annual flower trials at Bluegrass LaneWhen you’re planning what annual flowers to grow in your garden or containers next season, check out the 2012 gallery at the Bluegrass Lane Annual Flower Trials website.

Last year was the ninth season of testing new and soon-to-be-released varieties. This information is used by the industry to develop better plants for consumers. Better plants mean happier customers, and potentially more sales.

The research is led by Bill Miller, with trial garden coordinator Melissa Kitchen and crew of summer interns. They evaluated 206 varieties from nine companies in 2012.

For the second year, the trials included combos — mixtures of plants developed by breeding companies to help take the guesswork out of deciding which flowers make beautiful combinations for gardens and containers. These combos help instill confidence by pre-selecting two or three varieties that work well together, giving a blended look. They have similar growing requirements and may feature complementary colors or themes. Examples include: hot colors featuring reds, oranges and yellows; nautical themes of blues; or the patriotic red, white and blue. This is a hugely popular trend, with each breeding company having their own line of designer combinations. (See also combos from our 2011 trials.)

Unmulched (left) and mulched pansies and violas in the overwintering trials.

Unmulched (left) and mulched pansies and violas in the overwintering trials.

Visit the Annual Flower Trials website.

View top-rated plants from 2012 trials.

And if pansies are in your plans, also see our new report on the Pansy and viola overwintering trial. We tested nearly 100 varieties of pansies and violas to see which overwintered best — both mulched and unmulched.

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