If you want to add zest to your landscape but aren’t ready for a long-term relationship with a perennial, plant annuals. These one-year wonders light up the garden with blooms or foliage that make them the darlings of summer. For those that do well under Colorado’s harsh conditions, look for the best from Colorado State University’s Annual Trials. Held yearly near the campus in Fort Collins, the trials test plants in pots and in the ground to determine which will stand up in our heat.
Here’s a top 10 list of annuals for your garden this year:
Bracteantha ‘Strawburst Yellow’ took Best of Show, wowing the judges with stunning good looks all summer long. The canary yellow, prolific blooms are very large, held proudly above the foliage. But this strawflower is no dainty beauty queen; it was the only plant in the garden that came through a devastating hailstorm while still looking good.
Alternanthera ‘Red Thread’ won the Novelty class, with colorful foliage of green and dark red. Long, thin leaves are so dense that the compact little plant looks like a fuzz-ball, and looks best planted in groups of three or more. In mixed containers Red Thread adds quirky texture, but its true strength is as a unique plant that spills over rock walls.
Wax Begonia ‘Coco White’ is a double bloomer that took first in its class. This elegant plant adds a formal touch with snow-white, double blossoms over dark burgundy leaves.
Spectacular in a container by itself, this plant should be placed near your entranceway to welcome visitors with beauty.
The best Calibrachoa, ‘MiniFamous Pink,‘ is a pretty in pink bloomer that covers itself in flowers. Bright, neon pink color glows in sunlight, transforming your borders and beds into showstoppers. Pop them into containers and they’ll fill the pot, cascading over the rim in a hot summer display.
Petunias are popular choices, and ‘Supertunia Vista Silverberry’ should top your list of must-haves for containers and groundcovers. A spreading petunia, this plant captures the eye with silvery blossoms streaked with dark violet. Strong in what judges refer to as “flower power,” this petunia will amaze you with its vigor and desire to bloom.
‘Velocity Blue’ salvia brings deep blue flower spikes to the garden, adding height and texture to the planting. Early to flower, this salvia is an easy-care plant, with no need to deadhead. Plant in groups for best display; this plant stays compact and well behaved.
Hot spots can turn up the heat with the addition of ‘Profusion Coral Pink’ zinnia, a tough plant for sunny locations. Loaded with soft pink flowers, as the blossoms age the color changes, adding several shades of pink for a multi-hued effect. Unlike many zinnias, Profusion Coral Pink resists powdery mildew.
Geraniums have a place in many gardener’s hearts, and ‘Caliente Orange’ will win yours with its vibrant orange flowers and spiky petals. Dark green foliage contrasts perfectly with the intense color of the flowers, making this a standout in the garden.
For the name alone, ‘Dark Angel Dracula’ is an annual dahlia that will make it into my garden. The wine colored flowers and dark foliage add drama to containers, or depth to a planting of mixed annuals.
The Best New Variety of the trials was Gomphrena ‘Fireworks,‘ a name well-suited to this quirky flower. Like traditional gomphrenas, the blooms start out ball-shaped, then stretch clusters of small globes outward to resemble an exploding firework. Yellow anthers add accent to the purple blooms.