Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Little black petunia

My fashion sense can pretty much be summed up in one word: black.

Black is classic. And it plays well with other colors. Maybe that's why my eyes zeroed in on the black petunias at the Annual Flower Trial Garden at Colorado State University last summer. The petunias -- 'Pinstripe,' 'Phantom,' and especially 'Black Velvet' are catching a lot of attention. The March/April issue of Northern Gardener magazine features the three cultivars in a story about new annuals; other horticultural publications also have picked up on the petunias -- especially 'Black Velvet' -- bred by Ball.

It was the color that turned my head and the heads of the experts evaluating the plants' performances in the sunny, dry climate of Fort Collins, Colo. On evaluation day on Aug. 9, 2010, 'Black Velvet' earned the highest marks among these three petunias, scoring 6.8 out of a possible 10. Judges noted its "incredible" flower color but uneven habit. In September, in the end-of-season remarks, judges described 'Black Velvet' has having a unique color, many flowers and moderate vigor.

We happened to be in Fort Collins in August at about the same time as the plants were evaluated so I can vouch for the "incredible" color. It was deep and rich. My only disappointment was that, like so many petunia descendants, there seemed to be little fragrance. 

I see 'Black Velvet' more as a container plant than a bedding plant, although it could be striking tumbling along the edges of a light-colored walkway. It would be classy in a silver or mossy green container mixed with something white such as bacopa or alyssum or lobelia. Or maybe an urn of 'Black Velvet' petunias surrounded by a collar of the lime-green foliage of creeping jenny. Hmm ... opportunities await.

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