of those saying, "I want a no-maintenance garden." Top of annual shopping list for Spring 2018, people.  

Trend: Distinctive textures as container subjects
Trend: New colors, heat tolerant plants

Celosia 'Hot Topic Purple'  

 'Hot Topic' is a series (no, I haven't switched to television, I'm still talking garden theater), but I especially liked the 'Purple'. Over the years I've found celosia in general to be difficult to direct. So, give it the well-drained, but moist soil (stars can be capricious and contradictory in their demands) it requires. It wants full sun. Again, just watch the water. Don't rush the season and put celosia center stage when soils are still cold. In the same review that makes it sound demanding it's actually tolerant of heat and humidity.

Coleus 'La Rambla'

The 'Main Street" series adds a winner with 'La Rambla'. I hope this one doesn't fall victim to stage fright and fail to make an appearance at the spring opening with some excuse, like crop failure. I want this starring in my garden next year in a big monoculture pot. I visualize five plants growing together to make a smashing specimen shrub. 'La Rambla' begs you to touch it. 

Trend: Distinctive textures as container subjects
Trend: New colors, heat tolerant plants

Mandevilla Sun Parasol 'Apricot'  

'Apricot' was one of the standouts of the show- a real superstar! From the slightly cupped, glossy leaves to the unique coloration of the 4" blooms, this is going to be at the top of my "Must See" list next spring. This is so neutral it will work with any color. Put all mandevillas (in this case pronounce the double "l", doesn't rhyme with tortilla) in full sun and allow the soil surface to dry between waterings. Moderate fertilization will keep these tropical showstoppers blooming all season long. Love them on a trellis or writhing through an obelisk. 

Yet unnamed variegated Mandevilla  

This mandevilla is so new to the entertainment field it doesn't even have a stage name...yet. It's worthy of a standing ovation performing with the twin virtues of: stunning red flowers and creamy-white edged leaves. Hold the applause please, until it gets its name (I'm told it will have one by late fall).

Trend: Colorful foliage
Trend: New colors, heat tolerant plants

Pentas 'Star Cluster Pink'  

'Pentas (aka Egyptian Star Flower) should be moved from the chorus to a supporting role, at the very least. If you haven't tried them either for containers or in beds, maybe '18 should be the year for a new attraction! Sun-loving, tidy plants flower all summer long scoffing at heat and humidity as long as they're moist. Flowers are getting bigger and colors now include: red, pink, white, magenta and violet. Dead-heading certainly encourages rebloom. Bonus: With pentas in your garden butterflies and hummingbirds will attend the show!

Petunia Capella 'Purple Veins'   

I know, I know. You've seen the petunia story a million times. I get the skepticism, but this one garnered a repeat viewing. Look at the spectacular throat color and the way it extends through the veins like a starburst. Not grandmother's petunia...

Trend: Colorful foliage

Senecio 'Angel Wings'

Well, talk about a plant that can upstage just about anything. And it does it so quietly you don't even notice you're being drawn into the felted, almost white leaves. Already a 2016 European Bronze Medal winner 'Angel Wings' is destined for accolades galore. Grows 7-15" tall, reported to be hardy to USDA Zone 6. Difficult to get info on, but I'm guessing sun to part shade, dry-ish soil to be safe recommendations. Definitely a Tony (Fulmer) Award winner! Apologies galore, theater lovers, I couldn't resist.

Vinca, the Soiree Series

So sorry, the cast photos don't do this hard-working plant justice. Sun? Heat? Soil dry, not particularly fertile? No deadheading required. ***ALERT*** Those of you wanting a low maintenance annual, this should be on your "must see" list. 8-15" tall, mounding plants with attractive, glossy foliage and beautiful five-petaled flowers in a wide range of colors. This is special for bedding in "hell strips" (yes, that's the sophisticated horticultural term for "hotboxes"). Just don't rush to plant early - vinca gets an attitude in cold, wet soil and you get abominable season-long performance.

Four star performers, all. Next Hortiholic, say two weeks, different cool annuals from Ball Seed Field Day!  Curtain.