Michigan State Plant Experts Pick Their Favorites from Trials Across the State

Michigan GardenTour 2023 Michigan State University Extension Favorites-feature

Photo: Heidi Lindberg and Jaden Gimondo, MSU Extension

Each year during the summer plant field trial season, favorites emerge at each site, whether from consumers, growers who attend the trials, or the trial managers themselves. But what about plant experts, such as those from the university Extension world?

The 2023 Michigan Garden Plant Tour took place from late July through early August. This year, there were several trial gardens throughout central lower Michigan. Michigan State University Extension educators Heidi Lindberg and Jaden Gimondo picked their top four favorite cultivars or combinations at each site.

Here is a snapshot of just some of Lindberg and Gimondo’s favorites, in their own words. You can find all of them in this post on Michigan State’s Floriculture and Greenhouse Crop Production page.

DGI Propagators

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Rudbeckia ‘Juliana’ was extremely floriferous, like a ray of sunshine. The ‘Pumpkin on a Stick’ is actually an eggplant that would be an awesome addition to the back of a border or a container that would be a real conversation starter. The fruits of the Pumpkin on a Stick ripen to miniature orange pumpkins and make fun dried flower arrangements. It’s a fun alternative for those who do not have space in their gardens for traditional pumpkins.

Michigan State University Trial Gardens

You could not walk through MSU’s trial gardens this year without being drawn to the 5-foot-tall Leonotis leonurus with its bright orange flowers. The same could be said for Supertunia ‘Hoopla Vivid Orchid’, the magenta-colored flowers with a crisp white edge draw you in from across the garden.

Mast Young Plants

In a peach combination planter, the ‘Papaya’ petunia and ‘Carmel’ calibrachoa blended beautifully, providing depth of color, while the ‘Mango Orange’ verbena lightened up the colors with the light peach. Once again, a blue and white container captured attention with the ‘Velocity Blue’ salvia as the thriller in the pot.

Pell Greenhouses

There were a few different calibrachoa mixtures, but Durabella ‘Ombre Sundown’ from Danzinger was a favorite with its combination of yellow, pink and blue flowers. Rex begonia ‘Bewitched Night Owl’ had striking silver foliage with pops of burgundy. It was a showy asset to the shade garden.

Walters Gardens

Two favorite plants were bright pink and new for 2023-2024: ‘Watermelon Sugar’ echinacea and ‘Watermelon Ruffles’ hibiscus. The echinacea was very floriferous and had a nice tidy mounding habit, while the hibiscus had interesting, ruffled flowers.

Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants

The coleus trials played a dominant role at the Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants trial gardens. One that stuck out and is new for 2023-2024 is ‘Moondust’ from the Talavera series. Its deep burgundy foliage flecked with yellow and non-bolting habit would make an out-of-this-world addition to any garden. Another new variety that stood out is the petunia ‘Burgundy Bliss’ in the Slingshot series. This petunias color combination of burgundy with a delicate white edge stands out in a hanging basket.

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