Every year, Park Seed offers new flower seed varieties for home gardeners. These varieties are the superstars of the season, receiving a lot of attention and usually priced a bit higher than older types (although when it comes to seed, the difference is usually dimes rather than dollars)! And every year, gardeners fall in love with these newcomers and try them in their garden. We are so grateful to these “early adopters,” not only because they are willing to take a chance on something new, but also because they often review the seeds on our website. We rely on feedback from home gardeners to tell us which newcomers are living up to expectations, which are good but not great, and which do not seem to have earned their keep in every garden.
So it is now late summer, and the Class of 2017 spring seeds has been germinated and grown in gardens across America. What do our customers have to say?
Queen Red Lime Zinnia
This double-flowered, tricolor Zinnia was on the cover of our big seed book for 2017, so it garnered a big response. The reviews are divided between 4 and 5 stars (5 is the highest possible rating), with positive comments about this flower’s use in bouquets and its overall beauty. However, gardeners in two very different climates were disappointed: a Seattle gardener notes that not every flower displayed the full range of colors (several were just green and yellow or entirely rose-pink), while an Arizona gardener notes that Queen Red Lime doesn’t withstand the high desert heat as well as some other varieties, and its colors seem “muted” compared to other Zinnias.
These comments tell us that Queen Red Lime is probably more sensitive to light and heat than many other Zinnia varieties. In the Seattle garden, it didn’t begin blooming until midsummer, and we think the higher percentage of cloudy, overcast days in this climate might have contributed to keeping the petals one or two colors instead of the beautiful blend shown in the image. Gardeners in cool or rainy climates might want to start this Zinnia early and find a place of blazing sunlight to grow it.
Unfortunately, it was probably blazing sunlight and high heat that got the best of Queen Red Lime in the Arizona garden. Zinnias are undoubtedly sun-loving and heat tolerant, but in extreme climates, even they appreciate a bit of afternoon shade or dappled sunlight. And while Queen Red Lime’s colors are naturally more muted than the brilliant primary red, yellow, and purple of other Zinnias, they might also be bleaching a bit in the hot sun!
Great advice for other gardeners in similar climates . . .
Delta Pure Colors Pansy Mix
Delta is a classic and very trusted name in Pansies, so we weren’t surprised by the great reaction to this mix. For gardeners who prefer their Pansies without “faces,” this mix really lets the intensity of the colors shine through. One gardener in New York writes:
“I grew these last year and they’ll now be a must have! Planned to use them for spring-early summer color in a deck container as I prefer the beautiful clear colors over “faced” pansies. With regular deadheading and watering they were still blooming when frost came in mid-October! Very tolerant of record-breaking heat but really flourished in cooler early fall temps. I was surprised to find a few have reseeded from the deadheads I tossed in the planter last year and they’re already flowering! Next year I’ll try winter-sowing them rather than start indoors.”
Gardeners in more southern climates will likely not get Pansies to last through summer, but if they start the seeds in late summer for fall color, there’s an excellent chance the plants will bloom well into winter, or even (in warmer climes) straight through to spring! Today’s Pansies are far hardier and more resilient than the ones your parents grew. If you haven’t grown them lately, give them another look!
Chocolate Covered Cherry Coleus
We have a winner! From germination through transplant, this foliage plant is easy and vigorous, with a gardener in Texas describing the color as “vibrant” and “luminous.” All Coleus are beautiful, but this one is really winning hearts. That same Texas gardener declares:
“These will always be in my flower beds as long as I’m able to garden!”
Petunia Easy Wave Beachcomber Mix
This dreamy mix from the vigorous, super-popular Easy Wave series garnered raves. Compared to traditional Wave Petunias, Easy Waves are more mounded, so they look fuller and bushier (but don’t trail quite as much). The combination of light pink, coral, and deep blue is entrancing, and the pelleted seed makes them easy to sow. (Raw Petunia seed is microscopic.)
The only issue we heard about was the absence of one color in a Maine gardener’s seed packet. This gardener had “near perfect germination” and speculated that the unsprouted seeds must have been the missing color. But, as can happen with a mix, sometimes not all the colors are present in a single packet. (See Cupcakes Cosmos Mix below for more about this!)
Even the gardener who had only 2 of the colors declared the planting “absolutely gorgeous,” so we are confident that Beachcomber will be popular for many seasons to come.
Cupcakes Cosmos Mix
One of the biggest sensations in recent years, Cupcakes introduces a whole new flower form for super-easy, sun-loving Cosmos. It was so popular in England that growers ran out of seed for spring 2016 — something that happens a lot with plants, but seldom with seed.
Cupcakes earns its popularity with its amazing fringed bowl flower form. But you will probably not get 100% cupcake-shaped blooms. Especially toward the end of the season, some may be single daisies that look like traditional C. bipinnatus flowers. And this is not a formula mix. (A formula mix contains approximately the same number of seeds of each color in the mix; for example, if the mix has 3 colors and the seed packet contains 10 seeds, you would expect about 3 seeds of each color.) As the image shows, Cupcakes Mix is predominately white-flowered, with a few pinks and the occasional mauve.
Here is a 4-star review from a gardener in South Carolina, reflecting both disappointment at the color blend/flower shape and delight at the garden performance of Cupcakes Mix:
“These are strong, healthy plants, full of blooms. In the first week of May they are about three feet tall and pretty much covered with flowers. But they are not exactly what I was expecting. Not all of the flowers are those pretty cupcake shapes, with the double curving petals. More than half of them are just a simple daisy pattern. And the mix of colors are about 80% white, 15% a very pale pink, and 5% a pretty mauve. I think of the whole seed packet, only one plant is mauve. The bed of flowers are pretty and healthy, just not what I expected from the picture and the description.”
We think we should have emphasized the uneven color blend more strongly in our website copy, and have changed it to reflect this, as well as to explain that this is an open-pollinated mix that may produce some singles as well as “cupcakes.”
Lobelia Starship Scarlet
When our Seed Manager saw the image of this plant in our catalog, she was disappointed. “Oh, it doesn’t capture the intensity at all,” she said of the velvety red blooms. She was right: here’s what one Seattle gardener has to say about Starship Scarlet, which has been growing for two years now in his garden:
“Wow, this is a keeper! Stunning visually and was easy in grow. I always wonder when I buy seed if it will grow well and live up to the hype? Our experience is that this Starship is stellar class. Grew quickly from seed with some plants blooming the first year. Even small potted plants overwintered well. Then they reignited the 2nd year to full size, blasting forth spikes covered with long lasting, brilliant scarlet colored flowers. The plants stand upright without staking, unlike other older varieties we have grown. They are green leaved not bronze and this was a beautiful contrast … like Xmas in July. Starship then bloomed continuously until frost, which kept the revisiting hummingbirds quite entertained. Thus, I can reported being mesmerized by this beautiful thing.”
Xtreme Utopia Impatiens Mix
Few seasoned gardeners would recommend Impatiens seed as super-easy for a newbie to germinate, which is why this first-time seed starter in New York impressed us so much with her Xtreme Utopia Impatiens Mix experience:
“Love these seeds . . . This is my first time starting flower seeds indoors…this is a very hardy one. Am waiting until Mother’s Day to plant outside when it should be above 55 degrees at night.”
Many gardeners stopped growing bedding Impatiens (I. walleriana) during the IDM (Impatiens Downy Mildew) crisis several years ago. But newer varieties such as Xtreme Utopia Mix are very resistant to mildew, and we have not heard any reports of problems. If you are still uncertain about it, however, give New Guinea Impatiens (I. hawkeri) a try. This species has never been subject to IDM, and is now available in seed form.
Summer Jewel Lavender Salvia
This super-fast Salvia is “easy to grow,” reported a California gardener in early March 2017, “and is already blooming in my garden.” Well, we can’t guarantee such a bloomtime everywhere in the country (snow is still on the ground for many of us in early March . . . and early April . . . ), but we can say that the new Lavender color of the award-winning Summer Jewel series is every bit as wonderful to grow as its siblings Red and Pink.
Summer Jewel is an S. coccinea variety, a Hummingbird Sage with a dwarf habit and more blooms than you will believe possible. It seems to fit today’s gardens better than many of its taller cousins, and the flower power is simply unreal. (Just ask the hummingbirds and butterflies!) That said, the California gardener who had such abundant early blooms did have one complaint: he wasn’t sure if he liked the lavender color.
We sympathize: until you actually grow a plant in your garden, you can’t be sure what hue you will get! Remember African Sunset Petunia, the big sensation a few years back? We chose to carry it for its luminous color, and many gardeners shared our enthusiasm for its incredible intensity of orange, salmon, and scarlet hues. Others, however, found its hues muddy or flat. This doesn’t reflect variation in the seeds or even in people’s tastes as much as it does varying growing conditions. Just as low light or cooler weather will affect bloom size, it can impact the color.