Roger Gates

Roger Gates

The Gardens at Athens were started in 1982. The primary functions of the garden have always been research, teaching and new crop introduction, and that continues today. Plants or seeds are received from almost all the plant breeding companies in the world, along with material from perennial plant nurseries, individual growers and gardeners, as well as material from Trial Gardens Director John Ruter’s breeding program.

The Trial Gardens recently announced the 12 2022 Classic City Award winners from 400 entries this year. Each year, Trial Gardens staff plant and evaluate ornamental plant varieties sent to them by breeders around the world. This year, the Trial Gardens team planted trial subjects between April 15 and May 15. During the summer, the team monitored, maintained and judged the plants from 22 companies on a variety of factors that make them desirable to gardeners.

Plant breeding companies send plants they have developed to test their growth and performance in the Georgia heat and humidity, as the University of Georgia offers a prime location for these conditions. In addition to the general humidity and heat associated with Georgia summers, another challenge this year was the lack of rain relative to past years.

“It was a pretty dry summer,” said Ruter. “We didn’t get any drenching rains, but the heat was also a little more manageable this year.”

Sandra Begani, manager of the Trial Gardens, noted she evaluates the plants for uniformity, disease resistance, good leaf color and minimal or no leaf dropping.

The 2022 Classic City Award winners, and the judges’ comments on each, are:

• Calibrachoa Superbells Prism Pink Lemonade by Proven Winners: “It is impossible not to smile when passing by this phenomenal beauty! Our visitors have regularly asked me if there are actually two different plants.”

• Caladium Crystal Moon by Classic Caladiums: “There were so many caladiums for both sun and shade at the top of our list this year, it was hard to choose the best one! The Crystal Moon is a shade variety that lights up any wooded space.”

• Catharanthus Soiree Flamenco Senorita Pink by Suntory: “This new vinca hybrid is a part of the beloved Soiree collection that has wowed us for many years before. The new swirling introductions this year did not disappoint!”

• Coleus Premium Sun Ruby Heart by PanAmerican Seed: “This seeded coleus crop has been outstanding. The plant is made up of waves of red, heart-shaped centers and golden edges.”

• Double Impatiens Glimmer Appleblossom by Ball FloraPlant: “Our garden visitors agree that the Glimmer series has been outstanding in our concrete planters and hanging fiber baskets. Both locations are partially shaded and require frequent water and fertilization, but they have produced bountiful double blooms all summer long.”

• Gerbera Garvinea Sweet Sparkle by HilverdaFlorist: “This larger variety has surprised us with continuous blooms all summer long on flawless crowns of foliage. The flower heads are upright, and the colors are very bright and cheerful.”

• Hibiscus Hollywood America’s Sweetheart by J. Berry Nursery: “We look forward to the new colors and patterns in the tropical hibiscus world each year, and J. Berry does not disappoint. This variety has been successful in both containers and in the ground.”

• Lantana Gem Compact Orange Fire by Danziger Lantana: “This lantana is a necessity in the Southeastern garden for heat, drought, pollinators and deer resistance. The Gem series provides a unique selection of color pallets.”

• MixMasters Meant to Bee by Ball FloraPlant: “This combination of calibrachoa was literally meant to be grown together! Words cannot describe the color-power of these little bells, with hues that grow deeper in the center and explode with a perfect yellow star.”

• Petunia DuraBloom Electric Lilac by DummenOrange: “The best petunia of the bunch is the ‘Electric Lilac’ from DummenOrange. Both hanging baskets and containers were overflowing with gigantic purple blooms all summer.”

• Portulaca Mojave Yellow 2023 by Proven Winners: “With so many great Portulaca entries this year, it is hard to pick a favorite, but ‘Mojave Yellow’ is special not only because of its larger flower heads and strong branching structure, but it remains open longer during the day.”

• Rex Begonia Jurassic Jr. Fire Spike by Ball Ingenuity: “We were honored to be invited to the American Begonia Society convention this year, and we could not stop talking about this series! Once again, the shade-loving colorful foliage has blown us away.”

Roger Gates is the agricultural and natural resources agent for University of Georgia Extension, Whitfield County. Contact him at

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