Calibrachoas' designs dazzling

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The Cabaret series has been one of the leaders in the calibrachoa market the past few years, and now those flowers have been put together in hot new recipes called MixMasters.

No longer will you have to go to the garden center and buy individual plants to mix your own artistic design -- It's been done for you.

First and foremost: Have you tried calibrachoas? It is a small petunia-like hybrid from South America, and it is packed with enormous blooming potential.

While I have had good luck growing them in raised beds rich in organic matter, my most dazzling performances have come from growing them in baskets or containers.

I do mean dazzling, as almost no other plant can compete for the show when you have a well-maintained calibrachoa in full bloom.

The new MixMasters have been designed with an artist's touch. Names like Laguna Beach, Jewel Tones, Tropical Punch and Sundance tell you these have riveting colors.

I'll admit a partiality to Sundance.

This mix is based on the triadic harmony concept, featuring three colors equal distance apart on the color wheel. You have 'Cabaret Deep Blue,' 'Cabaret Deep Yellow' and 'Cabaret Hot Pink.' This mix of colors just seems to shout party, or a festival in Rio.

I also like Jewel Tones as it features 'Cabaret Deep Yellow,' 'Cabaret Bright Red' and 'Can-Can Dark Purple,' which is about as close to black as you can get in a flower. It really stands out in dramatic fashion by offering such a stark contrast with the yellow.

It seems like it was just yesterday that we all started out with 'Million Bells' and now each seed company seems to have dozens of calibrachoas to choose from. Why so many? They bloom their hearts out for you.

Whether you will be growing the new Sundance MixMasters, which I am touting, or one of countless other calibrachoas, know that they need plenty of sun to bloom to their potential.

Even more important is providing good drainage. This is the place to not skimp on potting soil. Get one that is fluffy and lightweight.

If planting in the soil, make sure you have done the best you can on soil improvement and drainage. Wet feet spell doom for this little workhorse.

Lastly, if you buy a ready-made basket, make sure it drains, too. This is not a problem with coconut coir lined baskets, but the plastic versions sometimes fail to drain.

Because the calibrachoa is such a prolific bloomer, it is counting on you to keep it fed.

During the warm growing season, containers are watered on a regular daily regimen, thereby leaching out the nutrients. I like to use a dilute water soluble 20-20-20 at least once a week. By dilute I mean about 1 tablespoon per gallon of water.

The Sundance MixMasters will fill out a basket reaching about 10 inches high and plummeting downward over the rim, making your neighbors green with envy over what you created.

Of course you could confess that you purchased your plant professionally designed.

Norman Winter is director of the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and author of "Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden."

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