It’s time to plant Annuals! The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden along with the Greater Cincinnati Flower Growers Association and The Ohio State Extension Hamilton County have been trialing Annuals for the past 12 years to see which ones have performed the best in our region. We have our “Zoo’s Best Hall of Fame”, and the list of award winners in our trials since 2002. There is also a link to see photos of these annuals growing here at the Cincinnati Botanical Garden…and Zoo! Let this list help guide you to the most colorful year you have ever had in your home!
Annuals Zoo’s Best 2014 – pdf
Annuals Zoo’s Hall of Fame 2014 – pdf
Annuals are a wonderful and easy way to maintain a consistency of bloom in the garden from May through October. A constant source of nectar and pollen is essential for the health of local populations of pollinators, which include not only such favorite insects as butterflies and moths but also numerous beneficial species of bees, wasps, and flies, many of which help to control pest insects. An ample and constant supply of pollen and nectar, a diverse landscape, a nearby source of water, and a policy of either no pesticide use or a very limited and targeted use of them are key ways to create a pollinator friendly and healthy environment. Some excellent annuals high in nectar and pollen include: ageratum, dahlia, lantana, milkweeds, nasturtium, pentas, phlox, salvia, verbena, and single forms of zinnia, and herbs such as basil, dill, and fennel.
Nothing says summer like masses of color and bloom that come from garden annuals. The Zoo has been planting our popular and extensive annual beds now for over a decade and plants more than 15,000 annuals of over 250 varieties throughout the Zoo every year. The tremendous beauty is a big hit with the public. Because the annuals are labeled and properly sited, visitors can learn which varieties look and perform best and make note of them for use in their own gardens. Evaluations of annuals are performed in conjunction with the Cincinnati Flower Growers, The Ohio State University Extension Horticulture Program in Hamilton County, and the OSU Master Gardener Program.
More people doing more gardening is great for people, our community, and our local ecology. Choosing the right varieties can make all the difference between a thrilling, thriving garden and an utter disappointment. Selecting the best annuals has always been a challenge. Countless new varieties enter the marketplace every year. Which of all these new and old selections look and perform best in our Midwestern climate and soils? Our Zoo’s Best Annuals list makes it easy to create fabulous annuals displays.
The Annual Trials Program at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has tens of thousands of annuals that are donated by top breeders, distributors, and growers. These annuals are grown into plants at the greenhouse at Fidelity. Students at Diamond Oaks High School also help grow annuals in their facility.
When the annuals achieve enough growth and when the weather and soil is just right, the Zoo plants 25,000 – 30,000 annuals into its own gardens. These plants are labeled all around the Zoo and can be seen in the summer months.
Throughout the season, horticulture specialists and Master Gardeners keep records of the annuals and create a list of “Zoo’s Best Annuals” from the year. Our yearly “best” lists help local gardeners identify plants that grow to their fullest and are reliable year after year.