New or Not, the Best Plants Win Out

Tropaeolum 'Duckalicious'
I went in search of new plants, and I found some. But what was really valuable for me in visiting the plant trials and display beds at C. Raker and Sons was the huge number and variety of gorgeous and healthy plants that were new to me. And depending on how they fared in the trials, these plants will continue to be available to the consumer. It's a good idea to keep some of these beauties on your radar for next year, and this short list will certainly be on mine. With a name like Tropaeolum 'Duckalicious', how could I resist? Upon closer inspection of this Nasturtium, I saw that the flowers were shaped like little duck's feet. It makes a good hanging basket plant all by itself, or can be added as a trailer to a large combo planter.
I'm always looking for plants that are attractive to hummingbirds, in hopes that some day I will be able to catch the elusive visitors on film. They're also fun to watch. It seems ironic that the plants that often attract these tiny and delicate birds are monsters. But in a good way, if you know this ahead of time. Lophospermum 'Compact Rose' and 'Compact White' from Suntory make great hanging baskets if grown as the only plant in the pot. But they seem to hold up really well to heat and humidity, as I witnessed in south central Michigan, where C. Raker's trial grounds are located.
Lophospermum -Compact Rose'

Cuphea llavea 'Sriracha Rose'
Lophospermum 'Compact Rose'

Another good plant for hummingbirds that doesn't get so large is Cuphea, or bat face flower. I love the colors on 'Sriracha Rose', a new variety from Goldsmith.

Salvia is a great hummingbird plant, and this year I fell in love with 'Wendy's Wish'. But there are many Salvias in the land, and you can't have too many. Hort Couture's Salvia 'Delft Blue' is a subtle eye-catcher. I know, it's an oxymoronic description, but I can't think of a better way to describe it. It's not easy for a flower to stand out in a sea of color. I was scanning five acres that contained thousands and thousands of flowers in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Still life of Salvia 'Mannequin Delft Blue' could be entitled "Sunny Caribbean with Frosty Whitecaps."
Salvia 'Delft Blue'
At first I walked right by it. But then I did one of those stop-in-your-tracks-head-whips, just to make sure it was that cool. And I think cool is the operative word with 'Delft Blue'. If it were a still life, it would be titled "Sunny Caribbean with Frosty Whitecaps." 
Salvia f. 'Strata'
I remember one of the first hybrids of Salvia farinacea: 'Victoria', introduced some time in the early 1990s. It became the industry standard and worked so well as a vertical accent with everything from Rudbeckia and Marigolds, to Petunias and Verbena. Someone introduced a white one and it never seemed to catch on. In 1996, Salvia farinacea 'Strata', which combined blue and white, garnered the All America Selections award as the first bi-color. I'd have to see the two plants side by side to see the difference.

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