Cupcake Cosmos (from the cover of Park Seed catalog)
We all have pet peeves. At the top of my list is seeing the same tired annuals planted in all the usual places. Seed companies bring new selections to the market every year so there is no excuse for not trying at least one new plant.
Last year, there was a color breakthrough in tried-and-true cosmos. Xanthos is a pale lemon yellow growing to about 24 inches in height. The color and size make Xanthos very easy to use in containers or the flowerbed. This year I also plan to try Strawberry Blond marigolds. These are warm pinks, coral and peach rather than bright orange and yellow.
Cupcake is a novelty cosmos available this year. It was developed from a mutant found in someone's garden. The outer ring of petals is fused together forming a cup containing the sunny yellow center. This one is four feet tall and comes in the familiar pinks and white.
In the vegetable realm, there is a new AAS (All America Selection) beet, Avalanche. The white roots are two to three inches in diameter. I'd like to try them in that one wouldn't be concerned about the pigment staining things when cooking them!
Increasingly popular in mixed flowerbeds are ornamental peppers. These peppers are edible but tend to be quite hot. The striking fruits are borne above the foliage. NuMex, an eight-inch plant bearing five colors of peppers, is an AAS winner from 2014. Burpee offers Sweet Savour, a mild red, yellow and orange pepper. My personal favorite is Black Pearl. This two-footer has ebony-purple foliage and clusters of glossy, round black fruits that ripen to red in autumn.
If you like dark foliage, Bishop's Children (photo, below, from Thompson and Morgan's online catalog) is a seed dahlia which is very easy to grow.
The single and semi-double flowers span the dahlia color palette, giving them a cheerful informal look as an edging plant. The burgundy purple foliage provides interest when they're not blooming. In case you are wondering about dear old dad, the Bishop of Llandoff with its purple foliage and scarlet semi-double flowers was hugely popular in the late 1920s. At three-plus feet, I find that it needs staking. Given good drainage, the Bishop is perennial; his children are half-hardy annuals.
The gardener's relationship to trees and shrubs is a long-term commitment while annuals are more like shipboard romances. The boat is ready to sail--bring something new aboard this year!
Master Gardener Ann Bartlett never lets lack of familiarity with a plant stop her from trying it in the ornamental beds around her home.