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The Kentucky Derby

Proven Winners plants were featured at the 132nd running of the famed Kentucky Derby in May of 2006.

Contributors: Kerry Meyer

Proven Winners plants were featured at the 132nd running of the famed Kentucky Derby in May of 2006.

For many people merely hearing the words Kentucky Derby builds a picture in their mind of gorgeous thoroughbreds running at full tilt while elegant women in elaborate hats sip mint juleps from silver cups.  Gorgeous blue skies and the striking green of Kentucky bluegrass complete the image of a perfect spring day.  So what, exactly, does this have to do with Proven Winners?


Well, John Backert, director of grounds and facilities for Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, is a big fan of Proven Winners – the winning horses in the Kentucky Derby race, and the outstanding brand of flowering plants."Proven Winners plants have always performed exceptionally well for us", says John. "Proven Winners have been instrumental in helping us beautify Churchill Downs for years. We use Proven Winners because of their reliability, beauty and exceptional vigor".This year, John had an idea. The gardens and paddock areas of Churchill Downs are already filled with Proven Winners plants that John and his crew had purchased; but what about decorating the Marquee Village sponsor areas with Proven Winners as well, specifically for the Kentucky Derby itself? Since this was not in his budget, would Proven Winners provide plants for these areas?  Proven Winners agreed to do this. So now, beyond the grounds and gardens, Proven Winners plants will be featured in hundreds of container and window box combinations at the Derby.  On Saturday, in addition to keeping tabs on your favorite horse and keeping an eagle eye out for celebrities, you can watch for Proven Winners plants.



If you want your garden to feature the same plants used at Churchill Downs ‘Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum’ and ‘Supertunia Royal Velvet’ petunias would be good choices.  ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ is a landscape petunia, growing 2 or more feet tall and spreading at least that much.  The masses of bright, bubblegum pink flowers make a stunning impact in the landscape.  ‘Supertunia Royal Velvet’ sports velvety blooms of deepest purple, set on a spreading habit that is perfect in hanging baskets or as an annual, blooming ground cover.  All ‘Supertunia’ varieties require no dead-heading to bloom continuously.



‘Diamond Frost®, a truly unique euphorbia, will also be featured at the Derby.  The petite foliage and airy habit of ‘Diamond Frost’ make it appear fragile.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This heat and drought tolerant plant is tough as nails.  It is the perfect filler plant in combination planters, it looks great massed in landscape beds, and it looks like a cloud hovering on your front porch in a hanging basket.  This versatile newcomer is worth seeking out.



‘Intensia® Cabernet’ makes a striking contrast to both ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ and ‘Diamond Frost’.  The deep violet-burgundy flowers put on a show all summer and then keep on producing well past the first frost in fall.  This mildew tolerant series of phlox is great in landscapes or in pots.  If you have been afraid to add phlox to your landscape due to the disease problems generally encountered with phlox, the breakthrough in disease resistance you get with ‘Intensia’ will change your mind.



Ageratum, also known as floss flower or blue puffs, has been grown in gardens for many years.  If you are like me, you took them home, planted them, the old flowers turned brown, the plants didn’t grow and you wrote them off.  Well, for several years now we have been selling a series called ‘Artist®.  I know that ‘Artist’ ageratum cost a bit more than the pack of seed ageratum you can buy at the garden center. In some cases the extra cost might not be worth it but with ‘Artist’ you truly get what you pay for.  ‘Artist’ varieties have great vigor, great garden performance, and they constantly bury those nasty old brown flowers under fresh new color.  Try them; you will change your mind about ageratum forever.



These are just a few of the many Proven Winners plants that will be featured at the derby.  If you can’t attend, be sure to watch the Kentucky Derby and you’ll see plenty of Proven Winners that day – both on the track, and in the gardens and landscape surrounding it.

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