2017 University of Wisconsin Field Trial Results

This year, the University of Wisconsin’s West Madison Ag Research Station display gardens in Verona, WI, hosted the Commerical Flower Growers of Wiscosin’s exhibit of more than 4,200 New Guinea impatiens/SunPatiens plants, from 175 cultivars (the largest impatiens display in the Midwest) that were bred to tolerate full sun. A range of performance was recorded: All the SunPatiens varieties were stunning, while the New Guineas were more variable (see list below for top 10).

In addition to the impatiens, another 2,000 plants of 84 cultivars of annual bedding plants were evaluated monthly for various performance criteria to inform the growers and industry. All-America Selections (AAS), an independent, non-profit national promoter of the garden industry, continues to showcase their top-rated cultivars of flowers and vegetables grown.


All-American Cultivars

More than 70 AAS cultivars were on display in 2017 (25 ornamental, 46 vegetables), which included 10 cucurbit varieties direct seeded. Most failed to germinate — 10 peppers, 8 tomatoes, 8 brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, kale, pak choi, radish), and a few others.

Perennials Trial

Another 750 Darwin Perennials’ plants from 64 cultivars are under evaluation for winter survival (three winters), performance, and genetic resistance to weather and insect and disease pests, to aid horticultural companies on marketing decisions. Also, in the evolving perennial trials was a chrysanthemum evaluation trial with the University of Minnesota. The objective was to evaluate the cultivars for persistence over winter, as well as for floral quality and pyretherin levels.

Cut Flower Trial

Cut flowers, including gladiolus, sunflower, and zinnia were planted and evaluated during the summer to screen establishment methods and spacing.

Faculty Projects

Several UW-CALS faculty used the gardens to promote special topics they wanted to publicaly promote: Under research by UW’s Horticulture Department were 19 varieties of leafy greens/lettuces evaluated for heat tolerance during summer and cold tolerance in the late fall and 17 onion varieties screened for flavor by local chefs.  Seedless table grapes were also evaluated for cold hardiness, vigor, and fruit production, and ceremonial tobacco for the Ojibwe tribe. The gardens promote pollinators and the importance of garden habitat for them with several native species beds; bluebird, kestrel, and purple martin nest boxes and perches were maintained to further enhance the ecosystem.

Horticultural Societies

Several horticultural societies continue to participate in our gardens. The Wisconsin Peony Society solicited help from our visitors to evaluate their improved genetic collection of 50-cultivars displayed and maintained at the trial garden. The  Wisconsin Daylily society promoted their cultivars and plant sale via UW’s six, well-managed nurseries containing nearly 300 cultivars. The trial garden’s hydrangea collection is now up to 21 cultivars, including both paniculata and macrophylla species. A hydrangea pruning workshop was led by Dane County Horticulture Extension in late April and the result were stunning blooms in August.

Garden Conditions

The winter of 2016 to 2017 was average in temperature and precipitation. The growing season was wet and cool. Record rainfall fell in June and July, with cumulative rain over 25 inches from April to Sept. Growing degree days (base 50°F) accumulated from April 1 to Sept. 5 was 2187 (much cooler than in 2016 at 2,822). The annual bedding plants peaked in August, while tomatoes, peppers, grapes, and other warm-season crops were slow to mature.

Consumer Favorites

The top five consumer favorites rated by visitors included three annuals: Salvia and begonias, as well as various New Guinea impatiens. Also, the cut flowers (sunflower, ornamental millet, zinnias) were very popular. Two perennials: Echinacea and hydrangeas claimed about 20% of the votes. Overall, variety and color of the petunias and SunPatiens blooms were fantastic and were raved about by visitors all summer long. The annual flower evaluations were scored three times over the summer with the top ten scoring cultivars shown below.

Top 10 Performers (all inclusive)

Petunia ‘ColorRush Pink’
Petunia ‘ColorRush Blue’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Fuchsia’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Silverberry’
Petunia ‘Supertunia Lovie Dovie’
Impatiens ‘SunPatiens Clear White’
Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst Imp.’ (tied for 7th place)
Impatiens hyb. ‘Sunpatiens Compact Orange’ (tied for 7th place)
Petunia ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’ (tied for 8th place)
New Guinea Impatiens ‘Sunstanding Salmon’ (tied for 8th place)
Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Compact Blush Pink’ (tied for 8th place)
Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Spreading Corona’ (tied for 8th place)
New Guinea Impatiens ‘Sunstanding Orange Aurora’
Salvia ‘Mystic Spires Improved’

Top 10 Impatiens of the Sunpatiens/New Guinea Impatiens Trialed in Full Sun

Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Spreading Clear White’
Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Compact Orange’
New Guinea Impatiens ‘Sunstanding Salmon’
Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Compact Blush Pink’
Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Spreading Corona’
New Guinea Impatiens ‘Sunstanding Orange Aurora’
Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Spreading Carmine Red’
Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Spreading Scarlet Red’
Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Spreading Pink Flash’
Impatiens hyb. ‘SunPatiens Spreading Shell Pink’

Top 10 Flowers (impatiens, petunias excluded)

Bidens ‘Campfire Fireburst Imp.’
Salvia ‘Mystic Spires Imp.’
Verbena ‘Endurascape Pink Bicolor’
Begonia ‘Whopper Rose Green Leaf Imp.’
Begonia ‘Whopper Rose Bronze Leaf Imp.’
Salvia ‘Rockin’ Playin’ The Blues Imp.’
Verbena ‘Superbena Cherryburst’
Begonia ‘Whopper Red Bronze Leaf Imp.’
Zinnia ‘Double Zahara Rasberry Ripple’
Begonia ‘Megawatt Pink Bronze Leaf’
Canna ‘Toucan Coral’
Calendula ‘Lady Gadiva Orange’