The University of Georgia just announced their Classic City Award winners from their plant trial program, and I was beyond thrilled to see that Catalina Pink torenia, or wishbone flower, was one of the selections.
Guess what? It was a winner at The Garden Guy’s home trial too.
I’ve been writing these columns for about 26 years and I don’t think I have ever written about torenia in all of that time. This year, two varieties caught my eye and made me think, "What have I been missing?"
A Classic City Award is quite an honor for Catalina Pink, which will be making its debut in 2024 as a new and improved selection.
In university trials, giving each plant the proper light is often a challenge, especially for those that thrive in a shadier or filtered light environment. At my house, I am growing mine in hanging baskets hooked onto tree limbs.
It is furthermore a challenge to photograph and do it justice, especially with regard to pollinators that might visit.
This is one of the most pleasing aspects I see with Catalina Pink. The hummingbirds make frequent visits to the large lavender-rose pink blooms. But you will have to take my word for it, because even with my 500mm lens I have been unable to document what I am seeing.
It has been thrilling to see bees of all sorts that have actually crawled or flown in the trumpet-shaped flowers as if they were in some state of nectar and pollen bliss. I swear, it seems as if the flower parts are hugging the pollinators as if a sign of welcome.
Butterflies have started to visit, too, as if the eastern tiger swallowtails have duly noted that they have placed the wishbone flowers on the menu along with lantana, verbena and salvia.
The Catalina Pink is suggested to reach 8-12 inches tall with an equal spread. I think I have reached a little more spread in a hanging basket, which just makes it even prettier.
Botanically speaking, we were taught the flowers looked like snapdragons and were even in the Scrophulariaceae or figwort family, or to me, the snapdragon family.
But the old saying is taxonomists have to eat too, so they have now put torenia in the family Linderniaceae, of which I don’t recognize one other family member. Go figure!
The point, though, is you need to grow torenia.
While Catalina Pink thrives under the filtered light of tall Georgia trees, Summer Wave Large Blue can tolerate much more light. It can electrify a fertile well-drained bed like you might think that only a Supertunia or Scaevola could do.
Summer Wave Large Blue is a multi-award winner — 24 awards to be exact. The Dallas Arboretum gave it the Flame Proof Award, which to many of us plant geeks is like the Super Bowl.
It reaches up to 12 inches tall with an equal spread. I would still give it some afternoon shade in the south if possible.
Son James and the Eden Estate Management team planted Summer Wave Large Blue with Ping Pong Purple gomphrena and white rose form impatiens.
A couple of things extra-special about these torenias is that they are resistant to deer and require zero deadheading.
For all of these reasons, you need to put the Catalina Pink and Summer Wave Large Blue on the must-have list for next year’s garden.
(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.)
(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)
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