At the West Madison Agriculture Research Station
August 11, 2011
The weather for the summer field day trials was beautiful, and not too hot this year, so a fine day was enjoyed by all. The Wisconsin Nurseryman Association also met this day on the research grounds. It was great to have both groups in one place at the same time.
Weather has a huge impact on trial plant performance and this season really put plants to the test. Spring was slow to arrive with cool, wet conditions lingering into June. A heat spell in July with several weeks of temperatures near 100, combined with high humidity, sent many flowering plants into an early tail spin of decline. Luckily a decent amount of rainfall accompanied the heat but plants like Petunia, Verbena, Diascia and Lobelia tended to melt away in the heat and humidity. The strongest varieties had an exceptional opportunity to shine this year!
Just when things were getting good for warm season plants like tomatoes, cooler weather hit in mid-August with night temperatures in the 60s! Tomatoes, peppers and melons are agonizingly slow to ripen. Powdery mildew has not been seen yet but should come knocking any day now. The following plants really caught the eye of myself and the Gateway field trial intern Chelsea Tucholka.
Petunia: ‘Sweetunia Blueberry Ice’ from Dummen
Covered in pale icy blue flowers with dark veins, this petunia really stood out. The plants were clean and compact with no signs of summer fatigue. The individual plants spread of about 18-24″ and stand about 6-8″ tall making them an excellent groundcover. The darker veining will be more prominent in shadier locations. This would be a great companion to plants with dark blue and/or dark red pink flowers
Petunia: ‘ Littletunia Shiraz’ from Danziger
Small pinkish red petunia flowers with contrasting dark wine red centers cover compact plants. This petunia works as a groundcover and obvioulsey thrives in heat and humidity. It would also be great in containers with dark blue or pink partners.
Petunia: ‘Rim Ray Purple’ from Danziger
A lovely bicolor petunia with an attractive star shaped corolla. Consumers love bicolor flowers and this pink with a white striped margin fits the bill. Good clean foliage with no sign of melting. Use it as something a little different in planting beds or for contrast in containers and baskets.
Mecardonia ‘Gold Dust’ from Proven Winners
Small, bright yellow flowers on fine textured foliage make this an excellent flowering summer groundcover. It can also be used as a ‘trailer’ in containers. Heat and humidity tolerant,Mecardonia will bloom all summer from May to October. Plants grow about 2″ tall with a 12″ wide spread.
Tomato: Tomato ‘Power Pops’
A strange looking but very prolific tomato that could be used as a groundcover. It would probably also make a fine container or hanging basket plant. Notice it definitely does not want to grow up the tomato cage shown in the picture but wants to sprawl close to the ground. Every stem is covered in grape to cherry size tomatoes.
Stay tuned for information soon about plant trials at Gateway Technical College!