Catalogs boast of new annuals

KENNEWICK -- Plant breeders must be busy folks.

Every year brand new annual flowers are introduced to home gardeners. Want to know what's new this year?

As usual, there are some new introductions of Wave petunias.

Gardeners who know me, know I'm crazy about Wave petunias. It's so exciting when there is a new one to talk about. This year, Burgundy Star is being introduced as the first star patterned member of the Easy Wave family.

Burgundy Star is a bicolor of rich burgundy and white in a star-pattern. Plum Vein is the first Easy Wave with lavender flowers and dark plum-violet blooms. Easy Waves have a mounded-spreading growth habit with a height of 6 to 12 inches and a width of 30 to 39 inches.

Denim is the name for the newest member of the Shock Wave petunia family. The Shock Waves also have a mounded-spreading habit, growing to a height of 10 inches and a width of 36 inches. Early in the season the flowers of Denim are a dark blue-purple and change to a lighter blue to lavender-silver when the weather turns very hot and sunny.

Over the past several years, I've come to adore Profusion zinnias almost as much as Wave petunias. Parks Seed is introducing Profusion Yellow, the newest member of the Profusion family with sunny yellow 2-inch daisylike flowers. Plants grow to a height of 12 to 15 inches.

Tolerant of heat as well as drought, Profusion Yellow performs all season long, just like the other members of the Profusion family. Supertunias also have a reputation for loving the sun, as well as tolerating both heat and drought.

The newest Supertunia, Pretty Much Picasso, grows when it has water and flowers when stressed by dry conditions. It is a petunia that performs well in landscape situations even when you're trying to conserve water.

In addition, Pretty Much Picasso has flowers that are violet-purple-pink with lime green edges. Plants grow up to a foot tall and 3 feet wide.

Pretty Much Picasso would look good planted in a container with the newest ornamental sweet potato vine, Illusion Midnight Lace, with its dark purple-black deeply cut lacy leaves. The plant is vigorous and trailing, working well in large containers and as a ground cover. Illusion Emerald Lace is its twin with with chartreuse deeply cut lacy leaves.

Two new zinnias were selected among the 2010 winning picks of the All American Selections.

One of these is Double Zahara Cherry, a cross between two different zinnia species. The result is a zinnia that's heat tolerant and resistant to powdery mildew and leaf spot disease. The plant grows to 12 inches tall and wide with 2.5 inch fully double cherry flowers.

Double Zahara Fire is a similar zinnia growing a couple of inches taller with 2.5 inch fully double fiery orange-red flowers.

These are just a few of the annuals that you'll find when browsing through the seed catalogs and in the garden store this spring.

Coming up this week is a Master Gardener Study Group at the Richland Public Library on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the large meeting room.

The gardening public is invited to attend and participate in the discussion on flower seeds -- how to order, plant, nurture and grow.

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension Office.