Annuals · Container Gardening · Garden Planning

Plan Summer Containers with AAS Award-Winning Flowers

I don’t know about you, but I am already planning my spring and summer containers. I first look through photos of previous containers noting favorite combinations. Next I peruse garden magazines, plant catalogs, newsletters from favorite garden centers, anything that might inspire new ideas.

One authority I always turn to is All-America Selections. Independent judges from this unbiased trialing organization choose the best of the new varieties each year. Here are the All-America Selection National Winners for 2017.

Photo of Celosia ‘Asian Garden’ courtesy of the AAS website.

Fluffy spikes of bright rosy-pink flowers bloom on the sturdy three-foot stems of Celosia ‘Asian Garden’. Judges chose this celosia as an AAS Winner for its early and extended bloom time and its long lasting flower color. Pollinators love this heat and drought tolerant, all-summer bloomer.

Plant it as the thriller in a container. Picture it surrounded by Coleus ‘Flame Thrower Spiced Cury’, Marigold ‘Marvel Yellow’, and Lantana ‘Bandana Lemon Zest’. Add Helichrysum ‘Limelight’ and Calibrachoa ‘Hula Appleblossom’ relaxing over the pot’s edge to the image. Pretty, right?

Photo of Dianthus ‘Supra Pink’ courtesy of AAS website.

Dianthus ‘Supra Pink’ grows up to a foot tall and almost as wide. It blooms and blooms and blooms, and reportedly, doesn’t even need deadheading!

Imagine a container with Dianthus ‘Supra Pink’ and these partners: purple fountain grass and white-flowering gaura as the vertical elements; Celosia ‘Intenz Lipstick’ and Zinnia ‘Zowie Yellow Flame’ as the brightly-colored fillers; and Ipomoea ‘Solar Power Lime’ to spill over the edge.

If you turn your nose up at geraniums believing them to be passé, take another look at the Calliope Medium series. They are outstanding performers in containers and the garden. Mounding, semi-spreading plants are loaded with intensely-colored, semi-double flowers all summer long if spent flower stems are pinched. Dazzled by the abundance of deep velvety red blooms, judges selected Geranium ‘Calliope Medium Dark Red’ as an AAS Winner.

Photo of Geranium ‘Calliope Medium Dark Red’ courtesy of AAS website.

This seductive beauty is magnificent in a pot all by itself. In a very large container, Geranium ‘Calliope Medium Dark Red’ could provide the color under the substantial leaves of a canna. Or combine it with blue salvia and white petunias in a patriotic design.

Photo of Verbena ‘EnduraScape Pink Bicolor’ courtesy of AAS website.

I am not normally a passenger on the verbena bandwagon, but Verbena ‘EnduraScape Pink Bicolor’ might just get me on board. Judges described this AAS Winner as ‘tough as nails’. More drought and heat tolerant than other varieties, it not only blooms all summer but also continues well into fall. It grows up to a foot tall and spreads as wide as twenty-four inches boasting soft pink flowers with dark lavender pink centers.

Photos of Vinca ‘Mega Bloom Orchid Halo’ and ‘MegaBloom Pink Halo’ courtesy of AAS website.

I am most excited about two new varieties of flowering vinca named 2017 AAS Winners – Vinca ‘Mega Bloom Orchid Halo’ and ‘MegaBloom Pink Halo’ – and don’t know which one I adore most. Orchid Halo sports purple flowers with large white centers. The blooms of Pink Halo exhibit the same large white centers but are surrounded by softer pink petals. Flowers sit atop plants that grow up to fifteen inches tall. Promised to have amazing disease resistance and the best heat tolerance of all vinca varieties, both of these will find their way into my perennial borders and containers next summer.

Photo of Zinnia ‘Profusion Red’ courtesy of AAS website.

Zinnia ‘Profusion Red’ is the newest member of the Profusion family of compact, long blooming, and disease resistant zinnias. Its true red color that doesn’t fade in summer sun impressed the judges. Plants grow up to 15 inches tall and wide.

This AAS Winner is beautiful but is unlikely to make it into this gardener’s landscape. It’s not that I don’t love zinnias. I do. They bloom endlessly and throw parties for all the butterflies in the neighborhood. It’s not that I don’t like the color red. I love red – my car is red; some of my pots and pans are red – but I don’t often choose plants, annual or perennial, with red flowers. But if your landscape sees red, Zinnia ‘Profusion Red’ should be at the top of your wish list.

Which of these award winners will find their way into your containers this summer? Spend some cold winter nights planning your summer containers and garden with me!

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