Plants Go Head to Head in the Heat

It was a plant geek's version of a marathon.  My neighbor, friend, and partner in all things seriously-garden-related, Lesley, and I were scoping out the four acres of more than 3,000 plants displayed at C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, Michigan. We baked in the hot sun as our heads spun nearly 360 and our feet carried us along the grassy paths through a crazy quilt of color.

Mandevilla 'Heatwave' offered up plenty of buds and flowers in a
hanging basket.
Names I recognized from plants I've bought, read, and written about had entries in the mix: Ball FloraPlant, Benary, Danzinger, Dummen, EuroAmerican, Floranova, Greenfuse Botanicals, Hort Couture, Jelitto, Panamerican Seed, Selecta, Syngenta, Takii, and others that contribute in a big way to bringing new plants to market.
Hemizygia 'Candy Kisses' looks great even without the
pink flowers that bloom late summer through fall.
Just one of the many intriguing contestants in the plant pageant was Hemizygia 'Candy Kisses', a variegated form of a plant that might also commonly be called sagebush or pink Salvia. Up close it resembles Plectranthus (Swedish ivy) or even Basil; not surprising as they all belong to the mint family. According to The Plant List- a working list of all known plant species - another name for the plant is Syncolostemon transvaalensis. The genus name (according to another excellent reference called PlantzAfrica) is taken from the Greek words syn: united, kolos: stunted, and stemon: pillar. The species name indicates the plant's original home, the Transvaal region of South Africa. No matter what you call it or how you pronounce it, this plant looks promising as a great "go with everything" accessory in the most fashionable mixed containers.

Nemesia 'Honey Metallic Blue' offers a color that could go a
long way toward cooling down hot colors.
Nemesia Seventh Heaven 'Raspberry'
I can't remember ever having seen a live flower in quite this color before. Nemesia Honey 'Metallic Blue' would all but disappear at dusk if it weren't for its cute yellow centers. I'd love to mix it with a lemon yellow Osteospermum. Another highly saturated Nemesia is called Seventh Heaven 'Raspberry'.

One of the best things about visiting a trial garden is to see how plants do during the hottest, and typically the driest, time of year. At Raker, there are field trials in which plants are planted in rows in the ground, hanging basket trials and container trials. There are also sponsored beds, which feature displays of each sponsor's plants. This year, there are 32 companies from all over the world that sponsor a display bed.

Scabiosa 'Gelato Blueberry' looked amazing growing in a
large container. Wouldn't it look good with white Lobularia?
According to Greg Michalak, Trial Gardens Director for Raker, plants in the trial beds are fed and watered. "For our sponsored beds we give them the conditions recommended by the breeder," he explained. It's a different story in the comparison trial areas. "If we do something to one plant in the comparison trials, we have to do it to all of them."
Stachys 'Bello Grigio' goes with everything. Imagine it at dusk,
planted with white lilies.
As saturated as the last few plants were, Stachys 'Bello Grigio' is positively ghostly. A lamb's ear relative, this starkly pale silver stunner looks cool with blue, purple, magenta, ... pretty much anything, as you can imagine
Torenia 'Moon Yellow' will grow
in sun if it receives
sufficient moisture.
When Impatiens walleriana came down with Impatiens downy mildew, it was probably the best thing that could happen to Torenia, a colorful shade-loving flower, also known as wishbone flower, with plenty of pizazz. Although it typically doesn't smother itself in flowers like Impatiens will, Torenia brings some yellow into the shade-garden department.
And in "speaking of which" category... At first glance, it looked something like a Torenia. But the bright crimson flower also had freckles. 

It's a cross between Torenia and Mimulus - or what do you get when you cross a monkey with a wishbone? Why, a Torelus, of course! This new genus is said to do as well in sun as in part sun, which, when you think about it, is more than you can ask of many annual flowers. If you look closely at these little beauties, you'll see the freckles left from its monkey flower genetics.

Torelus in a trial bed.
Just to clarify, not all of the plants in the trial beds at Raker are brand new. Some have been on the market for a couple of years, but are being compared to the standard in the category. Either way, if you look next spring for the plants I've listed here, there is a good chance you'll find them. Better yet, ask your garden center manager if they can order them if they haven't already.

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