In early June I had the opportunity to attend the Young's Plant Farm 2020 Trial Garden Tour, which is one of the most prestigious plant trials in the country. Among the showiest flowers were two gaillardias or blanket flowers that made their debut this spring. Heat It Up Yellow and Heat It Up Scarlet look to fulfill that lust most gardeners have for this flower.
As a horticulturist who was born and raised in Texas, I can tell you The Garden Guy has a deep and passionate love or lust for the blanket flower, also known as firewheel, sundance and of course the legendary Indian Blanket. Whether you are a horticulturist or not you too may have fallen for this magical flower as it is native to 38 states.
Heat it Up Yellow and Heat It Up Scarlet are hybrid gaillardias coming from Proven Winners. Those of us who love gaillardias will admit to loving them all, Gaillardia pulchella that I was referring to above and Gaillardia aristata native to the west and northern half of the country all the way to New York. We love the hybrids too. Deep down we wish there was a 12-month gaillardia, not annual, not perennial, but eternal.
That's not happening, but Heat It Up Yellow and Heat It Up Scarlet have been winning awards that should catch everyone's attention. Take the yellow for instance: Perfect Score Louisiana State University, Perfect Score All Season University of Tennessee, Perfect Score Oregon State University and the award that catches my eye, Leader of the Pack Early Summer, Leader of the Pack Summer and Leader of the Pack Late Summer, at the North Carolina State University J. C. Raulston Arboretum. Those same awards went to Heat it Up Scarlet too; that's what we really want, a gaillardia that blooms all summer.
When I was director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, we planted gaillardias as part of a wildflower refuge in the front of the visitor center. Sure, we did this for beautiful color but we did this to bring in pollinators. It will work just like that at your house too. Even though we have just finished June, if you are fortunate to find healthy transplants at your garden center, buy them and get them in the ground.
Heat it Up Yellow and Heat it Up Scarlet may very well give you a spring return in Zones 8 and warmer but you can't beat the value when growing them as an annual. The pollinators will love you _ well maybe it's the flowers they'll love most. Plant in full sun in fertile well-drained soil. This need not be luxurious soil, just not boggy. They will reach 24 inches tall with a spread of 36 inches, so plan on spacing 12 to 24 inches. You do not have to deadhead. Once the petals fall, you are left with a yellow globe that almost resembles a gomphrena.
Like the display Mother Nature gives you at the roadside or in meadows, note it is massing that catches your eye. One here and one there will be no match for planting a flat of these star performers. In the trials the Heat It Up Yellow combined with Unplugged So Blue salvia took our breath way. The Heat It Up Scarlet too was combined in a dazzling display, but with Supertunia Vista Mini Violet petunias. These Heat it Up gaillardias will allow your Monet-like creativity to blossom no matter where you live.
Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.