2003 Bedding Plant Trials By Jim Klett, Colorado State University; Robert Lyons, NC State University;

Four universities put varieties to the test to see which are best-suited for garden performance.

Last year we talked about the effects of the drought to the trials,but this year that isn’t as big an issue. While some universities recorded highrainfall, others reported high temperatures and other factors. Here, in GPN’sthird annual trial report, are the best trial performers for 2003.

Colorado State University

The Colorado State University trials were held at HighSchool Park and W.D. Holley Plant Environmental Research Center, both on thecampus at Fort Collins, Colo. May and June temperatures were cooler, and therewas adequate rainfall. Late June, July and August were quite warm with manydays in the high 90s with little or no rainfall. In early September, both sitesreceived considerable rainfall, amounting to close to 3 inches. No hail ormajor storms were recorded in 2003. A new shade structure was built in winterand early spring of 2003 with 5,000 sq.ft. of bed area.

‘Tidal Wave Silver’ petunia (Pan American Seed)

Good Qualities: White flowers with shades of dark lavenderwere profuse and very showy. Plants measured 26 inches high and 42 inches wide bymid-September.

Problems: It can begin to grow over neighboring plants ifnot given a large amount of space and may need to be restrained. Due to itsexceptional vigor, it had a slightly non-uniform growth habit compared to someof the other spreading petunias.

Additional Comments: This plant lived up to its name with avery large mounding growth habit and exceptional vigor.

‘Intensia Lavender Glow’ phlox (Proven Winners)

Good Qualities: Flowers remained good looking even after afreeze that was hard enough to ruin all of the geraniums. Lavender Glowmeasured 15 inches high and 28 inches wide by mid-September.

Problems: The growth habit began to slightly open up in themiddle toward the end of the summer.

Additional Comments: The entire series produced plants thatwere one large mound of flowers with exceptional uniformity.

‘Fresh Look Red’ celosia (Benary)

Good Qualities: Uniform plants produced flowers that held astrong deep red color from early summer through mid-September, while othervarieties faded noticeably. Plants measured 181/2 inches high and 161/2 incheswide by mid-September.

Problems: This plant had a small problem with lodging towardthe end of the season but it was not any worse than any of the other celosia inthe trial.

Additional Comments: Plants were well branched and did notrequire special care.

‘Vanilla Butterfly’ argyranthemum (Proven Winners)

Good Qualities: Cream-colored flowers with yellow around theeye covered the entire plant. Fine-textured foliage was attractive by itself,and growth habit of the plant is very uniform. Plants measured 191/2 incheshigh and 191/2 inches wide by mid-September.

Problems: Although the initial flush of color is brilliantand long lasting, the flowers eventually fade and need to be removed which canbe labor intensive. They did produce a good amount of flowers again later inthe season.

‘Toto Gold’ rudbeckia (Benary)

Good Qualities: A favorite due to the unusually prolificyellow flowers that lasted late into the season. Plants were very uniform and dwarf– near perfect in appearance and measured just over 15 inches high and 151/2inches wide by mid-September.

Problems: This plant had no significant problems withdisease or insects.

Additional Comments: This would be an excellent choice for ashort plant near the front of a border.

‘Rocky Mountain Dark Red’ geranium (Fischer USA)

Good Qualities: Plants were dark green with an excellentvigorous and uniform growth habit. Plants measured almost 20 inches high and231/2 inches wide by mid-September.

Problems: Flower color faded slightly as the flowers maturedlate in the season. Otherwise there were no significant problems.

Additional Comments: Large, red blooms were an exceptionallyrich color that were very showy.

‘Dreamland Coral’ zinnia (American Takii)

Good Qualities: The uniform, mounded plant of coral-coloredflowers was superior early in the summer and remained resistant to powderymildew through mid-September. Flowers were very prolific. Plants measured 231/2inches high and 21 inches wide by mid-September.

Problems: Flower color faded slightly as the flowersmatured, but it made a good contrast with the newer flowers. Á

North Carolina State University

The NC State University trials are located at the JC RaulstonArboretum under the auspices of the Department of Horticultural Science inRaleigh, N.C. The summer trials are generally transplanted outdoors inmid-April and evaluated on a weekly basis through the month of September. Allof our trial beds are amended with organic matter and fully mulched withpartially decomposed leaf matter after planting. The summer of 2003 was one ofthe wettest on record, generally cooler than normal and more overcast.

‘Prairie Sun’ rudbeckia (Benary)

Good Qualities: Strong stems, large flowers and excellentflower number per plant. Flower color presents a greenish center and goldenrays that fade to a pale yellow.

Problems: As is the case with most cultivars of thisspecies, this cultivar is susceptible to powdery mildew later in the season.

Additional Comments: Unique flower color presentsopportunities for landscape and cut flower designers. As with most Rudbeckiahirta cultivars, sensitivity to long days precludes early season flowering, butthe short delay is not problematic, given the profusion of flowers thateventually appears.

‘Luna Red’ hibiscus (PanAmerican Seed)

Good Qualities: Large flowers, strong growth habit, sturdystems and good flower visibility, this plant needs no pinching to establish awell-branched garden specimen; a very uniform and dwarf habit increases itslandscape use versatility.

Problems: Japanese beetles can make quick work of thefoliage, causing unsightly “skeletonizing” in only a few days if leftunchecked.

Additional Comments: This cultivar is a fraction of the muchtaller height found in the wild. Reaching an order of about 2 feet, Luna Redhas opened the door for incorporating this extremely showy species into alarger variety of landscape situations, including containers.

‘Explosive Ember’ ornamental pepper (S&G Flowers)

Good Qualities: Fruits are bluntly tapered and exceptionallycolorful across the expected spectrum of yellow, orange and finally purple.Long-lasting fruits are in full view against dark purple foliage thatintensifies as the nights cool down towards fall. Plants are compact and dense.

Additional Comments: Flowering is early in the season,leading to ornamental fruit production quickly in the season. This cultivar isa welcome addition to the standard ornamental pepper palette.

‘Chilly Chili’ ornamental pepper (PanAmerican Seed)

Good Qualities: Terrific long and tapered fruits in theyellow, orange and red range positioned against solid green foliage. Fruitshave a mild taste, more like bell rather than hot pepper.

Additional Comments: Combines perfectly with other peppercultivars; short stature encourages use along garden edges and beneath shortcommercial signs and banners.

Cissus discolor (Logee’s Greenhouses)

Good Qualities: This tender perennial, typically used as ahouseplant or conservatory plant, adapted beautifully to the landscape. Whenplanted in protected areas rarely drenched by full sun, C. discolor weaved itsway in a controlled and deliberate way throughout a vine support. Large leaves,eye-catching and distinctive foliage variegation, rich red stems and petioles,and good self-branching.

Problems: Very few; waits until temperatures consistentlyheat up to start its reliable vining growth. Availability may be limited untilrecognition and appreciation increases.

‘Sweet Caroline Bronze’ ipomoea (Bodger Botanicals)

Good Qualities: Its unique foliage color is one of itsstrongest traits, and it remains a solid “ground cover” tenderperennial. The coppery bronze display is a refreshing, novel and welcomeinterruption to the familiar, historical palette for this species.

Problems: Deer love this plant, and growth starts in earnestonly when temperatures remain consistently warm.

Additional Comments: Compared to its peer cultivars, growthis more controlled and tuber size is smaller.

‘Fairy Tales Cinderella’ portulaca (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities: Flower color is hot, loud and striking;ground cover spread is ideal, and flower form is uniquely different from thetypical moss roses of memory.

Problems: Flowers won’t remain open all day, nor will theylook their best during prolonged periods of clouds or rain, but these were notconsidered strong detractors from overall performance potential.

Additional Comments: Performed superbly in the drought of2002 and surfaced as a top entry again in a wet 2003. Radiates brilliant colorin the heat of summer; flowering is profuse and saturated, especially when theweather is hot and sunny. Equally suitable for container and landscape use.

Penn State University

This summer was unusually cool and wet at Penn StateUniversity’s annual vegetative flower trial located at the SoutheastAgricultural Research and Extension Center at Landisville, Pa. We had 718vegetative entries, of which 36 percent were new introductions. Plants werereceived as rooted cuttings in March and early April grown in 4-inch pots inScott’s coir growing media and then transplanted outdoors into 12-inchcontainers using the same medium on May 22 and 23. Cultivars were evaluatedfour times during the growing season for flower production, foliage display,uniformity of growth, pest tolerance, plant size and overall gardenperformance.

‘Acapulco Orange’ agastache (Bodger Botanicals)

Good Qualities: Its attractive display of light orangeflower spikes showed good wind and rain tolerance and kept flowering allsummer, actually getting better as the season progressed.

Additional Comments: Its pleasing minty fragrance adds tothe garden display. Plants are easy to grow in the greenhouse.

‘Golden Jubilee’ agastache (Park Seed Company)

Good Qualities: Flowers were produced continuously allsummer and remained upright and flowering even after heavy rains.

Additional Comments: It’s a 2003 All-America Selectionswinner.

AngelMist angelonia (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities: ‘AngelMist Basket Purple’ has a compact,somewhat weeping habit that makes it ideal for hanging baskets. ‘AngelMistLight Pink’, a slightly larger variety and more upright growing.

Additional Comments: AngelMist Basket Purple took top honorsrating “Best of Trial.”

‘Cindy Fringed’ Hiemalis Begonia (Dummen USA)

Good Qualities: It produces many eye-catching flowers withfringed petals that are held nicely above the foliage.

Problems: In full sun petals tended to brown prematurely. Itis a smaller cultivar than most and prefers partial shade to prevent petalbrowning.

Additional Comments: We liked it in the greenhouse and foundit did well outdoors in moderate shade.

‘Sunsatia Coconut’ nemesia (Proven Winners)

Good Qualities: Produced a mass of cream-colored flowerswith a prominent yellow center. Tolerated 40-mph winds and hard rains withoutbecoming windblown or separating into segments. It kept flowering without alull through August.

Problems: It did develop root rot symptoms in late summer,indicating that it would benefit from an application of preventive fungicide.Á

‘Aromatica True Blue’ nemesia (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities: It has good flower production, dark greenfoliage on a compact plant with an upright habit. We like the crisp blue flowercolor and compact habit.

Problems: It can suffer segmentation under strong winds.

‘Abunda Giant White’ bacopa (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities: Produced the largest flowers of any in ourtrial, a trailing habit and a consistent flower display all summer.

Problems: It started to flower a little later than others inthe trial it continued to flower all summer even when the other varietiespooped out.

Additional Comments: ‘Abunda Blue’ showed just as good.

‘Caliente Coral’ geranium (Goldsmith Plants)

Good Qualities: This ivy-zonal cross had a delightfuldisplay even during wet weather and appears to be tolerant of Botrytis and leafblight, has a large spreading habit.

Additional Comments: Produces a multitude of attractivesingle flowers.

‘Intensia Lavender Glow’ phlox (Proven Winners)

Good Qualities: Be prepared for its vigorous outdoor growthas it can get large, in our container trial it grew 30 x 36 inches, and itsmounded form was covered with showy lavender flowers all summer.

Problems: This phlox was not very showy in the greenhouse,but once outdoors, it grew into one of the most spectacular plants in thetrial.

Additional Comments: Rated “One of the Best” inthis trial. Two other introductions, ‘Intensia Neon Pink’ and ‘Intensia LilacRose’ and are also showy.

Texas A&M University

The trials are located at the Texas A&M UniversityAgricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton, Texas. More than 400entries were grown from either seed or rooted cuttings and planted in replicatedplots in late April and May. The field trial season started out dry duringApril and early May. Weather was then seasonably cool and moist with some heavyrains in June. July brought good rainfall, but August was typically hot andhumid with little rain. Fall arrived early this year, with cool, moistconditions returning by late September. Overall, the season was moderate, butthe steamy days of August never fail to separate the exceptional entries fromthe merely acceptable. Many varieties continued to flower well through thesummer, though many more looked good again in the fall as the weather cooled.

‘Stara Pink’ and White begonia (Floranova)

Good Qualities: They were still standing by the end ofsummer in full sun beds, while others around them had melted into the ground.Other good qualities include constant flowering and vigorous growth in fullsun.

Problems: Flowers are somewhat small. Plants get large anddon’t flower as well in shade.

Additional Comments: Hard to finish in packs, Stara would begood in larger containers.

Amora coleus (Proven Winners)

Good Qualities: Strong performance in shade and sun withoutflowering.

Problems: Occasionally sports to a less desirable type.

Additional Comments: Unusual color opens up manypossibilities for color combinations.

‘Super Sonic Pastel Pink’ New Guinea impatien (FischerUSA)

Good Qualities: Excellent shade performance with goodflowering all summer. Also, maintains flower size despite the heat of summer.

Problems: Slight cycling of bloom.

Additional Comments: Super Sonic Pastel Pink makes a largeplant with a flower color that is very cool and refreshing.

‘Galaxy Polaris’ penta (D.S. Cole Growers)

Good Qualities: These pentas have full, bushy growth withgood flowering and heat tolerant. Very clear white flower color.

Problems: Slight cycling of bloom.

Additional Comments: Plants fill out quickly in earlysummer.

‘Wave Pink Improved’ petunia (PanAmerican Seed)

Good Qualities: Good pink color and nice low-growing growthhabit, which reduces the need for shearing. Good flowering all summer.

Problems: Some cycling of bloom. Some loss of foliage inlate summer.

Additional Comments: Wave Pink offers greatly improvedgenetics over previous offerings.

Intensia phlox (Proven Winners)

Good Qualities: Intensia provided outstanding flowerproduction all summer long with no cycling of bloom. Growth was compact andcolors did not fade in the heat.

Problems: Plants opened in the center somewhat by latesummer.

Additional Comments: I was very impressed with the all-summerperformance. Seed strains usually quit flowering by early summer.


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Jim Klett, Colorado State University; Robert Lyons, NC State University;

Jim Klett is professor and extension landscape horticulturist at Colorado State University. Robert Lyons is professor and director in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University. Alan Michael is trial director and extension educator at Penn State University. Brent Pemberton is professor at the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

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