Top 5 Performers At Gateway Technical College’s Trial

Top 5 Performers At Gateway Technical College's Trial

Trial Manager

Kate Field, horticulture instructor


Kenosha, Wisc.

Planting dates

May 20 to June 10


Gateway Technical College has been trialing seed and vegetative annuals for three years. Gateway included about 40 seed and 15 vegetative annual varieties this year. It also added about five perennial species and five woody trials this year.

All of Gateway’s trial plants are planted directly in the ground or in above-ground containers. Most of the trials are planted in irrigated beds, but Gateway does have a portion that is hand watered, including the container trials. Perennial trials are planted in both irrigated and non-irrigated beds. Gateway also plant some perennials within 15 inches of sidewalks that receive salt applications for winter ice removal. The perennial trials are ongoing and will evaluate winter hardiness, salt tolerance and garden performance over a three-year period.

The soil in the area is heavy clay with high levels of organic matter. Fir bark mulch is applied during the growing season, but Gateway plans to switch to shredded leaf mulch next year. Gateway evaluates annual seed varieties for greenhouse, as well as landscape performance. In the greenhouse, this includes uniformity of germination, growth and maturity for harvest. Gateway is also interested in annuals that stay compact without the need for plant growth regulators and that hold well in containers at retail. The college grows seeds in a 288 plug tray and shifts up to a 606 flat or 4-inch pot, depending on mature size.

Weather Conditions

Spring 2011 weather in Wisconsin, like much of the country, was exceptionally cold and rainy with crops being as much as two weeks later than “normal” until about late June. Cold and rainy is not exactly unusual for a Wisconsin spring, but the state usually gets a few nice weekends to move spring along and drive garden center sales. Retailers and growers experienced a lot of plant damage and lost sales due to the cold, rainy weather, forcing early clearance sales and markdowns. Several retail garden centers described spring 2011 as one of the worst in 20 years in terms of weather and sales.

Temperatures in Southeast Wisconsin spiked into the 90s and stayed there for several weeks mid to late July, extending off and on into early August. Several days saw heat advisory warnings. The heat was accompanied by lower-than-normal rainfall for the months of August and September.

While not officially considered a drought, conditions were unusually hot and dry. These high temperatures, coupled with low rainfall, meant supplemental irrigation had to be provided to planting beds that normally receive no extra irrigation. Heat stall and heat/drought-related collapse were observed in community flower beds that did not receive irrigation.

Temperatures began to cool rather early and suddenly. By the third week of August, night temperatures in the low 50s were occurring regularly. The month of September has been unusually cool with days in the 60s and many nights in the 40s. The first frost warning was given September 12.  The first hard frost usually occurs near October 15 in Southeast Wisconsin with warmer temperatures near Lake Michigan. A light frost and cold injury was experienced on warm season crops as early as September 12 in western Kenosha County and into Southwestern Wisconsin.

Top Varieties

Here are the five favorites at Gateway Technical College:

1. Begonia ‘Whopper’

Begonia ‘Whopper Red with Bronze Foliage’

Gateway received begonia Rose with Green Leaf and Red with Bronze Leaf from Ball Horticultural Co. Both were exceptional plants. The Red with Bronze Leaf was the most striking with excellent contrast between shiny, dark bronze leaves and bright red flowers on a compact, full plant. Begonias from seed often exhibit sporadic germination, but these pelleted seed had uniform germination and growth.

Gateway was able to transplant all 288 plugs into 606 trays all at once. Plants held nicely in the 606, even though the college decided it would be better to market them as a 4-inch or larger to better differentiate them from standard wax begonias and show off their huge flowers.

Landscape performance was excellent. Gateway had Rose with Green Leaf planted in a shade location with the new lime green ‘Wasabi’ coleus, which made very attractive contrasting partners.

Red with Bronze Leaf was planted in a non-irrigated bed in front of a building. Gateway was impressed with the adaptability of this begonia to full sun, reflected heat and inconsistent soil moisture. The area had some very hot weeks this summer, and this plant came through without any heat stall at all. It looked beautiful all summer and now into fall continues to produce non-stop blooms under increasingly cool night temperatures in the low 50s.

Gateway also has some in containers that have filled out the pot beautifully. Gateway plans to use more next year in mixed containers.

2. Portulaca ‘Happy Hour Orange’

Portulaca ‘Happy Hour Orange’

There are seven colors in this series: Deep Red, Fuchsia, Orange, Peppermint, Coconut, Lemon and Banana. Gateway liked the soft warm papaya shade and vigor of the orange color best. It looks beautiful with blue shades of petunias or salvia and also works well contrasting with dark red and yellow shades of lantana.

Gateway also likes the Deep Red and Banana colors planted together in a bed with a backdrop of celosia ‘New Look Scarlet,’ which made a very dramatic show. The banana is a dark yellow color flecked with red in the center.

Plants had uniform germination and held well in the greenhouse during low light days of spring with no sign of powdery mildew. Gateway had to keep plants in greenhouse 606 trays a little longer than it wanted to due to cold weather outside, but they held on beautifully. Happy Hour makes for a colorful and drought resistant ground cover in beds and seem to tolerate poor, salty soil next to sidewalks.

3. Delosperma Carmen Lucia

This is a new perennial from DeVroomen. Gateway obtained the plants as 72 plug trays in spring. Due to the cold weather, Gateway went ahead and shifted them to 288s and grew them for a few weeks before planting in early June.

The series is available in six colors: White Pearl, Eye Candy, Strong Red, Pink Ribbon, Perfect Orange and Carmen Lucia. Carmen Lucia performed the best for Gateway overall this year, but it will also be evaluating plants for winter hardiness next year. Strong Red was the frontrunner for vegetative growth and spread early on.

By midsummer, Carmen Lucia had caught up in size and spread and definitely had the best flower cover of the series. Gateway has this trial in both irrigated and non-irrigated locations. Plants benefitted by supplemental irrigation over the summer but over the past few weeks of fall with cooler temperatures and a little rain, the difference in growth and flowering is minimal.

Gateway is hopeful for their winter survival as they are a very cool plant. They began blooming in the plug tray and continued to bloom all summer. This plant has great potential as a drought tolerant groundcover. It also has a dense growth habit to effectively choke out weeds.

4.  Hibiscus ‘Mahogany Splendor’

Hibiscus ‘Mahogany Splendor’ and coleus ‘Wasabi’

This plant features dark reddish purple foliage. It grows to about five feet. The leaves are finely dissected and give the texture and color of a Japanese maple. This plant definitely likes warm weather and after a bit of a slow start in spring, it took off to become a focal point in large beds and containers. In full sun, the plants grow to be compact and form a tight hedge when planted close. In shadier sites they grow more upright to spreading. They are a tough plant that can take a wide variety of conditions from hot sun and drought to some shade and wet soil.

Overall, these grow best in full sun with consistent moisture. Japanese beetles didn’t attack like they do most other hibiscus. They look great with coleus ‘Wasabi,’ another one of Gateway’s trial favorites.

5. Bidens ‘Sunbeam’

This is a very tough little plant with cheerful bright yellow flowers and fine-textured spreading foliage. This plant is useful in many ways, from a fast-spreading and low-growing groundcover to a container “spiller.” Bidens weaves its way in and out of other plants with its yellow, daisy flowers and fine-textured leaves. Heat and drought tolerant, it bloomed all summer in a large concrete container on the south side of a building with massive reflected heat. It looked great all summer!

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Top 5 Performers At Gateway Technical College’s Trial

More From Variety Trials...
Heuchera 'Red Lightning' (Terra Nova Nurseries)

October 6, 2015

14 New Perennials For Containers, Pollinators, Beds And Borders

With an abundance of blooms and textures, new fuss-free perennials add interest to the garden year after year. Here are 14 perennials new for 2016 to consider for your growing operation.

Read More
Stephanie Whitehouse-Barlow, Peace Tree Farm

October 6, 2015

Generation Y’s Reluctance To Garden Linked To Fear Of Failure

The Rookie Gardener is easily spotted at a garden center by her nervous and unsure energy that’s as glaring as a scarlet letter, or by his exuberant, self-assured confidence that is only otherwise seen at a college fraternity party. They are our industry’s enigma, our Kryptonite, the treasure chest we cannot open. The Rookie Gardener’s reluctance to garden isn’t from our industry’s lack of targeted marketing or encouragement but from Millennials’ Fear of Failure (FOF). It is obvious that failure is a part of life, but we as a generation have been programmed to not expect or accept failure. Since early childhood, we were encouraged to always win, to do our absolute best at school every day, to beat the competition. “Focused on getting the grades or winning the game, these children have internalized the pressure, (which) paralyzes kids in their ability to take risks,” writes Holly Korbey in an […]

Read More
CropKing Fall Workshop Schedule 2015

October 6, 2015

CropKing’s Grower Workshops Offer Training On Growing In Controlled Environments

The next two workshops take place Oct. 9-10 in Oregon and Nov. 6-7 in South Carolina. Space is limited, so sign up quickly.

Read More
Latest Stories

October 2, 2015

N.G. Heimos And Dan Schantz Poinsettia Trials Planned F…

Two poinsettia trial open houses are planned for November that showcase hundreds of varieties from top poinsettia breeders. Dan Schantz Farm & Greenhouses will hold an open house on November 12, and N.G. Heimos Greenhouses will hold its open house on November 19.

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

July 6, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s …

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More

June 17, 2015

Green Leaf Plants Plans Two Open House Events June 25-2…

Green Leaf Plants will hold two open house events this summer to give the public a chance to view trial gardens, take guided tours and learn about new varieties and programs. Both events will be held at Green Leaf Plant's facility in Lancaster, Pa. The event in July will coincide with Penn State University Extension Trials in nearby Manheim.

Read More
Gazania hybrid 'Amber Ice' (Cultivaris)

April 17, 2015

The 80/20 Theory Approach To Inventory Selection Is Put…

Tim Runte of Calloway Gardens is a member of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Here, he shares how he determines which plants shown at this year's California Spring Trials will make the cut at his retail stores.

Read More
Dummen_SunStandingseries_Salmon Pink1

April 15, 2015

Dümmen Group Updates Confetti, Debuts New Mixes And Con…

At two separate locations, the Dümmen Group presented its new take on several lines of plant genetics from the many companies under its brand umbrella. For the second year at Edna Valley Vineyards in San Luis Obispo, the Dummen Group presented new varieties of Red Fox plants, along with the HGTV HOME Plant Collection. Meanwhile, Dummen Group held its second trial location about 30 minutes up the road, at BarrelHouse Brewery in Paso Robles. Both locations were beautiful settings, but the vineyard provided especially lovely panoramic views through the tasting room window.

Read More

April 15, 2015

McHutchison’s Vaughn Fletcher Reviews New Offerin…

Vaughn Fletcher with McHutchison Horticultural Distributors is part of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Fletcher recounted some of the standout varieties he saw while visiting Suntory Flowers and Westhoff during California Spring Trials.

Read More
PAC Elsner_Pelargonium 'Bermuda Pink'

April 15, 2015

Kientzler Makes First Independent Display At Spring Tri…

The Spring Trials exhibit at Windmill Nursery in Buellton is a fairly new location as of 2014, and it continues to evolve, with a number of new suppliers presenting their wares. Kientzler, Terra Nova Nurseries and PAC-Elsner presented new varieties while McConkey, Pelemix and Dramm promoted their products.

Read More
Hort Couture_Asclepias Monarch's Promise

April 15, 2015

Hort Couture Boosts Butterflies With ‘MonarchR…

The new milkweed 'Monarch's Promise' aims to improve butterflies' forage options, and it's already working. Plus, chck out the action from GroLink's 11 displaying companies.

Read More
Costa Farms' Season Premier 2015

February 4, 2015

Costa Farms’ 2015 Season Premier Reveals Newest V…

The annual Season Premier at Costa Farms in Miami, Fla., is the industry's very first peek at new varieties for debut the following year, even before the California Spring Trials, heralded widely as the jumping off point for new varieties. This year's event revealed breeders' best and brightest new varieties for 2016, shown in field trials, landscape trials and containers at Costa Farms tropical trial gardens. Plant breeders presented their new varieties to buyers and members of Lowe’s grower panel. Growers, brokers and other allied industry members, including Home Depot growers and buyers, were also able to peruse the grounds to see how the new varieties fared in the winter trials. Later this season, the hot and humid conditions at Costa’s summer trials will help identify the true performers.

Read More

January 28, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces Additional 2015 Winne…

All-America Selections has announced more 2015 AAS Winners, bringing the grand total of introductions for the 2015 gardening year to 25. The seven winners join the 12 announced last November and six announced last July. This year, AAS has had the most winners in one year since 1939.

Read More

November 24, 2014

Succulents And Miniatures Offer Variety And Easy Growi…

Succulents and miniatures are great starter plants for brown-thumb gardeners. They deliver visual appeal, color and texture without a fuss. Here are some of the newest varieties on the market.

Read More

November 18, 2014

2014 Field Trials Results: Best Of Show Varieties [Slid…

Find out which varieties made Best of Show at the 2014 Field Trials.

Read More

November 14, 2014

University of Florida Poinsettia Trials Will Be Held De…

Poinsettia trials event at the University of Florida will be held on December 9 in Gainesville, Fla.

Read More

November 14, 2014

University Of New Hampshire Hosts 2014 Poinsettia Trial…

The University of New Hampshire will host 2014 Poinsettia Field Trial Open House at its Macfarlane Greenhouses facility on December 4 to 6.

Read More

November 4, 2014

2014 Field Trials Results

Greenhouse Grower asked trial managers to share their top performers this year. See which varieties were true standouts.

Read More

November 4, 2014

2014 Field Trials Results: Welby Gardens (Denver, Colo.…

Check out Greenhouse Grower's 2014 Field Trials Results for Welby Gardens in Denver, Colo.

Read More

November 4, 2014

2014 Field Trials Results: Texas A&M AgriLife Resea…

Check out Greenhouse Grower's 2014 Field Trials results for Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, Texas.

Read More

November 4, 2014

2014 Field Trials Results: Oklahoma State University (S…

Check out Greenhouse Grower's 2014 Field Trials results for Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla.

Read More