2004 Bedding Plant Trials By Jim Klett

Three universities put varieties to the test to see which ones are best suited for garden performance.

Another year, another trial — here, in GPN’s fourth annual trial report, is the latest and greatest of varieties chosen by leading trial managers.

Colorado State University

In 2004 all the flowers were at the Annual Flower Trial Garden, located at College and Lake Street in Fort Collins, Colo., on the Colorado State University campus.

There were a few new things at this year’s trials, including two new evaluation beds with drainage and a new irrigation system. Four season beds were planted in spring 2004. Mid-June was cold and wet with high temperatures on June 17, 18 and 21 of 56º, 51º and 58º F, respectively. The low temperatures on the same dates were 49º, 44º and 51º F. Also, unusually cold temperatures and rain occurred in mid-July. However, no hail or major storms were recorded in 2004.

Verbena ‘Aztec Red Velvet’ (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities. Dazzling cardinal red flowers carpeted a wide spreading, vigorous plant. Superior aesthetics were obvious from a distance and close up. Growth habit was very uniform, and flowers were long lasting. This variety has dark green foliage and resistance to powdery mildew.

Additional Comments. Aztec Red Velvet won Best in Show in this year’s trial.

Geranium ‘Survivor Cherry’ (Dummen USA)

Good Qualities. Abundant flowers had a fluorescent color and were very showy. Plants were robust with a very even growth habit. Flowering peaked in August but continued late into the season.

Additional Comments. Survivor Cherry was named Best Zonal Geranium.

New Guinea impatiens ‘Celebrette Pink Jewel’ (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities. Very floriferous plants had good vigor in both container and ground. Flowers and plants were relatively large when compared to most New Guinea impatiens.

Problems. This plant did peak in bloom a little earlier than some but was still outstanding.

Additional Comments. Celebrette Pink Jewel won Best New Guinea Impatiens.

Petunia ‘Whispers Blue Rose’ (Fischer USA)

Good Qualities. Showy and abundant smaller flowers had a unique color. Plants had a uniform, low-spreading growth habit.

Problems. Some of our petunias did not perform as well, especially our grandifloras and multifloras, due to being placed in a new bed that had some initial nutrition problems.

Additional Comments. Whispers Blue Rose was awarded Best Petunia in our trials.

Oenothera hybrida ‘Lemon Drop’ (Proven Winners)

Good Qualities. Intense yellow flowers bloom from spring through fall. Flowers stay open for long periods and are borne above a background of good green foliage. Plant was noted for exceptional vigor.

Problems. The plant did not have a large number of flowers in bloom at any one time, and blooms often lasted just for a day, but they were continuous. The flowers were also smaller in size.

Additional Comments. Lemon Drop won Best New Variety in this year’s trial.

Zinnia ‘Magellan Orange’ (Goldsmith Seeds)

Good Qualities. This zinnia was selected for a unique orange color and abundant flowers. Very uniform overall appearance. Flowers were self-cleaning.

Problems. Only very late in season did we see some mildew on the leaves.

Additional Comments. Magellan Orange won Best Zinnia at this year’s trial.

Penn State University

Penn State University has two flower trials: University Park primarily evaluates seed-grown annual and perennial bedding plants in ground beds, and the newer trial at Landisville, Pa., evaluates vegetatively propagated annuals in above-ground containers. Penn State Landisville tested 932 cultivars, and University Park evaluated about 400.

Pennsylvania suffered its fourth wettest year in history. It was cool and cloudy most of the time (June 1 through the end of August). During June, July and August the research center in Landisville received 27.2 inches of rainfall (14 inches above normal) and only two days above 90° F. It was even cooler at University Park.

There were many great calibrachoas entered in this year’s trial, including ‘Callie Yellow’ (Fischer USA) and ‘Superbells Kiss’ (Proven Winners). Other favorites were ‘Celebration Tropical Peach’ New Guinea impatiens (Ball FloraPlant) and the Solenia begonia series (Oglevee).

Angelonia ‘AngelMist Lavender Stripe’ (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities. AngelMist Lavender Stripe rated Best of Trial, producing a dense, compact, upright-spreading plant with many attractive flowers.

Additional Comments. As a group, angelonia can be slow to flower, but this compact cultivar started to bloom early and continued all summer.

Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ (Proven Winners)

Good Qualities. Diamond Frost produces an attractive mounded display, completely covered with tiny, white, lace-like flowers. I rated it as one of the Best New Plants in 2004.

Additional Comments. The plants were never out of flower and maintained their baby’s breath-like appearance when used in mixed containers.

Calibrachoa ‘Calimore Desert Shine’ (Danziger)

Good Qualities. Calimore Desert Shine has multi-colored orange-rose-red flowers produced on a vigorous, mounded plant.

Additional Comments. During the Penn State Master Gardener Field Day this plant received a great deal of attention because of its unique flower color.

New Guinea impatiens ‘Color Power Red’ (Selecta FirstClass)

Good Qualities. This medium compact plant with many attractive red flowers has excellent early blooming capacity that maintained all season long.

Problems. There was occasional petal spotting in full sun, especially after a cloudy period. No spotting in shade.

Additional Comments. It performed well in both full sun and 50 percent shade.

Geranium ‘Survivor Coral’ (Dummen USA)

Good Qualities. One of two Best of Species award winners, Survivor Coral has large attractive flowers, and excellent rain and Botrytis tolerance.

Additional Comments. Survivor Coral received the outstanding rating in 2003 as well as 2004.

Geranium ‘Designer Purple Rose’ (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities. Received the Best of Species award. It is a moderately compact geranium with dense zoned foliage, excellent violet-red flower color and very good rain tolerance.

Additional Comments. This was an excellent year to evaluate plants that tolerated or recovered well from thunderstorms.

Geranium ‘Wilhelm Langguth’ (Fischer USA)

Good Qualities. I remember this geranium in my grandmother’s garden, and it still out-performed most of the geraniums in this year’s trial.

Additional Comments. I started testing it about 12 years years ago, and it never fails to produce a mass of scarlet flowers on variegated foliage (green with white margins). It does well in either rainy or hot dry weather and is available as clean stock from many growers.

Coleus Stained Glassworks (Ecke Ranch)

Good Qualities. ‘Stained Glassworks Needlepoint’ is an attractive mounded plant with red-maroon-green foliage. ‘Stained Glassworks Burgundy Wedding Train’ is a low-growing, spreading plant with bronze/burgundy foliage, and each leaf has an attractive yellow edge that frames the bright foliage.

Additional Comments. No flowers were produced, and it tends to grow wider than tall.

Texas A&M University

The trials are located about 100 miles east of Dallas at the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Overton. More than 400 entries were grown from either seed or rooted cuttings and planted in replicated plots. The field trial season started out dry and cool during April but was warm and moist in May. Over 6 inches of rain fell in June, but hot and dry conditions prevailed in July and early

August. Fall arrived early this year with cool, moist conditions returning by September. Overall, the season was moderate as Texas summers go, but the steamy days of August never fail to separate the exceptional entries from the merely acceptable.

Many vegetative items were notable this year: The phlox Intensia series (Proven Winners) and duranta ‘Gold Eagle’ (D.S. Cole).

Many seed-grown varieties made the list of top performers, including begonia ‘Emperor Red’ (Sakata) vinca ‘First Kiss Blueberry’ (Benary), penta ‘Graffiti Violet’ (Benary) and zinnia ‘Profusion Fire’ (Sakata).

Begonia ‘Baby Wing Pink’ (PanAmerican Seed)

Good Qualities. Had constant flowering and vigorous growth in full sun. It was taller than fibrous rooted varieties but not floppy in full sun.

Problems. Baby Wing Pink lost some lower foliage by the end of the season and became a little bit floppy in shade.

Additional Comments. Has an old-fashioned look to it and is more compact and sun tolerant than ‘Dragon Wing’.

Eragrostis ‘Wind Dancer’ (PanAmerican Seed)

Good Qualities. A strong grower that added an airy feel to the border and changing interest through the season.

Problems. Wind Dancer can be a bit floppy if not given enough room.

Additional Comments. Blue-green foliage color is very complementary to many perennials, annuals and shrubs.

Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ (Proven Winners)

Good Qualities. Remained compact at about 12-15 inches with a cloud of white flowers all summer long.

Problems. Not as spectacular in containers prior to setting out in beds.

Additional Comments. Very tolerant of reflected heat conditions and high humidity.

Gaillardia ‘Torch Yellow’ (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities. Continuous color all season long. Nice, compact habit.

Problems. Occasional deadheading was needed, but color returned quickly after shearing.

Additional Comments. Shearing was the best way to remove old flowers, as removing them individually was labor intensive.

Heliotrope ‘Azure Skies’ (Athens Select)

Good Qualities. Vigorous and exhibited Á good flowering and healthy foliage despite heat and humidity. They performed well in various exposures, including reflected heat.

Problems. Flowering was never heavy, but was constant. It decreased at the end of the season when cooler temperatures returned.

Additional Comments. Lavender-blue flowers are scarce in our hot and humid summers.

Lantana ‘Landmark Peach Sunrise’ (Ball FloraPlant)

Good Qualities. Very vigorous and colorful with a nice habit. Formed a 24- to 30-inch mound that had flowers all season long.

Problems. Had a small amount of fruit set.

Additional Comments. As with most lantanas, this one is a butterfly magnet.

New Guinea impatiens ‘Sonic Hot Rose on Gold’ (Fischer USA)

Good Qualities. Excellent shade performance with good flowering and excellent foliage all summer. Maintained flower size despite the heat of summer.

Problems. Cycling of bloom.

Additional Comments. Foliage is very showy and makes up for any lack of bloom when flowering is out of cycle.

Vinca ‘Titan Polka Dot’ (PanAmerican Seed)

Good Qualities. Good performance all summer. Flowers were large with clear colors. Foliage was a rich dark green.

Problems. Late in the season, lower foliage began to yellow, which is typical for vinca at this location.

Additional Comments. Exhibits a mounding habit with a very uniform canopy.

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Jim Klett

Jim Klett is professor and extension landscape horticulturalist at Colorado 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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