Sassy, flashy, frilly, flouncy. I was trying to think of some good descriptors that connect all the flowers I’m about to talk about. I decided on showy, which means impressive and ostentatious. Because these plants are not meant to be wallflowers, gently fading into the rest of the garden. They are meant to stop you in your tracks to take a closer look. Don’t be shy, they’re brazen blooms, begging for attention, and maybe a photo or two.
I discovered these varieties at the California Spring Trials this past spring, when I visited many of the growers taking part by showcasing their current and 2018 plants with the National Garden Bureau. So without further fanfare, I present to you 10 plants with showy blooms (many or all of which I hope will find their way into my garden). Oh, and be warned. I say “I love” a lot!
1. Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Cupcakes Mixed’
I grow cosmos every year because I love them as cut flowers and they last well into the fall. This showstopper kept me enthralled for a few minutes at the Thompson & Morgan greenhouse and then I saw them again in the William Dam trial gardens this past summer. Flowers are white, dark pink and light pink and can be direct-sown in the garden.
2. ‘Constant Coral’ Lewisia
To be honest, I might have seen lewisia before, but I’d never heard of it. I fell in love with these flowers that look like they’ve been kissed by a sunset. Apparently this perennial likes full sun, and blooms and re-blooms from spring through fall in pots or in the garden. It’s hardy from zones 4 to 8.
3. Coreopsis hybrida UpTick Gold & Bronze
Coreopsis is a dependable, hardy flower that shows up each year in my front garden. Mine are plain yellow, but this variety with its slightly serrated petals and splash of red that I saw from Darwin Perennials would complement them nicely, along with the black-eyed Susans that hover close by. These guys are hardy from zones 5 to 9.
4. Calibrachoa Crave Strawberry Star
I discovered calibrachoas several years ago and promptly used them to replace petunias in my pots. Why? Well, I’d gotten grumpy about the legginess of petunias and the sticky business of deadheading them. Now there have been some nice developments, like Supertunias, in the last few years, but I still love to include some calibrachoas in my pots. They bloom all summer, they’re self-cleaning, and in my experience, the plants remain lush and full all season long. Oh, and it also happens to be the year of the calibrachoa next year.
5. Aquilegia Swan Pink and Yellow
This Columbine discovery is pretty stunning, but then again, I don’t think you can go wrong with any Columbine variety. I had some interlopers in my garden this year that must have come from my neighbour and they were so pretty!
6. Unbelievable Miss Montreal Begonia Hybrid
Did I choose this plant because it has a Canadian name? Partly. But I also think this variety from Dümmen Orange is pretty stunning—it looks as though someone has taken a pink pencil crayon and traced along the inside of the blooms. Begonias always look great in hanging baskets—I love how they throw Rapunzel-like stems over the side with dangling flowers. The Carolina wrens in my yard think so, too, as they always seem to gravitate to these plants in particular to nest.
7. Potunia Cappuccino Petunia
It was kind of a tossup choosing a petunia—there are some great varieties that have been introduced in these last couple of years. Night Sky seemed like an obvious choice, so I chose this interesting one. Look at those striations on the petals. It’s pretty spectacular.
8. Leucanthemum maximum Sweet Daisy ‘Cher’
There is a hashtag I like to use on Instagram called #plantsthatlooklikemuppets. These daisies definitely remind me of Muppets. Hardy in zones 5 through 9, the plant is heavy flowering and stems grow to be about six to nine inches long.
9. Fruit Punch ‘Cherry Vanilla’ Dianthus
I couldn’t resist this sassy fuchsia number I saw at Proven Winners. One could mistake it for a carnation. It’s hardy in zones 4 to 9, likes full sun and light shade, and will grow to be six to 8 inches high and spread eight to 12 inches wide.
10. Tropaeolum majus ‘Orchid Flame’
This fiery nasturtium immediately caught my eye. Nasturtiums are one of the mainstays of my gardening list each year, and it’s always fun to try new varieties. I plant them in my raised beds and in containers. And the bees LOVE them. In the description at Thompson & Morgan where I spotted these, it says that they’re ideal for planting en masse in borders and landscapes (which means perfect to edge my raised beds!), and that they open bi-colour red and yellow, and mature into a rich burgundy hue.