Master Gardeners Trial New Plants

Martie Young
Adams County Master Gardener

There’s no better time than now to become acquainted with some of the newest and most promising plants available to local gardeners. And what better place to do this than at the Adams County Master Gardeners Trial Gardens located at the Extension Office, 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Gettysburg. The Master Gardeners are featuring monthly Trial Garden walks every Wednesday evening at 6:30 pm beginning June 21 and continuing on July 19, August 16 and September 6.

Every year, Master Gardener Trial Gardens all across the state evaluate plants to inform Penn State how well these plants perform in specific areas. This, in turn, gives plant nurseries a better idea of what will do well in home gardens and what gardeners will want to plant. The list for 2006 includes 15 plants; a few are completely new to some of us, and others are new cultivars of plants that have been trialed before.

New and Unusual

The Euphorbia, ‘Diamond Frost," is a first for our garden this year. Coming to us with high marks and many awards in 2004 and 2005, it is reported to keep flowering all season without stopping. Plants have been trialed in containers and in the garden, and in both cases the results are outstanding. The habit is uniform, never exceeding 20 inches in height, and maintenance is minimal. It can be planted in sun or partial shade and is hardy to 30 degrees, making it a good candidate in an early spring container combination with pansies. It’s also heat and drought tolerant with clouds of airy white flowers all season.

Featured, too, are 3 new sunflowers: ‘Double Dandy,’ ‘Apricot Twist,’ and ‘Jade.’ Even the names are enticing. ‘Double Dandy’ is the world’s first dwarf double red sunflower with dark centers. It is a multi-branching, 2-foot tall plant with 4-inch flowers in shades of red depending on light conditions. It would do well in pots or in the garden. ‘Apricot Twist’ is the world’s first apricot colored sunflower. The color is irresistible--from the center to the tips of the wavy, twisted rays. It also is an excellent branching variety and is successful as a cut flower. It grows to 4 feet. ‘Jade,’ another multi-branching sunflower, has single 3- to 4-inch flowers with lime green petals and green centers. It is perfect for cutting and arranging because it is pollen less. It grows to 4 feet.

Nicotiana ‘Sensation’ is another newcomer this year. There have been many improvements in nicotiana over the years. ‘Sensation’ is shorter with smaller leaves than that old favorite, ‘Only the Lonely.’ It is an annual mix of several colors, even green, that blooms in sun to light shade from mid to late summer until fall frost. It will get 2 to 3 feet high with upright 3-inch flowers that flare at the end like stars. It is sweet-scented so grow it near a window where the scent can be enjoyed indoors. Plant in full sun to light shade.

Asteriscus ‘Aurelia Gold’ is a very unusual plant. Our plants were planted on May 20 and already look very attractive. It is a low, well-branched plant that should reach 4 to 6 inches tall and 24 to 30 inches wide. Its leaves are unique, very sturdy and pubescent (having an abundance of short fine hairs on the leaves). It is a heat and drought tolerant plant that produces bright yellow daisy-like flowers mainly from mid to late summer. Flowers continue until the first heavy frost. The plants have a very good flower display overall making them a good choice for hanging baskets. They also do very well as landscape plants and in combinations

Both Diascia ‘Whisper White’ and ‘Whisper Pumpkin’ are planted this year. They bloom from June to frost and can be planted in containers or in the landscape. Their snapdragon-like flowers smother the plants for months.

Some Old Favorites with a New Twist

Angelonia has appeared in our garden before, but this year’s variety ‘Serena’ can be grown from seed, making it more economical to produce. It is carefree and well-suited to both hot/humid and hot/dry areas. The plants are dwarf and resist falling over, and the flowers appear on tall spikes early in the summer. Angelonia are great favorites because they flower well and are great cut flowers, lasting for up to 3 weeks as a cut flower.

The geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum) is no stranger to our Trial Garden. This year’s variety, ‘Bravo,’ produces beautiful dark pink flowers. The plants feature succulent leaves and stems; the leaves are more pointed than rounded for added interest. Geraniums are winners with any gardener since they are commonly used as bedding or container plants and can be grown in almost every region of the country. All bedding geraniums should be planted in ordinary, well-drained soil. Don’t over-fertilize and deadhead to enhance flowering.

Last year in our garden we had Dianthus ‘Elegance’; this year’s Dianthus is ‘Supra Purple.’ We hope it will be as successful as ‘Elegance.’ This is not the typical short dianthus that blooms early and then languishes the rest of the summer. It is a strong plant standing about 12 inches that will flower under hot summer growing conditions. Single flowers have deeply fringed petal edges which are perfect for decorations. The color is closer to a rosy-purple. It adapts to different growing conditions, adds continuous color to a perennial border and works well in containers and rock gardens. This dianthus may over winter and flower the next spring. It just may become one of our favorite annuals.

Rudbeckia ‘Maya’ is a new variety that is a real show stopper. In the past we have had Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun’ and ‘Indian Summer.’ This one is the first double-flowered Rudbeckia. The flowers are golden yellow with a dark center. Maya’ has a dwarf, compact growth habit reaching 18 to 20 inches. It’s great for borders, mixed perennial beds, container gardens and as cut flowers. It is described as being hardy in zones 5 to 10, so we hope it will reappear in our garden next year.

Celosia ‘Fresh Look Red’ has been in the Trial Garden for several years, and it never fails to be the brightest, most long-lasting celosia ever. It does not need to be deadheaded, and the flowers will last a long time. It has giant 10-inch plumes all summer long on sturdy plants that really stand up to heat and drought. A great plant for a sunny border that will attract attention in the hot days of August and September when other annuals are languishing. Just about any soil and climate will do.

Thunbergia is back this year with a new variety, ‘African Sunset.’ This is the classic Black-eyed Susan vine. Last year it was very successful, climbing to the top of our supports with many, many flowers. This year’s shades are mahogany, copper, peach, and ivory. It can be used in a hanging basket or supported by a trellis.

Begonia is another plant returning from last year. The series is ‘Solenia,’ and it gets large attractive blossoms. It has a vigorous habit, glossy foliage, and large showy flowers. It loves full sun and high humidity.

If you are interested in seeing and learning more about these wonderful plants, plan to attend the Trial Garden Walk on June 21 at 6:30 pm. This is part of the Evenings with the Master Gardeners program that is taking place every Wednesday evening at 6:30 pm until the end of September. All the programs are free, but you are requested to register by calling 334-6271 or e-mailing When you register, you can ask to have a brochure sent to you listing all the other programs that are available. For instance, on June 28 the program will be Perennials in the Trial Garden; and on July 5 there will be a Native Garden Walk.