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Competition Brings Gardeners New Plants
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Competition is not only great for the airline industry, but for plant breeders and adventuresome gardeners as well.
Competition contributed to new plants like the Liricashower. Liricashowers are trailing calibricoas and are going in head-to-head with MillionBells. Last year, most gardeners had never heard the term calibricoa, a new genus of petunia-like flowers. They are not new to Mother Nature, just new to us. They showed up in the market last year mostly under the name MillionBells that were brought to us by the Proven Winners group.
Calibricoa were available in two pink varieties, but I never saw the trailing blue variety in the marketplace. I planted some of the pink and was immediately impressed. In mid-summer I was less enthused and I started to ignore them. By late summer everything was starting to suffer and the MillionBells, much to my surprise, were winning the petunia battle at my house again.
After the frigid temperatures in January, I visited the Experiment Station and noticed those in the field were still green. This glimpse into cold hardiness and last summer's performance in the heat means they deserve another look.
Last year, the Liricashower rose and blue varieties were not readily available in Mississippi. However, it was in a calibricoa competition in the bedding plant trials at Walt Disney World. The most outstanding calibricoa there was Liricashower blue.
The Paul Ecke Ranch in California, most famous for poinsettias, is bringing Liricashowers to us. This year two new varieties, a blush white and a pink, will be added. Whether you buy MillionBells or Liricashowers, the look they give in a container, basket or window box is incredible with the number of flowers produced.
By all means, they are sun-loving plants and their ground-hugging habit also makes them suitable for the landscape. One thing that I particularly like about them is the yellow throat produced, giving them an attractive two-toned appearance.
They work well in mixed planters and baskets, which is becoming the rage everywhere. Place yours boldly with lantanas, melampodium, marigolds and the narrow-leaf zinnias. You can create a combination that will warrant taking a picture.
As you might expect, these are vegetatively propagated so you will not find seeds.
Ecke is also introducing new double petunias from Israel called Doubloon Pink, Doubloon Pink Star and Doubloon Blue Star. They are introducing another double petunia series from Australia called Marco Polo. The Marco Polo group has four colors, including a white called Silk Road, a pink variety called Odyssey, a violet-blue called Traveller and a rose selection by the name of Adventurer.
This is a good time to get the beds ready whatever petunia or petunia-like flower you choose. Select a site in full sun and incorporate 3 to 4 inches of organic matter in to your soil. Most garden centers also have prepared landscape mixes ready by the bag or scoop of the front-end loader. Mix in a slow released balanced fertilizer at the time of bed preparation.
The fact that eight out of 10 gardeners plan to plant flowers has opened the door for this surge in new varieties and it is exciting. What I really like is our change in attitude as gardeners. Plants, like petunias, are no longer just chosen by color, but by variety, because of improved performance.