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University of Minnesota's top 10 performing annuals

Annual flowers have long been used to enhance landscapes, improve curb appeal, or simply to provide aesthetic beauty. Their wide variety of color and texture makes annual flowers extremely attractive to consumers; annual flower sales exceed $1.3 billion each year in just the top 15 states (Floriculture Crops Summary 2014, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service).

Annual flower variety trials for the University of Minnesota (U of MN) are conducted at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) Horticulture Display Garden in Morris, MN. The Garden features impressive displays of the newest cultivars of annual flowers from plant breeding companies around the world. Cultivars are grown from seed or are vegetatively propagated in our greenhouse, and later transplanted into the Garden in late May.

Begonia Whopper Rose Bronze Foliage

Plants are evaluated three to four times during the growing season in order to assess each variety’s performance. We use a 1 to 5 scale for providing a horticultural rating (1=poor, 2=below average, 3=average, 4=above average, 5=excellent). Plants are rated on performance, color, vigor, uniformity of habit and flowering, flowering numbers relative to others, insect and disease resistance, and uniqueness. The data is taken by the same individual every time to reduce variability in scoring. Only the highest rating cultivars earn the distinction of a Top Ten Performing Annual recommendations for Minnesota.

Plant breeding companies rely on valuable feedback from annual flower trials conducted throughout the nation in order to market and improve their cultivars. Evaluations from the WCROC annual flower trial are shared with participating plant breeding companies; they may in turn make plant improvements to their cultivars and enter the flower back into trial for another season. Our annual flower report is also made available to commercial nursery producers, floriculture professionals, grower associations, U of MN Extension and U of MN Master Gardeners in order to provide cultivar recommendations.

Petunia Supertunia Vista Fuchsia (Imp)

Even though the annual flowers are under evaluation, the plants are placed into an aesthetically pleasing design, allowing visitors to enjoy the beauty of the Garden. The Horticulture Display Garden has been an All-America Selections (AAS) Display Garden since 1990. The AAS award recognizes a flower or vegetable variety proven to have superior performance throughout the North American continent. An AAS Display Garden provides the public an opportunity to view the new AAS winners in an attractive well-maintained setting. Additionally, the Horticulture Display Garden is the only AAS Trial Ground site in Minnesota, where AAS entries are planted next to comparisons and evaluated by an AAS Trial Judge.

Check out the top 10 here.
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