Six annuals to watch for in Eagle County this summer |

Six annuals to watch for in Eagle County this summer

Tom Glass
Vail CO, Colorado
Tom Glass

It’s seed catalogue season. And, although it’s probably more fun right now to be up on one of the mountains, it’s still kind of nice to ponder over flowers in the evening ” (I’ve got photos) ” and maybe daydream some about sun-warmed soil and other warm day fragrances.

The plants featured this week are all annuals. They were introduced to the plant trade last spring, but unless you’re real good at ferreting out sample plants or trial gardens, you’ve probably not seen these particular varieties. I’m sure somebody right now is saying, “Seen it, got it, got it, seen it. Been there, done that.” That’s cool. You’re good. I’ll try harder to achieve obscurity on the perennials that are to be previewed in future columns.

In putting together this list I received some help from some friends, Tony Venturino and Diana Reavis, both of Eason Horticultural Resources, an independent plant brokerage not particularly beholden to any one company’s proprietary products and motives. I’ve worked with both Tony and Diana for years and have come to trust in their independent streaks ” that they’ll call ’em as they see ’em.

To narrow the field, the primary goal was to solve some common problems for gardeners of annuals in the Vail Valley, not just show you the latest in shiny objects. Believe me, there were hundreds more new introductions ” these are just a few that fill common needs or are enhancements of what’s already out there.

And, as an added bonus, to get you thinking of gardens, I’m throwing in a Cole Porter soundtrack. It helps to hum along.

“When they begin the Beguine, it brings back the sound of music so tender. It brings back a night of tropical splendor. It brings back a memory of green.”

Let’s begin.

Lobelia is used as commonly here as mayonnaise is used on cold turkey sandwiches. And, like mayonnaise, lobelias tend to go bad in the heat. As this variety’s name suggests, it was bred to survive hot weather. Powder blue lobelias on the whole are more heat tolerant than cobalt blue lobelias, but not as popular. Although this lobelia’s primary color is powder blue, there are distinct darker blue spots near the center of the flowers, which allows for coordinating a combination arrangement with the easier to work with darker blue. With this lobelia you get two chances to get it right, plus it should last the summer.

Oh Lord, another petunia! Why? Because this one can replace the tiny flowered petunia-like calibrachoas whose foliage turns yellow more often than not. Here’s a tip: If you want calibrachoas, and you like green foliage on them, maintain a soil pH below 5.6. Not an easy thing to do with drip irrigation on a timer. Otherwise, plant these small-flowered petunias for that not overpowered by petunia look in a window box or pot. Besides, they come in five colors ” purple, rose, white, pink and violet. Oh, and they’re cute. Now, all we need are red and blue.

You know how a teenager feels when he sees that New Year’s Eve curfew sign in Vail? Well, that’s pretty much how you’ll feel when you spot a typical gazania bloom on a cloudy day or at night. Your fun meter will peg zero because the flowers are pretty much closed up until the next sunny day. That is until the Sunbather gazanias made the scene with their hot orange or bright yellow, semi-double flowers that prevent them from closing. (It’s the semi-double part that sticks its foot in the door.) The breeder recommends growing them cool at night, (55 F), because the flowers will actually be larger and more vibrant. We can do that all summer. They’re semi-trailing and tolerate a drought, too.

How to distinguish between splendens-type salvias and other types? The best I can come up with is that a splendens type is the most familiar kind often found sold in flats at big box stores, and, I suppose, more than a few at garden centers, too. Salvia Sparklers differ from those in only one way: They’re 3 feet tall. So what? Because they’re three times normal size, they’ll draw hummingbirds like a flashing blue light draws shoppers at a Kmart clearance sale. Three colors: coral, red and purple. You can put away the hanging jar of bear nectar, and, because salvia is in the mint family, you can maybe disregard the deer.

Sounds like a sideshow at Lollapalooza. Actually, this one gets big kudos from Ms. Reavis for the clear and soft pink color of the petals and the almost purple of the ring near the center of the eye. This one is another plant that gives you twice the opportunity for a coordinated match. Bacopa is well loved here, and this pink one exhibits more heat tolerance than many of the other pink bacopas, as well. You may wonder why all the attention to heat tolerance. Well, sometimes it gets hot here ” like last June. No point in losing your bloom early in the season to a freak heat wave.

I’m listing this one as an annual because roses will be roses, but a hardy to Zone 4, almost thorn-less floribunda rose that re-blooms, does well in a pot, and can over-winter inside can’t be ignored. It grows to two or three feet on its own root system, so if it frosts to the ground it may come back from the potentially remaining roots true to its former self. Need I say more? Yes, catchy name and probably hard to find. I’ll look into it further.

That’s six easy picks, and I’m already out of room. I’ll add seven more picks next week and make it a baker’s dozen for going into spring. In the meantime, you can look at the pictures which will add some color to your day. Think snow.

Tom Glass writes a weekly garden column for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments or questions about this column to

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