2017 Metrolina Greenhouses Field Trial Results

Weather this year was unusually wet in comparison to the last three years during the 2017 field trials at Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC. Throughout the gardening period, Metrolina received around 30 inches of rain. The field trials at Metrolina include annuals and perennials in the ground, and also in 14-inch pots. This year there were 1,931 entries, 1,155 of which were annuals and 776 were perennials (consists of 478 varieties planted in 2016 and overwintered and 298 varieties planted in 2017). Metrolina also trialed more than 400 combinations.

Each year, trial managers run a comparison trial for one genera. This year they picked French and African Marigolds (94 varieties). The focus of the comparison trials is on all new perennial and annual introductions from the current season and Metrolina’s benchmarks.

The field trial garden is planted in week 17 and all annuals are disposed of in week 36. Perennials stay in the garden for two years. The main challenge for the trials this year was the weather. It was a very wet year, which brought with it unwelcome disease pressure. New to the trials were the addition of a pergola for sun hanging basket combinations (can hold 228 pots) and some additional display gardens.

Dr. Mark Yelanich evaluates the Metrolina trial garden on a monthly basis and field trial managers take monthly photos. All of the photos and plant ratings are posted on Metrolina’s website.

Dr. Mark Yelanich’s Top Ten Variety Picks

1. Sunpatiens ‘Compact Orchid’ (Sakata Ornamentals): new color, great performer in sun and shade
2. Lantana ‘Landmark Sunrise Rose Improved’ (Ball FloraPlant): new color and fantastic blooming period/habit
3. Gerbera Garvinea Series (Florist) ‘Classic Lydia’ and ‘Sweet Love’: the entire series is great for continuous blooming, garden performance
4. Verbena ‘EnduraScape Blue Improved’ (Ball FloraPlant): new color, perennial verbena with lots of bright bloom power
5. Pentas ‘Falling Star Pink Bicolor’ (Syngenta Flowers): spreading habit, great for beds, borders, and baskets
6. Alternathera ‘Purple Prince’ (PanAmerican Seed): outstanding performance in sun or shade, third year of trials
7. Sweet Potato ‘Solar Tower Black’ and ‘Solar Tower Lime’ (Ball FloraPlant): first true vertical vining sweet potato
8. Verbena ‘Lanai Candy Cane’ (Syngenta Flowers): annual verbena with continuous flower cycle throughout the season
9. Annual Salvia ‘Mystic Spires Improved’ (Ball FloraPlant): better habit, more flowering than ‘Mystic Spires’
10. Dahlia ‘Mystic Spirit’ (Dümmen Orange): great garden performance, no deadheading required

Honorable Mentions

Vinca ‘Valiant Burgundy’ (PanAmerican Seed)
Petunia ‘Supertunia Hot Pink Charm’ (Proven Winners): performance and bright pink saturated color

Dr. Mark Yelanich’s Top Ten Perennial Picks

All the perennials in this list besides the heuchera have been in the garden since week 17/2016.

1. Agapanthus ‘Twister’ (Concept Plants)
2. Echinacea ‘Pow Wow Wildberry’ (PanAmerican Seed)
3. Festuca ‘Cool as Ice’ (Griffin)
4. Gaillarida ‘Spin Top Yellow Touch’ (Dümmen Orange)
5. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (Green Leaf Plants)
6. Heliopsis ‘Sunstruck’ (Darwin Perennials)
7. Lavandula ‘Molten Steel’ (Plantinova)
8. Heuchera ‘Wild Rose’ (Proven Winners): only one year of data
9. Sedum ‘Spirit Green’ (Benary)
10. Salvia greggi ‘Mirage Cherry Pink’ (Darwin Perennials)

Top Consumer Selections

1. Sunflower ‘Sunfinity’ (Syngenta Flowers)
2. New Guinea Impatiens ‘Sunpatiens Compact Tropical Rose’ (Sakata Ornamentals)
3. Petunia ‘Happy Magic Giant Black Bordeaux’ (Cohen Nursery)
4. Dark Leaf Dahlia Category (top picks Dahlia ‘Mystic Haze,’ ‘Mystic Wonder,’ and ‘Mystic Illusion’): all Mystic varieties were represented by Dümmen Orange
5. Agapanthus ‘Twister’ (Concept Plants)
6. Sedum ‘Angelina’
7. Petunia ‘Crazytunia Frisky Purple’ (Westflowers)
8. Hanging basket combination: Southern Hospitality (Proven Winners)
9. Hibiscus ‘Summer In Paradise’ (Walters Gardens)
10. Hosta ‘Sunset Groove’ (Heemskerk)
11. Hosta ‘Fire and Ice’ (H. Hansen/Shady Oaks)
12. Theme display beds:
• Pollinator Garden- received 21 favorite flags
• Easy Care- received 15 favorite flags
• Grow Anywhere- received 11 favorite flags
• Butterfly- received 11 favorite flags
• Rock Garden – received 4 favorite flags

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