Trials manager: Greg Michalak, Trial Gardens Manager, [email protected]
Location: Litchfield, MI 49252
Weather conditions: Spring and summer weather conditions at C. Raker & Sons have been extremely hot and dry. For May, we had an average high temperature of 76.7°F and an average Low of 63.8°F. In June, we had an average high temperature of 73.6°F and an average Low of 59.7°F. So far in July, we have experienced an average high of 83.6°F and an average low of 69.1°F.
These numbers don’t really tell the full story, however. We’ve had record highs and sustained highs in the mid-90s throughout the period. Our rainfall for the months of May, June and July has been significantly lower than average. We had a total of 2.57 inches of rain for the months of May, June and so far in July.
Trial Garden Preparation
Row trial preparation began May 21 and was completed June 1. All varieties were planted from 70mm Ellepots (approximately 3-inch pots). The material was pinched at transplant into the 70mm Ellepots and again at field planting. Everything was planted outside by June 20.
Hanging baskets were planted mid-May (week 19) and moved outside the first week of June (week 23). Each 14-inch hanging basket has 5 to 7 inputs. Vegetative cuttings were pinched at planting. No growth regulators were used at any time during production (after transplant). At sow/stick, all inputs were treated the same as Raker production crops.
Containers were built inside week 19 and moved outside week 23.
Trial Garden Maintenance
Within each variety, each plant is treated the same to ensure a proper trial. Irrigation is performed as needed, based on weather conditions. Sponsor Beds utilize overhead watering and the rows, hanging baskets and containers have drip irrigation.
Plants are fertilized every 7 to 10 days. Sponsor beds and containers are fertilized by hand using Dosatrons attached to a trailer with a 1000 gallon tank. The rows are fed with variety specific mixes through inline irrigation. The hanging baskets are fed through their drip irrigation. Initial feed in June was 18-3-18 at 200 ppm. Feed switched to 20-10-20 at 300 ppm the first week in July.
Japanese beetles are always the major concern. The grounds are treated in early spring with Dylox. All areas of the Trial Gardens were sprayed the first week in July with a tank mix of Discus/Decathlon. Sevin has also been applied on specific “hot spots” for various insects. Due to the extremely dry conditions, we have had higher than average insect pressure. The Japanese beetles emerged earlier and we have been battling thrips. On the plus side, we are seeing significantly less wet weather diseases.
Sponsor Bed: Benary
• Begonia boliviensis ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ (Benary): This was shown in 20-inch containers, hanging baskets and in the ground. It was spectacular in every area, all summer.
• Petunia Surfinia Series (Suntory): Uniform habit and huge flower power.
• Verbena Temari Series (Suntory): Lots of color early, didn’t like the heat, though.
• Verbena Lanai Series (Goldfisch): Lots of color all season, heat had little effect.
• Cuphea Trend Lavender (Cohen): Full flowered.
• Begonia ‘Whopper Red with Green Leaf’ and ‘Whopper Red with Bronze Leaf’ (Ball): Huge, full habit, many flowers.
• Heuchera villosa ‘Kassandra’ (McHutchison): Excellent fall colors.
• Zinnia ‘Dreamland Coral’ (Takii): Very full, long-lasting flowers.
• Scaevola ‘Suntastic Yellow’ (HMA): Unique, very full yellow flowers.
• Coleus ‘Under the Sea King Crab’ (Hort Couture): Continues the successful series. Very full, interesting foliage.
• Vinca Cora Series (Syngenta): Every color is vibrant with uniform habit.
Our Great Lakes Native Plant display is in its third year. The area has really filled in, showing that natives can be used in a landscape setting. It is located in the northeast corner of the gardens. This year, we also have multiple “overwintering” areas for various perennials trials.
In addition to the Sponsor beds, All-American Selection Beds and Comparison Trials located in the Trial Gardens, we invite you to explore the grounds and view the Raker landscape. Our team of designers and growers utilize the grounds to flex their creative ideas and skills.