When I test plants I really test them! No primadonnas for me thank you very much; they have to perform well under 'average' conditions without excessive primping.
You see I plant hundreds of containers every season for my clients and myself. Everything I use has to perform 100% – there's no room for slackers. I provide premium potting soil, a single dose of slow release granular fertilizer (e.g. Osmocote), regular water and sun or shade as needed. After that the plants have to strut their stuff to convince me they are good enough to tell you about!
Considering all that I think it's pretty brave of Proven Winners to ask me to trial some of their 2013 introductions! They know I won't just return the requested questionnaire at the end of the season; they'll get emails and/or phone calls from me as the season progresses if I am concerned, disappointed or thrilled! Probably far more information than they want really but I'm doing this for YOU not Proven Winners. I want to be able to truthfully recommend to my readers those plants which I have shown perform well under typical gardening conditions. Tough love and all that.
So get pen and paper handy as I have some real winners that made the Karen List and that you'll want to buy next season.
Superbells 'Lemon Slice' is the #1 winner. It has coped with monsoon rains, temperatures swinging from barely 50' to over 90' and it hasn't missed a beat. A single plant from a 4" pot planted in June now measures well over 2' across! It has a perfect compact habit which means no elbows or knees sticking out, just a dense mass of flowers and foliage hugging the sides of the container. Actually you can barely see the foliage (or the container) as it is smothered in the vibrant yellow flowers each 'sliced' with white like a candy. My only issue is that I wish I hadn't put quite so many other plants in the same pot as they are being swallowed! Fabulous with other citrus colors but would also be fun with purple or a romantic white and yellow scheme.
Supertunia 'Watermelon Charm' nearly didn't make the list – as the Proven Winners rep knows! You see Supertunias are a little closer to a 'real' petunia than the Superbells. Think of Supertunias as the direct children and Superbells as cousins. Now frankly I can't stand 'real' petunias and haven't used them for years. They get sticky, need deadheading, attract aphids and turn to mush after rain, which we have more than our fair share of in Seattle. So I had mixed feelings when my goodie box included this Supertunia. Whereas I truthfully still prefer the Superbells I have ultimately been so impressed with this Supertunia that I asked Proven Winners if they could send me some more for a magazine photo shoot I was preparing for!
Here's what I like – vibrant color and masses of good sized flowers which almost completely hides the foliage. It has a nice tidy habit, hugging the container without getting gangly and one small 4" potted plant now covers an area at least 2' x 2' so that's a lot of punch for less than $5! It thrives in the heat and despite recommendations from Proven Winners to the contrary, it does nicely with my single shot of Osmocote. (Sorry folks but I am NOT going to water every other week with a liquid feed even if the grower tells me to. Life is too short and I'm too busy!) So why am I only giving it a 9.5/10? After heavy rain it looks a little disheveled – by my standards at least. Whereas it generally doesn't need deadheading there were a lot of very sad, soggy flowers that simply couldn't be ignored after several days of rain. Also as the flowers age the petals can become translucent in patches which can spoil the overall appearance. So, if you live in areas which don't suffer from excessive rain this would be a fabulous addition to your container gardens but for Seattle I'm going to stick to the Superbells.
Lantanas are annuals in our zone 7 so are a treat for summertime containers. My experience thus far has been that although they offer great color and love hot summers the flowering seems to come in waves even with regular deadheading. Not so with the two latest introductions from Proven Winners – Luscious Berry Blend and Luscious Pina Colada.
Berry Blend adds multicolored fun to designs with raspberry, lemon and orange flowers. At the other end of the spectrum luscious Pina Colada is a soft white with the merest hint of lemon for warmth. What has really impressed me about both of these is that they have bloomed non-stop since June and have always had LOTS of flowers. They have also handled competition remarkably well from neighboring plants. Rain or shine, 50's or 90's these are the best lantana I have ever grown.
My last winner is a surprise even to me. It is Cleome 'Senorita Blanca'. This new compact variety of spider flower has been bred with container gardeners in mind but I had a gap in the front border where I needed something about 2.5' tall and wide with white flowers – so that's where they went in June. Today they are a mass of white flowers brushed with lavender which makes pairing with deeper purples such as 'Concorde' barberry an easy partnership. Drought tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant, disease free, unbelievably floriferous, good cut flowers, thornless, sterile, – and did I say really drought tolerant? I've only watered them twice since June! I'm not usually one for adding annuals into the landscape but with a young garden there are temporary gaps to fill. I'll be buying at least a dozen of these next year. Plant them in groups of 3 as I did to get the best look.
Successful container gardening means using top quality potting soil and top quality plants. Such plants have been grown in premium soil to begin with so are well rooted, bushy and healthy. My clients expect the best, and that's what I give them. I have my favorite nurseries and my favorite growers – places and people I know won't let me down. In fact they make me look good when the plants thrive! Proven Winners really have been proven to be a winner by people like me putting them through real life tests so that you can try something new next year and have confidence that you will love the results.
Proven Winners provided me with the plants mentioned here. They have not paid me – nor bribed me – to write this article! And despite the fact that I only gave their Supertunia 9.5/10 I think they are still talking to me.….
All varieties shown will be available spring 2013