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Jan 22, 2013
Top Perennial PerformersBy Jasmina Dolce

With growing interest in perennials among consumers, more universities and growers are conducting perennial trials to evaluate new cultivars’ performance and appeal. Colorado State University recently announced its “top performers” from its herbaceous perennial trials.

In 2007, Colorado State University introduced its Perennial Trials along with its Annual Trial Garden. It is managed by staff from the CSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. Each entry must have been introduced within the past three years and is evaluated for two complete years to determine hardiness and consistent landscape performance.

For more detailed information about the Perennial Trials, go to Click on the Trials tab and then select Perennials. But for now, I’d like to share some of the top performers of 2010-2012 with you.

Class of 2010, grown in 2012 (two winters)

Buddleia davidii Buzz series (Pacific Plug & Liner)

Bred by Thompson & Morgan, the entire Buzz series was noted for its excellent flower production and dense growth. The range of colors in this series is Blue Violet, Ivory, Pink Purple, Violet and Magenta. Compact plants would work well as a mixed border plant.

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection series (Skagit Gardens)

The two plant varieties in the Gold Collection series were both praised for their early blooms in March. ‘Cinnamon Snow’ (pictured) had flowers with a deep pink blush with a yellow interior and ‘Pink Frost’ had flowers with a light pink blush on chartreuse petals. Judges noted that plants held their flowers facing more upright toward viewers than other helleborus.

Class of 2011, grown in 2012 (one winter)

Anemone ‘Pretty Lady Diana’ (Blooms of Bressingham)

Plants were very floriferous with deep-pink blooms in August through September. ‘Pretty Lady Diana’ had a compact uniform growth habit. Judges mentioned that the plants would not take up a lot of space and would be great for a small garden or in a mixed border.

Echinacea ‘Sombrero Salsa Red’ (Darwin Perennials)

Compact plants had superior branching that filled up nicely after only one winter. Each plant was packed with lots of hot-red flowers. Judges noted that the plants were very floriferous with a long season of bloom. The red flowers held their color for a long time making it quite a show.

Hibiscus ‘Summerific Cranberry Crush’ (Walter’s Gardens)

Deep-red blooms started in July on uniform plants. The glossy leaves were deeply lobed and had an attractive dark-red hue. Judges noted that these plants gave the garden a dramatic tropical effect. Plants would be great for late summer colors in the back of a border.

How much of your production is dedicated to perennials? Have you grown any of these top performers, or are you considering adding any of them to your lineup? Shoot me an e-mail and let me know; I’d love to hear from you!

– Jasmina

Jasmina Dolce

Jasmina Dolce is managing editor of GPN magazine. She can be reached at

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