Few would argue that the main reason gardeners grow tomatoes is because of their flavor. Nothing, simply nothing, equals the flavor of a truly vine-ripened tomato. I don’t know about you, but that’s the reason I go to such great lengths to grow those “love apples.”

But get this, a team of University of Florida researchers has been able to create tomatoes with more flavor. The researchers are now working with plant breeders and taste specialists to prepare the tomato for the marketplace. Given that Florida is one of the major producers of winter tomatoes, that is indeed good news. The route they took to unlock those flavor secrets was indeed curious, however, being that it originated with a petunia. Researchers there uncovered some of the genes that control the chemicals that comprise a flower’s scent, opening up new ways of “turning up” and “tuning” a flower’s aromatic compounds to produce desired fragrances.

According to one of the nursery industry online newsletters, work published in the January issue of The Plant Journal and the February issue of Phytochemistry said the researchers describe how various genes in petunias help regulate the amount of the 13 major aromatic compounds in a petunia’s fragrance. The work will help researchers control the levels of these compounds, adjusting a flower’s fragrance while also producing more or less of it. Just imagine, even more of that sublime petunia aroma.

Professor Dave Clark and others have spent the last decade combing through 8,000 petunia genes. In doing so, they’ve discovered that the gene that produces the compound that gives rose oil its distinctive scent also makes tomatoes taste good.

Using the knowledge, better smelling roses are also in the pipeline. The studies are part of an ongoing effort to isolate the chain reaction responsible for producing scent, so that fragrances can be modified without interfering with other flower qualities, said Thomas Colquhoun, a University of Florida environmental horticulture researcher and first author on both papers.

While all that’s interesting, there is one new ornamental offering this season that already has a lock on fragrance and performance. If you only buy one annual plant this season, make sure it is “Snow Princess” lobularia. Expect a nonstop blizzard of the sweetest honey-scented white blooms with this hybrid from Proven Winners.

If you cannot find it where you buy this plant, ask for it. Whether planted alone in hanging baskets or pots, or paired with any number of recent colorful choices such as “Pretty Much Picasso,” a brilliant pink hybrid petunia that is tipped in chartreuse (yeah, it’s that colorful); or perhaps one of the “Superbena” verbena hybrids in coral or pale pink; or a luscious Pink Parfait or Coral Red “Superbena” verbena hybrid and you’ll get rave reviews for the display.

Among this year’s All America Selections Winners are “Zahara” Fire & Starlight Rose zinnias that have to be seen to be appreciated. Both heat and drought tolerant and disease resistant, “Zahara” selections could be some of the toughest zinnias ever, while also being the most attractive. Starlight Rose is a real charmer with bright pink-centered white petals and a long bloom time.

These are a few more of the new offerings for the garden, several of which I’ve tried with great results.

A stunning new Echinacea from Terra Nova, “Tomato Soup” lives up to its moniker with rich tomato-red coloring. Just think of the combination possibilities with this hardy new perennial. Right off the top of my head, I’d recommend “Mac’N’Cheese” Echinacea, also from Terra Nova. True to its name, this cone flower displays creamy yellow blooms a’plenty. Add a dose of “Paladin” Leucantheumum, a double-petaled Shasta daisy that resembles an ornate Victorian collar, ruffled and multilayered. This trio is perfect for full sun and is sure to create a big splash.

Start seeds now for two new choices from Renee’s Garden Seeds that offer a double dose of frills. “Apricot Peach Parfait” hollyhocks are stunning doubles in luscious colors. With sturdy 5- to 7-foot-tall stalks, these hollyhocks will pack a flurry of powder-puff blooms in delicious shades of apricot and rosy peach.

More is more! A new dreamy double cosmos “Rose Bon Bon” is one of those extra-fancy annuals that can take center stage in any sunny bed or cutting garden. These new French cosmos are packed with double-frilled petals in a rich, romantic shade of rose. Easy to grow plants produce nonstop flowers on long stems for beautiful, season-long bouquets. Butterflies love them and you will too.

Hydrangea advances have reinvented this old garden standby shrub. New colors, new growth habits and bloom forms, so when it comes to these shrubs you know you’re not dealing with your grandmother’s hydrangea. The choices expand every year and the hardiness and dependable blooms just keep getting better. Check the newest of the new varieties: Let’s Dance series, Forever & Ever series, Endless Summer series (look for “Blushing Bride”), and especially “Blue Bunny,” “Cityline Mars and Rio,” “Edgy Hearts and Orbits” from Proven Winners. Hydrangea paniculata Little Lime is just 3 to 5 feet high and wide. Even that cast-iron shrub spirea has a new act in two “Double Play” Proven Winners’ choices offering brilliant pink blooms and light green foliage.

And last, but not least there’s Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirit, the first Hydrangea arborescens that blooms pink — think of it as a pink version of the popular “Annabelle.” Nice!

First Editions Vanilla Strawberry offers triple the delight for hydrangea lovers. This hydrangea paniculata’s enormous blooms start out a creamy vanilla-white, changing to a soft pink and finally to a ripe strawberry red. The unique red color lasts for three to four weeks, longer than most hydrangeas of this variety. New blooms keep the multicolored show going throughout the summer and early fall.

Gardeners looking for a more compact hydrangea paniculata will be thrilled with First Editions Tickled Pink. This playful hydrangea will reach a height of just 4 to 5 feet, and its unique blooms and strong stems make it a standout in any garden space. Tickled Pink’s cone-shaped blossoms start out a soft white then gradually turn a rosy pink. The extraordinary blooms are loaded with petals that curve, giving Tickled Pink a lacy, flirty look.

See what I mean about hydrangeas? And there are plenty more new ones to choose from.

Berberis thunbergii Golden Ruby is a deciduous shrub that unfurls brilliant orange-scarlet in spring, darkening as spring turns to summer into a rich shade of plummy crimson while acquiring a bright, non-fading golden edge.

Try hosta “Mighty Mouse” with abundant lavender blooms in early summer on 12-inch scapes, luring hummingbirds to come feast in the shade. The leaves remain until winter frost, always looking their best. This hosta earns its name with very substantial, thick leaves that resist nibbling from snails and slugs, but its best merit is its lovely variegation.

Looking for an impressive and unusual hosta specimen? This tribute to the only female emperor in Chinese history certainly fits the bill. One of the largest hostas available, dark green “Empress Wu” matures to a height of 4 feet (downright tropical looking!) in about five years. Flower scapes with light lavender blooms stick their noses just above the foliage.

Thuja occidentalis North Pole PPAF is never more than 5 to 7 feet wide, and this tree slowly reaches 12 to 14 feet tall, with a naturally symmetrical, conical habit. A columnar selection of T. “Wintergreen,” it was bred for superior resistance to winter burn, and also demonstrates excellent cold hardiness. It will not bronze out in winter, scorch in summer, or break beneath heavy snow loads. Bagworms avoid it, nibbling creatures leave it alone, and imperfect soil does not faze it.

First Editions Spring Wonder Sargent Cherry Tree offers something to love all season long, even in Zone 4. This beautiful flowering cherry tree has delicate, single pink flowers in the spring that mature into small, reddish-black fruit. Its new leaves start out purple, turning shiny, dark green in the summer. The tree’s upright, vase-shaped form and polished, red-brown bark add to its three-season appeal.

Considering how most of us are starved for some color by now, it won’t be easy to restrain ourselves in the garden centers (or online and with mail-order sources) now that spring has officially arrived. But oh my, what fun we’ll have shopping and deciding and planting.

Lynette L. Walther is the recipient of the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award and the Florida Magazine Association’s Silver Award of Writing Excellence. She is a member of the Garden Writers Association. She gardens in Camden.