Tagawa Gardens Blog

If you love flowers, the 2018 CSU Flower Trials are a must!

Tagawa’s beautiful flower selections don’t just happen.  Our annuals experts want to know that the flowers we offer will perform well along the Front Range before the plants are “invited to the party.”

The CSU Flower Trials are all about testing that performance.  How many flowers does a particular variety produce?  How vigorous and uniform is the plant?

The Trial Gardens are located in a big park on the edge of the CSU campus near College and North Harmony Road, 1401 Remington Street, Fort Collins. Every August dozens of horticultural professionals descend on the gardens to evaluate and score the plants.  The sprawling beds are open to the public.  A visit to the Trial Gardens makes a great day trip, so now is a purr-fect time to judge the plants for yourself!

Tagawa’s Annuals Experts 

I tagged along recently as several members of Tagawa’s Annuals staff made their traditional August trip to Fort Collins to see the trial gardens up close.

Clipboards and smartphones in hand, the crew walked each bed, taking notes and sharing their opinions on which plants they’d love to bring in next spring and which plants just don’t make the cut.

How “trial gardens” work

CSU has been testing (or “trialing” in garden-speak) thousands of annuals every summer for more than 30 years.  This year’s trials include more than a thousand different varieties of plants donated by major commercial growers.  The growers also want to see how well their varieties do in our climate.

Plants in each bed receive the same care so their performance can be judged fairly.  Many of the plants are new and will debut to the home market next spring.  Others are well-known favorites included to see how they compare to the “newcomers.”

Here are some of the newer varieties that got high marks from several of the Tagawa Annuals Staff that visited just a few days ago.

“Temptation Orange” dahlia

Deborah, Tagawa’s Annuals Supervisor, thought the dahlias were one of the rock stars of the 2018 trials.  The dark-leafed varieties, like Temptation Orange, seemed to have no problem coping with full sun.

This fully double-flowered variety is promoted as being easy to grow.  The firey red flowers stand out beautifully against the dark green foliage.  They would be excellent in large pots, but also seemed to be right at home growing in the ground.

“Bright Lights Pink” osterspermum

This is about as pretty as an “osteo” or African Daisy can be.  Bright Lights Pink, like all osteos, loves full sun but can take a bit of shade.  It wants average moisture but definitely requires well-drained soil.

The bees like it, too.  What’s not to love?

“Diamond Mountain” euphorbia

“Diamond Frost” euphorbia has been a favorite in containers for years.  Now Diamond Mountain is stepping onto the stage to claim some of the limelight for itself.

Diamond Mountain is more densely flowered that Diamond Frost.  Both plants can add a charming sparkle, peeking through other flowers in mixed containers.  They prefer full sun to part shade and regular moisture.

“Trufulla Pink” gomphrena

What a fun flower this is!  Gromphrena, a.k.a. “globe amaranth,” is sweet and perky and full of personality.  The little ball-shaped blossoms stand upright on top of thin but sturdy stems about 24″ tall.

These sun-loving plants are drought tolerant and make great cut flowers.  I’d love to include these small but sassy hot pink pompoms in my garden next year!

“Confetti Garden Havana Sky”

“Confetti” is one of the commercial names given to pre-planted combination gardens now on the market.  These “combo” plantings are especially popular with gardeners who want to skip the step of deciding which plants to combine in beds or containers.

Havana Sky features one of the workhorses of the annuals world:  beautiful, gently draping lantana.  The flower colors in this combo include hot pink, a vibrant yellow and a soft, rich orange.

Lantana prefers full sun to partial shade.  I think the colors of Havana Sky are lovely, but lantana in any color and combination is always a winner in our Colorado gardens.

CSU Trials include perennials, too!

Most of the flowers in the trial gardens are annuals… plants that grow for one season and then die once the warm weather makes way for winter.  But CSU includes a smaller garden that’s testing perennial varieties, too!

The perennial trial beds are across the street from the main trials, surrounding the old Fort Collins High School.

You can see big bold perennials like hibiscus, an extensive variety of ornamental grasses, drought-tolerant flowers and many more perennials that might be excellent choices for your garden.

Now is the purr-fect time to visit the CSU Trials!

Grab a pair of comfortable shoes, a little sunscreen, and your camera or smartphone, and take in these wonderful gardens while they’re in their prime!

And check out our video the explains in more detail how the CSU and California Flower Trials work.

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Luan Akin
Luan Akin
Tagawa Gardens Outreach Ambassador

After 30 years as a news reporter for KCNC TV in Denver, Luan Akin was ready for a change. In 2008, she came to Tagawa Gardens and offered to create a brand new position: Garden Outreach Ambassador.

Luan had trained and volunteered as a Douglas County Master Gardener for ten years. In addition to her duties as a news reporter, working primarily out of the Channel 4 News helicopter, Luan also produced and presented a long-running series of stories called “Gardening Together.”

All these years later, Luan now works year ‘round, presenting a variety of gardening and nature-related topics to hundreds of children, HOA’s, gardening clubs, church groups, small businesses and other organizations.

She is an avid gardener, a beekeeper and a proud mom to four dogs who have trained her well.


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