East Texas Horticultural Field Day set June 27

More than 500 bedding plants tested under East Texas conditions

Master Gardener at work

Betty Atchley, Smith County Master Gardener, prepares sets for planting at the East Texas Horticultural Field Day North Farm Site. More than 500 bedding plants will be tested at the site under sun and shade conditions. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Robert Burns)

Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, rd-burns@tamu.edu

OVERTON – Gardeners, professional landscape managers and seed company representatives will learn which landscape plants did well under regional conditions at the 2013 East Texas Horticultural Field Day set June 27 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton.

Dr. Brent Pemberton, Texas A&M AgriLife Research ornamental horticulturist, has conducted bedding-plant trials at the center since 1994. He tests bedding plants and flowers, including establish varieties and those more recently developed by national and regional seed companies. The tests are conducted under East Texas conditions, which some years can be rather hot and harsh, he said.

There is no cost to attend or for the barbecue lunch. The field day will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the center’s North Farm site, which is about four miles north of the Overton Center on Farm-to-Market Road 3053.

This year’s field day will feature more than 500 bedding-plant entries, everything from geraniums to petunias to verbena to begonias, which will be on display in outdoor plots, said Pemberton.

The tour will continue at the North Farm 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.

Pentas flowers

The trials will include many varieties of scaevolas, which are a good heat tolerant plant, said Dr. Brent Pemberton, Texas A&M AgriLife Research ornamental horticulturist. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Robert Burns)

This year 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 Stream series of heat-tolerant alyssum.”

Newer additions will include Napier grasses, almost all of the commercially available varieties of pentas and a large number of new scaevola varieties, he said.

“Pentas are a great plant for full sun in our heat and humidity that flowers continuously and is attractive to butterflies,” Pemberton said. “This will be my first attempt at a comprehensive trial of this great plant.”

Also new in the trials will be many Napier grasses, a purple-leaved ornamental plant, he said.

“I think the Napier grasses will be really interesting in the future for us,” he said. “This year, we promoted Princess Caroline Napier grass as a Texas Superstar plant.”

There is also a huge selection of geraniums this year. New interspecific hybrids that have better heat tolerance are becoming widely available now and many are in the trials.

There will be an expansion of the tests of verbena from 2012.

“Verbenas have been around for awhile, but the new varieties are making the bedding plant attractive to gardeners again,” Pemberton said. “Several previous varieties did very well in 2012, and we’re bringing them back for an encore, along with many new varieties.”

He said there will be some new begonias with enormous flowers in both the sun and shade trials.

“They are looking absolutely beautiful this time of the year,” he said. “The high relative humidity that we have been experiencing may be uncomfortable for gardeners, but it’s been great for getting all of the trial plants well established in the field plots.”

Container plant trials

The East Texas Horticultural Field Day will show the results of container plants in large pots, suitable for a patio setting. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Robert Burns)

The program will move inside after lunch with presentations by Pemberton and Dallas Arboretum representatives Jimmy Turner and Jenny Wegley, who will discuss the 2013 California Spring Showcase, also known as Pack Trials, as well as top performers for 2012.

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, Pemberton said.

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 and the North Farm site are north of downtown Overton on Farm-to-Market Road 3053. For driving directions, 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/ .

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