2016 University of Wisconsin Field Trials Results

The West Madison Ag Research Station display gardens contained more than 270 annual and 62 perennial flower cultivars that were evaluated monthly for the Commercial Flower Growers of Wisconsin, Proven Winners, and Ball Horticultural Company. Additionally, more than 61 All-America Selection cultivars were on display in 2016. Vegetables included 12 garlic varieties, eight squash and melon varieties, 11 peppers, six tomatoes, and a few herbs. Under research by the University of Wisconsin’s Horticulture Department were 65 varieties of leafy greens/lettuces evaluated for heat tolerance during summer and cold tolerance in the late fall and 23 onion varieties screened for flavor by local chefs. Seedless table grapes were also evaluated for cold hardiness, vigor, and fruit production.

The winter of 2015-2016 was relatively mild with the lowest temperature being only -10°F for one day in January. The growing season began warmly with 4 inches of rain (not snow) in March. Except for a brief three-hour dip to 30°F on May 16, it was a warm month with 12 days above 75°F. August and September were especially warm and humid. Rainfall was abundant and frequent (nearly every five days) from April through September, which reduced overhead irrigating to just two events. In July alone, the station received 8.25 inches of rain. With the plentiful rain and high dewpoints, there was increased incidences of fungal pathogens and bacterial disease, including many root rots (Phythium, Rhizoctonia) and Verticillium wilt on verbena. Many melons and squash rotted early. Bacterial wilt on cucumbers was widespread, as was Septoria on tomatoes. However, peppers produced well with harvest peaking in early September.

Several horticultural societies continue to participate in the University of Wisconsin trial gardens. The Wisconsin Peony Society solicited help from our visitors to evaluate its improved genetic collection of 50-cultivars, displayed and maintained at the gardens. The Wisconsin Daylily society promoted its cultivars and plant sale via the University of Wisconsin’s six well-managed nurseries containing nearly 300 cultivars. Likewise, hundreds benefited from a plant sale held at the station this spring by the Wisconsin Hardy Plant Society, which included donated plants grown in the display gardens. The hydrangea collection at the University of Wisconsin trial gardens is now up to 23 cultivars, including both paniculata and macrophylla species.

New to the gardens since 2014 is the testing of the Darwin Perennial collection. These plants are monitored for winter survival, pest tolerance, flowering duration, and growth habit. In 2014, 22 cultivars from 10 genera were established. In 2015, 12 more cultivars from 7 genera were added. In 2016, another 15 cultivars from 8 genera were established. Also in the university’s evolving perennial trials was a chrysanthemum evaluation trial with the University of Minnesota. The objective was to evaluate the 20 cultivars for persistence over winter as well as floral quality and pyretherin levels.

Several faculty members used the gardens to promote special topics they wanted to publicly promote: Ceremonial tobacco for the Ojibwe tribe; Seven sisters, a traditional Mexican planting system that includes corn, beans, and squash, was established to highlight the symbiotic benefits that these three species provide when inter-planted; a pole bean breeding demonstration with 12 varieties with both living (corn and sorghum) and man-made trellises was new this year; Quinoa was planted in June and July to compare seed set on this plant that lacks heat tolerance; honey bee and bumble bee hives were set up near the gardens to promote pollinators and the importance of garden habitat for them.

 Top Performers

Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Silverberry’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Fuchsia Improved’
Petunia ‘Picasso in Purple’
Petunia ‘Vista Bubblegum’
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
Petunia ‘Surprise Magenta Halo’
Petunia ‘ColorRush Blue’
Petunia ‘Pretty Much Picasso’
Salvia ‘Black & Bloom’
Cyperus ‘Graceful Grasses Prince Tut’

Consumer Favorites

Cyperus ‘Graceful Grasses Prince Tut’
Angelonia ‘Angelface Super Pink’
Salvia ‘Black and Bloom’
Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’
Hydrangea ‘Limelight’

 

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