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On Gardening: Superbells calibrachoas among the best buys for garden color

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

The calendar had not reached March this year and I already had my first blooms on the new Superbells Double Blue Calibrachoa. Your first thought is, "What am I doing planting so early?" The fact is, these are returning from last year's plants I was testing.

What a wild and wonderful ride we gardeners and professional horticulturists alike have been on for the last 23 years with both the introduction and improvements in the world of calibrachoas, the small petunia relative with South American DNA.

I was looking back on a radio program I did in January 1998. I excitedly told the audience that in the spring they would be seeing a dazzling new plant called a calibrachoa. I am sure I missed pronounced it, and was off taxonomically too. But I wasn't wrong: This was going to be a plant for the ages.

Those first couple of years I murdered a few plants like everyone else, mostly by overwatering. I urge everyone to go to the Proven Winners website, pick out your favorite calibrachoa and then read the growing tips. It will put you on your way to the green thumb. Now that years have passed, we truly see the Superbells calibrachoa as one of the best buys on the planet for your gardening dollar.

No longer do we worry about whether they will last through the summer, but like the commercial color gurus, we fret on pulling them for the transition to pansies, because they are still looking good. As I mentioned mine are already have a dozen blooms after hitting about 22 degrees on three occasions.

The Garden Guy simply cut his back along with the Goldilocks Creeping Jenny and planted trailing pansies and dianthus as a thriller. Now here at the crossroads of February and March the Superbells Double Blue has returned to welcome spring; the pansies, Goldilocks and dianthus are starting to crescendo.

Admittedly it is hard to believe these Superbells Double Blue are the same calibrachoas that were being hit on in August by hummingbirds and spicebush swallowtails. To be honest most everyone treats them as annuals so I will consider this like they say in Louisiana just a "little lagniappe."

Superbells Double Blue calibrachoas look like perfect, small, deep blue roses, but with no thorns and certainly no blackspot or powdery mildew. I suspect the real dilemma in the world of the Superbells calibrachoa is choosing which ones to grow. Notice the plural, you simply can't pick just one.

This spring there are nine new selections of Superbells plus another three Superbells Tabletop referring to a more compact habit of 8-inches tall and a 16-inch spread. Each of the Tabletop colors -- red, white, and blue -- have all won multiple awards. This brings the total Superbells calibrachoa to a whopping 46 choices.

 

There is sure to be a color, multicolor, striped, star or slice to fit your palette. When it comes to Superbells, I like the bold riotous color selections like Grape Punch, Pomegranate Punch and the new Blackcurrant Punch. I love Lemon Slice, the coral colored Coralina, Hollywood Star and Blue Moon Punch. Now you see the problem: Deep down you will want them all.

All of the Superbells are packed with an extra-long season of enormous blooming potential. While I have had good luck growing them in raised beds rich in organic matter, I have to admit that the most dazzling performances have come from them being grown in baskets, containers, window boxes, bowls, urns and olive jars with a fluffy light potting soil.

Since the Superbells calibrahoa is such a prolific bloomer it is counting on you to keep it fed. During the warm growing season, containers are watered on a regular daily regimen, thereby leaching out the nutrients. I like to use a dilute water soluble 20-20-20 at least once a week. By dilute I mean about 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Son James will likewise tell you being brave and cutting back will pay huge dividends.

Spring is almost here and you have to admit it's thrilling to be able to pick out flowers like the Superbells that will still be blooming as we head into fall.

(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(c)2020 Norman Winter

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