by Chris Manning and Patrick Williams
BEST POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY ANNUAL
Salvia BODACIOUS Rhythm & Blues, PlantHaven
Salvia BODACIOUS Rhythm & Blues continues to be a top performer in trials. This new hybrid has medium-sized dark green foliage, maintaining the dark color throughout the season. Plants are covered with long flowers stems, elegant black calyx carrying larger saturated dark blue flowers that draw in pollinators.
Salvia Rockin’ Deep Purple (Proven Winners), Smith Gardens
This annual Salvia hybrid from Proven Winners looked amazing all summer long in the garden and was consistently covered with pollinators. Bees, butterflies and especially hummingbirds flocked to its deep purple flowers. The flower stalks and calyx are almost black, which adds interest and contrasts nicely with the foliage and brighter flowers.
BEST DROUGHT-TOLERANT ANNUAL
Isotoma FIZZ N POP Pretty in Pink, PlantHaven
Isotoma FIZZ N POP Pretty in Pink has outstanding heat and drought tolerance. Decorated head-to-toe with very large flowers, up to 1 ½ inch in size. Bold pink blooms with a cherry yellow center emerge from summer-fall. Bred for a long season of interest in patio pots and containers.
BEST DROUGHT-TOLERANT PERENNIAL
Achillea PENHOW Heartthrob, PlantHaven
Achillea PENHOW Heartthrob has outstanding heat and drought tolerance. Attractive blue-green, fern-like foliage. Compact, well-branched habit. Adorned with long-lasting, bright-red blooms. Great for attracting friendly pollinators. Bred for a long season of interest in containers and perennial gardens alike.
BEST POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY PERENNIAL
Gaura WALBERTON’S Silver Fountain, PlantHaven
Gaura WALBERTON’S Silver Fountain is a must-have for pollinator-friendly gardens! Covered in stunning, pure white blooms that emerge from soft pink buds from early spring through fall. Compacted-well branched habit with lovely stable and highly variegated green and white foliage.
Agastache ‘Morello’ (Terra Nova Nurseries), Smith Gardens
Agastache ‘Morello’ from Terra Nova grew very well in the garden for us this year, as well as in pot trials. Its vigorous habit is well suited for landscape applications, where it attracts hordes of bees on its deep pink flowers. The flower display was very impressive, where its dense blooms covered tall flower spikes all summer and into fall.
BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCE: ANNUAL
Begonia Solenia Apricot (Beekenkamp), Smith Gardens
We grew a number of Beekenkamp begonias this year, most of them in our planter display. They all performed wonderfully, particularly the Solenia series. The variety that stood out to us was Solenia Apricot, with its abundance of sunny, bright flowers and nice mounded habit, it bloomed all summer long with very little care. It was fully exposed to sun all day and there was no scorching or fading.
Pelargonium TALL DARK & HANDSOME Deep Orange
Pelargonium TALL DARK & HANDSOME Deep Orange is a phenomenal new upright columnar dark leaf geranium. Reaching up to 6’ with a trellis. Flowers form along the entire stem providing a tower of flowers from late spring through summer. Quick growing and easy care ideal for retail garden centers.
BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCE: PERENNIAL
Salvia VIBE Ignition Fuchsia, PlantHaven
Salvia VIBE Ignition Fuchsia is a covered in masses of medium-sized rich fuchsia flowers, freely reflowering throughout the season. This decorative sage is awesome for low water gardening, pollinator-friendly and hummingbird gardens. Bred for a long season of interest blooming non-stop from spring to fall.
Iberis Summer Snowdrift (Darwin Perennials), Smith Gardens
We trialed this summer blooming Iberis variety from Darwin Perennials, ‘Summer Snowdrift,’ in pots and in the garden beds. It bloomed its head off from May through October, covering the plants in a blanket of white all season. The habit was tight and compact, growing in tidy mounds. An outstanding variety.