Labor Day Report 2009

Summer Bedding Plant Garden Trial Survivors: 2009My favorite time of the year to look at the Summer Trials is in late August to see what has not only survived, but has thrived in the heat of our humid subtropical climate. A lot of entries look great at our Field Day in June, but don’t make it to the dog days of late summer. Weather wise, this has been a real roller-coaster of a summer for us. We had mild conditions during planting in late April and May. June and early July turned out to be very hot and dry with many days over 100F. Temperatures moderated in late July with significant rainfall. August came with a return to hot and dry conditions, but autumn (cool is a relative term!) is in the air as I write this in September. Weather details can be seen at .

A plant with truly remarkable performance this year has been the alyssum Snow Princess from Proven Winners. At this latitude, we think of alyssum as a winter annual which may or may not continue to live through the heat of summer after being planted in the fall of the year. This plant was a beautiful mound of white flowers all summer long despite the blazing heat we had this year. This plant will be in the Texas Superstar™ ( ) trials next year.

This was a great year for gomphrena, not only from the standpoint of the weather, but the fact that there were many new introductions. The Las Vegas series from Benary was outstanding. It was more vigorous than the smaller bedding types like the Buddy series, but was not as large as the Audray series from American Takaii, another series with excellent performance. At first, I wasn’t impressed with Fireworks from PanAmerican Seed. However, I saw it in another trial and realized that I hadn’t given the gomphrena enough space this year, especially the Audray series and this one. Fireworks is quite nice when given lots of room and blazing full sun which keeps it from being floppy.

Lantanas always shine in the heat and the new entries didn’t disappoint. My pick of the lot has to be Bandana Lemon Zest from Syngenta Flowers. The color combination in the flowers is quite nice and flowering was profuse. I was also impressed with Bandana White. Another excellent performer was Landmark Sunrise Rose Improved (Ball FloraPlant) which has a much nicer habit, more flowers and is a little more compact (though still a big grower) than the original. I was also impressed with Lucky Pure Gold also Ball FloraPlant. It is a very nice addition to the series which I like because of the compact growth habit and steady flowering. Another excellent entry with a compact habit was Bandito Orange Sunrise from Syngenta Flowers. It is one of the shortest lantana I have ever grown and some visitors to the trial thought it was too compact. However, I think having lantana that can be used as an edging or in small containers is a good thing.

Snow Princess alyssumgomphrena
Las Vegas Pink gomphrena

Bandana Lemon Zest lantana

Superbena Coral Red Improved verbena

Red Head coleus

Cadenza Rose Red petunia

Denver Daisy rudbeckia
(flags indicate popularity during
June Field Day at Overton)

Many of the “perennial” verbenas that have been introduced to the market in recent years don’t cope with heat as well as might be expected. However, there were several exceptions this year. Superbena Coral Red Improved from Proven Winners and Lanai Bright Eye from Syngenta Flowers were both really outstanding. Flowering was steady and the plants were vigorous. Others that stood the heat, but were not quite as large in size were Lanai Peach and Lanai Blush White from Syngenta Flowers and Empress Burgundy Charme from Red Fox by Dummen.The Ipomeas are always a strong plant for this climate. However, the lacy leaved entries always benefit from some shade. Strong performers in the field this year were Chillin’ series Blackberry Heart, Blackberry Star, and Limeade from Proven Winners and Sidekick series Black and Lime from Syngenta Flowers. Bright Ideas Rusty Red from Floranova by Oro Farms was a nice new color that performed well in our container trial.

There were several other outstanding entries this year. Coleus Red Head from Ball FloraPlant stood up to the sun with no flowering as well as growing nicely in the shade. It got quite large which was fine in the field, but too vigorous in the container trial. ColorBlaze Royal Glissade from Proven Winners was another beautiful coleus entry that stood up to the heat with no flowering. Euphorbia Breathless series (Ball FloraPlant) is a very nice and vigorous addition to this group of heat tolerant types which includes Diamond Frost (Proven Winners) and Silver Fog (Red Fox by Dummen), though the coloration in Breathless Blush faded in our heat. Petunia Cadenza Rose Red from American Takii stood up to the best of them throughout the summer with billowing mounds of cherry red flowers. The marigold series Taishan from PanAmerican Seed were impressive, especially the Gold color. They are one of the most compact African types I have seen, thought they still have good stature. The flowers are as tough as the claim and flowering continued well into late summer. Talinum Verde from PanAmerican Seed is a very compact and heavy flowering selection of this species, but does self sow with abandon. Cyperus Baby Tut from Proven Winners made a very nice mound of foliage. It stood up to the sun under our regular field conditions, though we tend to think of a wet environment as a need for this species. Also, the Graceful Grasses Purple Fountain Grass and the diminutive counterpart Red Riding Hood from Proven Winners continued strong into late summer and are picking up the golden sun of fall like a picture. Millet Jade Princess from PanAmerican made a beautiful show in late summer. The rudbeckia Denver Daisy from Benary, which was extremely popular at the June Field Day, held up well during the summer. This species has a habit of dying as soon as the first flower flush is over in our climate, but Denver Daisy and Tiger Eye Gold from Goldsmith Seeds continued producing flowers late into the summer, though not all season long. Definitely a step in the right direction for this crop! Another step in the right direction is the Caliente series of geranium from Syngenta Flowers. The Calliope series, also from Syngenta, has performed well for us also, but the Calientes stole the show this summer. All geraniums look pretty rough by late summer in our climate, but these were still making an effort to flower despite the heat. Another crop that can look rough by late summer is gaillardia. Mesa Yellow from PanAmerican and the Gallo series from Oro Farms (grown in containers) produced flowers much later into the season than usual for this species.

In summary, we have had a good trial year. Lots of new material and challenging weather always makes for a good show. As the weather of autumn arrives, it is time to regroup, plunge into the winter trials, and look forward to next year!

See complete Gallery of Survivors!

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