East Texas horticultural field day set June 28
Heat-wave proof’ bedding plant varieties on display
OVERTON – Home gardeners shouldn’t give up because of scorchingly hot days. Just choose heat-tolerant plants, said a Texas AgriLife Research scientist.
And thanks to extensive tests during the record 2011 heat wave, Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research horticulturist, knows which varieties of new and existing bedding plants are most likely to survive another hot summer.
Gardeners, professional landscape managers and seed company representatives will learn what plants did well in the record-breaking heat of the 2011 summer at the East Texas horticultural field day set June 28 at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton, he said.
Pemberton has conducted bedding-plant trials at the center since 1994. This year’s field day will feature 400 bedding-plant entries, everything from geraniums to petunias to verbena will be on display in outdoor plots, said Pemberton. There is no cost to attend or for the barbecue lunch thanks to expenses being paid by participating sponsors.
The field day will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the center’s North Farm site. The tour will continue at the site until about 10:30 a.m., then move to the Overton center’s headquarters building, where a demonstration garden is located. Lunch will be served at about 11:45 a.m. Indoor presentations will begin at 1 p.m., and the program will conclude by 3 p.m.
The trials include thousands of square feet of plots planted with purple, pink, red and white flowers. Pemberton designed the tests to help local growers, but the event has become popular with local gardeners too, with hundreds of people typically attending. About 200 persons attended the 2011 field day.
This year, as usual, there will be new varieties of geranium, trailing petunias, verbena, angelonia, begonias, lantana and lobelia, Pemberton said. And there will be continuing emphasis on vinca, a widely used landscape plant throughout the South.
“The new Cora Cascade vinca will be on display as well as a large number of trailing petunias,” Pemberton noted. “Also on display will be the new dwarf angelonias called Serenita.”
Newer additions will include napier grasses, almost all of the commercially available varieties of gomphrena and a large number of new portulaca varieties, he said.
Gomphrena, commonly known as globe amaranth, is currently being promoted as a 2012 Texas Superstar. New and old varieties proved themselves very tolerant to the extreme heat of 2011, according to Pemberton.
“The napier grasses are a new type of purple-leafed ornamental grass which I think will be really interesting in the future for us,” he said. “A lot of them are experimental varieties.”
Also, more colorful petunia varieties have proven to do well in East Texas from earlier tests and will be further tested this year.
There will be an expansion of the tests of verbena from 2011. Verbenas have been around for a while, but the new varieties are making the bedding plant attractive to gardeners again, he said.
“Several previous varieties did very well in 2011, and we’re bringing them back for an encore along with many new varieties,” Pemberton said.
“We also have some new begonias with enormous flowers, which you will see in our sun and shade trials that are looking absolutely beautiful this time of the year.”
As in previous years, the program will move inside after lunch with presentations by Pemberton and Dallas Arboretum representatives Jimmy Turner and Jenny Wegley, who will discuss the 2012 California Spring Showcase, also known as Pack Trials, as well as top performers for 2011.
“We also coordinate trial results with the Dallas Arboretum,” Pemberton said. “Over 5 million consumers in the Northeast Texas region now have the opportunity to see how promising new plants from all over the world perform in our climate.”
Pemberton began his trials of bedding plants to serve the commercial greenhouse and bedding plant industry. The bedding plant industry has had a $500 million annual economic impact on the region for at least a decade, and though not recession-proof, it hasn’t experienced the downturn in consumer spending that other businesses have in the last couple of years, he said.
“The bedding plant also has proven itself ‘heat-wave proof’ in the last year,” Pemberton said. “Seed companies have been very responsive in developing new varieties to fit changing conditions. We don’t know if we’ll have another heat-wave this year, but if we do, there are bedding plant varieties that have shown they can take it.”
Before Pemberton began his trials, there were few if any tests under East Texas conditions of the many new varieties released by seed companies each year, he said.
The center is located 1 mile north of downtown Overton on Farm-to-Market Road 3053. For driving directions to the event go to http://flowers.tamu.edu/field-day/ or call 903-834-6191.
Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by AgriLife Research, a state agency that is part of the Texas A&M University System. More information about the Texas Superstar program can be found at http://texassuperstar.com/ .