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Many flowers stingy with water - but not beauty

Several weeks ago I previewed many new vegetable varieties that caught my eye from the publicity this year. Besides these there are dozens of new flower varieties on the market. I have selected a few that looked interesting. They have not been tested under Utah conditions but appear to be worth considering if you are want to try something a little less ordinary.

Amaranthus, "Magic Fountains," is a new variety of ornamental pigweed. All gardeners have spent considerable time hoeing redroot pigweed so they may be a little reluctant to plant amaranths. The advantage of these is that they are as easy to grow as the weed itself. They will tolerate both drought and heat and still produce a reasonable display.Other common varieties are known as "Summer Poinsettia," "Joseph's Coat" and "Love Lies Bleeding." "Magic Fountains" grows 2 to 4 feet high and produces red to gold to green heads. Like all amaranths, it may reseed, but because it is an annual it should not be too much of a problem.

If you are looking for other drought-tolerant flowers, Helichrysum bracteatum "Lemon Bush" (or strawflower) produces a single yellow blossom on a bushy, upright plant. Plants will spread 3 to 4 feet wide and require little care after they are established.

Helicrysum petiolare (Petite Licorice) "Licorice Plant" is a heat-loving annual with finer foliage and a more compact growth habit than most other petiolares. Although the flowers are not showy, it makes a wonderful foliage addition for containers or hanging baskets.

Another well-adapted plant for our area is Malva sylvestris "Brave Heart." This flowering mallow grows to 3 feet and has small hollyhock-like blooms that are lavender and pink streaked with purple. It will be perennial in most areas.

No drought-tolerant garden would be complete without the addition of some exciting new sunflower varieties. "Crimson Thriller" produces 6-inch mahogany-red flowers on plants that grow 5 feet high. They are multi-branched so many flowers grow on one plant. "Lemon Eclair" is a pollen-free variety so it makes excellent cut flowers. The blossoms grow to 8 inches in diameter, and the plants will grow to 6 feet.

"Moonshadow" has blossoms that are near-white and grow to 4 inches in diameter on 4-foot plants. "Single Flowered Mix" resembles the wild sunflower in size and growth habit although the flower color varies from golden to white. "Supermane" does not resemble a lion but a double sunflower that resembles a chrysanthemum blossom. The plants will grow to 8 feet and produce as many as 40 side branches.

One additional drought-tolerant variety is Centaurea rothrockii. This pink annual will tolerate harsh conditions while producing a lovely large bloom on 4- to 5-foot high plants. These are good flowers for cutting gardens.

If you are into butterflies in the garden, look for Asclepias curassavica. "Red Butterfly" or "Silky Gold" both grow to 3 feet and have the same colors as their names imply. They are certain to attract several different kinds of butterflies to the garden.

Another favorite of mine for attracting butterflies is Heliotrope arborescens. Two new dwarf varieties that will add a rich, dark purple color to the garden are "Midnight" and "Twilight." They will stay less than 16 inches in height.

For early spring color that may be perennial for several years, consider some new Dianthus varieties. Newer varieties are much more heat-tolerant and have a longer bloom season than many of the older types. "Floral Lace Pink" and "Floral Lace True Rose" are both excellent choices to add their respective colors to the garden.

Several new sweet pea varieties are on the market this year. All feature a wonderful scent and grow to 5 to 6 feet in height. "Chatsworth" produces lavender-blue flowers, and "Fragrant Ripples" produces pink, carmine, blue and lilac-colored flowers. "Tickled Pink," as the name implies, has pink flowers. Pick some of these up right away as they can be planted from seed as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring.

Another interesting bright blue flower that caught my eye is Anagalis moneli "Skylover." This produces bright blue five-petaled flowers with violet-pink centers.

Many new Impatiens varieties are on the market this year. Impatiens have now become the most popular bedding plant in America. Besides producing many delicate flowers they are much more tolerant of adverse growing conditions, than older varieties. Many new varieties will grow well even when planted in sunny areas.

The popular "Cajun" series has three new colors available: "Watermelon," "Neon Rose" and "Salmon" all stay compact and resist becoming leggy. "Dazzler Apricot Improved" produces flowers with darker eyes on compact plants. "Stardust Mix" is a bi-color that bears white flowers with mixed edging. "Super Elfin Sunrise" has salmon orange colored centers on flowers with purple edging. The Elfin series branch well and are widely available. "Victoria Rose" is an All-American winner this year and produces consistent semi-double dark rose flowers.

I was also quite impressed with some of the Linaria varieties that I saw at seed trials in California last year. "Gemstones" is a red to scarlet perennial that can be planted as an annual in our area. It grows to 6 inches in height, so it is excellent in borders or foreground areas.

Look for these and many other new varieties to mix with and enhance some of your old favorites. Those who think that red petunias or orange marigolds are the only flowers that grow in Utah, need to expand their plant list. Select several kinds to add color and texture to your garden.

NOTE: SPRING COMES TO ZCMI on Monday, March 2, at the downtown store. The annual indoor flower show brings thousands of fresh flowers, trees, lilac bushes and fountains. Twice-daily floral demonstrations and commentary will be offered March 4-6, 11 a.m.-noon and 1:30-2:30 p.m. The free seminars will be presented by well-known flower expert Gertrude Glauser, whose 50 years of design experience has included handling flower arrangements for the Rockefeller family at their Jackson Hole ranch.