More travel stories: Portsmouth, NH test garden

When my husband Bill and I were in New England in Sept., we visited some wonderful gardens. One garden that I particularly enjoyed exploring was the University of New Hampshire All-America Selections display garden in Portsmouth, NH.

As you probably already know, All-America Selections is a non-profit, independent organization that looks at the new plant introductions each year in search of outstanding cultivars. Judges from around the country look at all of the attributes of the new plants and rate their performance based on disease-resistance, ease of growing, unusual foliage or blossom colors, and so on.

The display garden we visited was full of all sorts of annuals that I would really like to grow in my garden next year.

For years, one of my favorite annuals has been the 'Profusion' line of zinnias. They have a wonderful mounding habit and are covered in longlasting blooms all summer long. I've been growing 'Profusion Cherry' for the most part but also like the orange and white cultivars.

You can imagine my delight at discovering the 'Zahara' zinnias. They were introduced in 2009 but I had never seen them until now. They have the same growth habit that I like so much but the flowers are doubles and come in stunning colors. Cultivars that were on display in the garden included 'Double Zahara Fire' (burnt orange) and 'Double Zahara Cherry.'

Other new colors included 'Zahara Coral Rose,' 'Zahara Starlight Rose,' and 'Zahara Scarlet.' Aren't these flowers awesome? I intend to plant some next year and see how they perform in my garden... although I can't imagine they would have any problems since I've had such great luck with the 'Profusion' zinnias.

What you are looking at in the above photos are 'Double Zahara Fire' and 'Zahara Coral Rose.' After conducting a brief web search for 'Zahara' seeds, I see they are carried by Park Seed, Territorial Seed Co., White Flower Farm and Burpee, although I'm sure they are available at more seed companies and possibly even locally at large garden centers like Northwest Seed & Pet.