2012 Field Trials Reports: Pike Creek Horticulture Center, Gateway Technical College

Begonia 'Whopper Rose with Green Leaf' at Pike Creek trials

Trial manager: Kate Field, Horticulture Instructor, [email protected]

Location: Kenosha, WI

Planting Dates: June 5 to 10

Number of Entries: Approximately 100

Weather Conditions: The winter of 2011-2012 in Wisconsin, as in much of the country, has gone down on record as one of the warmest in almost 80 years. The summer of 2011 was the warmest since 1931-32 in Wisconsin and the ninth warmest overall dating back to 1871. Summer annuals typically hardy to Zone 7 returned this spring as perennials in our normally Zone 5 climate. Record setting temperatures in the 50s and 60s throughout February and March, and the resulting spring-like conditions, created early customer demand for garden products throughout the Midwest.

Ornamental trees and shrubs came out of dormancy early and began flowering only to be nipped by frost. This resulted in damaged flowers for magnolia, forsythia, crabapples and spring plants of all kinds. The Wisconsin fresh apple and cherry crops were severely injured.

By early September southeastern Wisconsin rainfall was still about 3.5 inches below normal resulting in low water levels in lakes, rivers and groundwater supplies. The lack of soil moisture and heat this summer was especially hard on perennial plants. Extreme wilting was seen on trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials in August with plant death and branch dieback also apparent. Early leaf drop and fall color was also observed on woody plants. Plant injury and deaths may not be apparent until next spring, and will be worsened, if we have a winter of low soil moisture, extreme cold and no snow cover.

Retail traffic: Customer traffic was strong and steady from March through June bringing much needed sales after the cold, wet spring of 2010. Warm temperatures continued to climb in July with several continual weeks in the 90°F to 100°F range, coupled with a lack of rainfall. Precipitation from June to early September was between 25 and 50 percent below normal. The hot, dry conditions combined to create a severe drought across southeastern Wisconsin and much of the Midwest. While the demand for garden products began early in Wisconsin it also came to a crashing halt once the hot, dry weather arrived in June and customers fled their gardens for air conditioning.

Best in Show:
Begonia ‘Whopper Rose with Green and Bronze Leaf’ was a real showstopper this year. We tend to think of begonias as shade- and moisture-requiring plants, but the new hybrid begonias are much more adaptable to heat and dry conditions. Whopper has attractive shiny green or bronze leaves and huge semi-drooping flower clusters, which were beautiful in a large container in a heavily shady site. Red-flowered plants also performed beautifully in ground in a north facing planting bed. Plants are also fairly cold tolerant which helps extend their usefulness in Wisconsin.

By mid-September, the temperature was going from 80°F during the day to the mid-40s at night and this plant continued to look great! Plants have a loose, open architecture in shade and a more compact, tight habit in sunnier spots.

Begonia ‘Baby Wing Pink’ is another begonia winner from Ball Horticultural. Shiny dark green leaves contrast beautifully with shell pink flowers and dark pink buds. Plants sailed through summer’s heat in less-than-ideal begonia conditions. Planted in part sun with limited and inconsistent water, they continued to bloom all summer. They have a tight, compact habit in sun and a more open, tall habit in shade. These begonias were beautiful in containers with companions Impatiens ‘Patchwork Cosmic Burgundy,’ Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’ and Plectranthus ‘Silver Shield.’

While these begonias did well in both sun and shade conditions, they didn’t fare so well as bedding plants under a river birch, probably due to heavy competition for water this year.

Top varieties:
1. Viola xwittrokiana Cool Wave and Spring Matrix series. Cool Wave is the next big thing from Ball Horticultural and just like the name implies, this is a spreading type pansy. The series includes Yellow, Frost and Violet Wing. Pre-germinated seed made for uniformity across the flat and very early color. These were some of the first pansies to bloom in spring along with violas. While they looked a little bedraggled in the record breaking heat and drought of summer, they are also perennial and the yellow has returned with cooler fall temperatures. The yellow seems to be the most heat and drought tolerant of the series and is making an attractive and unexpected groundcover under ‘Purple Dome’ asters. We will see how they fare over winter and if they come back next spring. One problem we had was workers pulling these plants out in summer as they appeared to be dead rather than just summer dormant.

The Spring Matrix series is designed to hold at retail without stretching in warm weather. Plants were really put to the test this spring with record-breaking warm temperatures in the greenhouse. Plants stayed compact and tight with no stretch or flopping and huge flowers. Outstanding colors in the series include Midnight Glow, Sangria, Ocean and Blue Blotch.

2. Angelonia ‘Serenita Purple’ and ‘Serenita Raspberry.’ This was another selection that really enjoyed the heat and humidity of our hot summer. Plants were extremely vigorous, self-cleaning and compact without the need for PGRs or pinching. They grew to form a uniform 10-inch tall groundcover that was very effective in preventing weeds. The raspberry color was also used in containers where its texture and color combined beautifully with Petunia ‘Shock Wave Deep Purple.’ The pelleted seed was easy to use in our automatic seeder and made this plant cost effective to use in abundance in the landscape. This heat- and drought-loving annual provides something a little different to landscapes, which keeps customers interested.

3. We have enjoyed incorporating vegetables into our trials both for their edible use and attractiveness. ‘Sweet Heat’ pepper was early to set fruit and extremely prolific. This is the perfect pepper for someone who likes just a little heat. The 4-inch long peppers were ready to pick green by mid-July and began turning red by early August. This is very unusual in that most years we barely have a long enough growing season or heat to enjoy peppers. This would be a great plant to sell in a garden center with ripe fruit on it.

4. ‘Buttercream’ shasta daisy is a perennial from Proven Winners that we have been trialing for about three years, so it has survived several Wisconsin winters. The daisy flowers start out a pale lemon color and soften to butter yellow. The flowers have an extra row of petals so they look very full. The plants are compact and full growing to about 24 inches with strong stems supporting the flower heads and absolutely no lodging. The foliage is clean and disease resistant. The plants were covered with blooms continuously for about 6 weeks.

5. Celosia ‘Fresh Look Yellow Improved’ from Ball Horticulture. We definitely saw an improvement in this series color from last year when conditions were cool and wet. This was the summer for heat- and drought-tolerant plants to shine and celosia is always a winner. ‘Fresh Look Yellow Improved’ is a bright golden yellow; the flowers are very long lasting and weather resistant. The foliage is clean, full and disease resistant. We planted this in June and it bloomed without interruption, deadheading or care for the entire summer. Later in the season, some flowers seemed to revert to the ‘cockscomb’ type but not too bad.

6. Lavandula ‘Ellagance Purple’ and ‘Ellagance Ice.’ This is one of the ‘first year flowering’ perennials from seed offered by Ball a few years ago. Lavender is a much-loved perennial but doesn’t always survive the wet, clay soil and humid conditions of Wisconsin’s summers. These plants looked especially beautiful this summer with rich greygreen foliage on compact plants with dense flower spikes on strong stems. They bloomed early and consistently throughout summer without shearing or deadheading.

The white-flowered ‘Ellagance Ice’ is a bit shorter than the purple and would make an effective groundcover. Ellagance has survived three Wisconsin winters, so it is showing good winter hardiness and cold tolerance. It has excellent disease resistance with no sign of the foliar diseases or dieback that sometimes affect other lavenders. Plants from seed filled pots quickly, and were well branched and quick to bloom making them good for retail.

To see more images, go to the Gateway Horticulture Trials Flickr page

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Miscanthus-Bandwidth EmeraldCoastGrowers

May 11, 2018

New Sterile Ornamental Grasses One Solution to Grass Invasion

Aggressive grass species can turn gardeners off to using ornamental grasses. Less fertile alternatives offer options for keeping grasses from taking over the garden.

Read More

May 10, 2018

Beekenkamp Plants Acquires Sunny Osteospermum Breeding Program

Beekenkamp took over all Sunny Holland sales activities in 2017, and now has ownership of the company’s entire breeding program.

Read More
Stokesia-Divinity-1-feature

May 6, 2018

Growing Tips From an Expert for Stokesia ‘Divinity’

'Divinity’ has large, white flowers that open with a hint of yellow in the center and then mature to a pure, long-lasting white.

Read More
Latest Stories
Miscanthus-Bandwidth EmeraldCoastGrowers

May 11, 2018

New Sterile Ornamental Grasses One Solution to Grass In…

Aggressive grass species can turn gardeners off to using ornamental grasses. Less fertile alternatives offer options for keeping grasses from taking over the garden.

Read More

May 10, 2018

Beekenkamp Plants Acquires Sunny Osteospermum Breeding …

Beekenkamp took over all Sunny Holland sales activities in 2017, and now has ownership of the company’s entire breeding program.

Read More
Stokesia-Divinity-1-feature

May 6, 2018

Growing Tips From an Expert for Stokesia ‘Divinit…

'Divinity’ has large, white flowers that open with a hint of yellow in the center and then mature to a pure, long-lasting white.

Read More
Panicum-Northwind-feature

May 4, 2018

Allan Armitage: Three Ways to Market Grasses as Great O…

I don’t expect my friends to know the difference between switchgrass and grama grass, yet I always try to do my best to enhance the visibility of these grasses.

Read More
Bailey-Nurseries-Tree-Art-at-US-Capitol

May 1, 2018

Bailey Nurseries Fills U.S. Capitol Front Lawn With Tre…

A 150-foot tree art installation was constructed on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building to promote the planting of trees in an effort to combat climate, change while creating meaningful experiences that bring nature into people’s every day lives.

Read More
Carex-and-Onoclea

April 28, 2018

Kelly Norris: Why the Plant Experience Really Matters W…

For Millennials and other new gardeners, the features of plants such as natives aren’t terribly important. It's the benefits that are paramount.

Read More
Zinfin-Doll-Hydrangea

April 25, 2018

March Was a Month of Awards for Spring Meadow Nursery, …

After taking home a best new variety award at a Belgian horticulture event, Proven Winners held its always-popular Shrub Madness tournament to coincide with the annual NCAA Championship.

Read More

April 25, 2018

Armitage Scholar’s Final Thoughts on the People a…

"This trip solidified my desire to breed plants. Every time I was able to have a discussion about plant traits, genetics, and germplasm, I felt a thrill of excitement."

Read More
Gomphrena Truffula Pink (Proven Winners)

April 24, 2018

Armitage Talks Favorites From Danziger and Proven Winne…

From annuals that look like they came out of a Dr. Seuss book to breeding marvels in perennials and shrubs, the visits to Danziger and Proven Winners at California Spring Trials were exciting, to be sure. Here are some of Dr. A's favorites.

Read More

April 24, 2018

Proven Winners Reveals Marketing Efforts for 2018-2019 …

For the first time, the brand has generated one billion consumer impressions, and plans to keep that momentum going with a number of ambitious programs.

Read More

April 24, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Plant Intros from Pr…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Proven Winners and Danziger.

Read More

April 20, 2018

California Dreaming Takes on a Whole New Meaning at CAS…

At California Spring Trials 2018, the Greenhouse Grower team witnessed the revitalization of a company, plus some awesome merchandising displays, and efforts toward automation.

Read More

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bai…

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More
GG-and-Benary-Team

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Benary 2018

April 18, 2018

At CAST 2018, Sakata Captures Consumer Attention Spans,…

More than halfway through the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team had a busy but fantastic day seeing dozens of our friends at American Takii and Benary, and spending time talking about the industry's past and its bright future.

Read More

April 18, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Varieties to Watch F…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from American Takii, Hilverdakooijj, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Sakata Ornamentals, and Ernst Benary of America.

Read More

April 18, 2018

How the Horticulture Industry’s Past Shaped Its P…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says the stories of plant origins help ground our industry to the people and places that have changed us.

Read More