How do you like my flower garden? It's just a little something I've been working on for the past couple of weekends. Those energy drinks my son keeps giving me have had a profound effect.
Actually, if you read yesterday's post, "Miami Nice," (unless you were in an earthquake, you have no excuse for not doing so), you know it's not really my garden. No, it's the trial garden at Costa Farms in south Florida. Costa is one of the biggest growers in the country and I have enjoyed visiting with them for the past couple of days working on a future story for Southern Living. But you, as a charter member of the We Adore Grumpy Society (WAGS — sorry, it has nothing to do with dogs), don't have to wait. No, you get the lowdown right now.
Costa trials many up-and-coming plants of their own and those of other growers around the country to see how they'll perform in the south Florida heat. Believe me, if they can take the heat here, they can take the heat in your garden. Here are some of the new plants that Kate Santos, Director of Research & Development, is currently evaluating.
Foxglove 'Camelot Rose' — This has been a real surprise, because most don't bloom this long into the spring in south Florida. So it probably takes more heat than other foxgloves. And if you cut off the spent blooms, it just keeps blooming.
The Grump is a big fan of lantanas for the South, because they love sun and heat, bloom nonstop, are great for attracting butterflies, and don't need much water. Most of the new selections are low-growing and compact, making them superior plants for smaller gardens. Here are three that I liked.
Another flower Grumpy likes are the new petunias that have emerged in recent years that take the South's summer heat and rain and keep on blooming. How do you like this new one from Ball Seed?
Petunia 'Rhythm and Blues' is a knockout with a deep blue blossom picoteed with a white edge. It has a trailing habit and looks great in beds, containers, and hanging baskets. You can get this one now. Here's another showstopper:
Petunia 'Shockwave Denim.' As you can see, Grumpy's a sucker for cool blue petunias that take the heat. This one trails too, produces hundreds of flowers on a plant that can spread 3-4 feet, and the blue blooms gradually fade, just like jeans. Look for this one at garden centers now.
It's not a miniature petunia, but it looks like one — 'Aloha Soft Pink' million bells (Callibrachoa). This is another trailer that seems to do fine in beds, but I really recommend it for containers and hanging baskets. Give it lots of sun and moist, well-drained soil and you may not see millions of quarter-size blooms, but you will see thousands of them. Now for Grumpy's #1 annual for the South.
Angelonia. As I've reported before, angelonia is unsurpassed for its summer performance. It blooms nonstop, tolerates drought, doesn't need grooming, comes in several different colors, and looks spectacular. I've always been partial to 'Serena Purple,' but the one you see here at Costa is 'Carita Purple.' They look alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike, you can lose your mind…..(sorry, folks, I temporarily lapsed into the theme song from the old "Patty Duke Show." These flashbacks are becoming uncontrollable.). Anyhoo, I love this plant and you should plants lots of it.
And here's Kate Santos, the person who never sleeps, in charge of plant development for Costa. Just prior to taking this photo, we gave her an IV of Red Bull, and she really perked up. A couple of Cuban coffees would have accomplished the same thing.
Thanks to everybody at Costa Farms for being so nice and helpful during our visit. As we're usually met by outraged villagers carrying torches and screaming, "Death to the criminals!", this was quite a pleasant change.