East Texas Horticultural Field Day in Overton June 29 to feature hundreds of ornamental varieties

OVERTON – The 2017 East Texas Horticultural Field Day will feature more than 500 ornamental plant and vegetable trial varieties for public viewing, along with presentations by experts at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton.

Volunteers help plant bedding plants at the Ornamental Trial Garden where the 2017 East Texas Horticultural Field Day in Overton will be held June 29. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Adam Russell)

The event, slated for June 29, will be held rain or shine.

Gardeners, professional landscape managers and seed company representatives can learn which landscape plants and vegetables do well under East Texas conditions, said Dr. Brent Pemberton, Texas A&M AgriLife Research ornamental horticulturist. Pemberton said he started the trials in 1993 to meet the needs of commercial seed companies, local nursery managers and gardening enthusiasts.

There is no cost to attend or for the barbecue lunch provided by sponsors, but organizers ask that attendees RSVP by June 23 for an accurate meal count. The field day will begin with registration at 8:30 a.m. at the center’s East Farm 2 miles east of Overton on Texas Highway 135 N.

The Ornamental Trial garden is on County Road 133 just past the former Kilgore College Demonstration Farm on Texas Highway 135.

“Everyone should be aware we will be at a new location this year,” Pemberton said. “Directions to the trial garden will be available online and there will be signs placed to guide visitors.”

A tour of the ornamental trials at the Demonstration Garden at the Overton center will follow.

The center headquarters are about 2 miles north of downtown Overton at 1710 Farm-to-Market Road 3053. For driving directions to the center or the East Farm site, go to http://flowers.tamu.edu/field-day/ or call 903-834-6191.

The trials include some standard varieties from previous tests, including both old and new varieties of begonias, New Guinea impatiens, salvias, coreopsis and pentas, Pemberton said.

“There will be plenty of good opportunities to make side-by-side comparisons between new series varieties and popular current series,” he said.

Dr. Joe Masabni, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist, Overton, will also present plants in ongoing vegetable trials at the center. This year, Masabni will feature ongoing trials of grafted tomato varieties.

“We try to assemble as many species as we can,” Pemberton said. “There are some that have been around for years, recent releases and new ones, but some varieties on display won’t be seen on the market until next year.”

The field day will move to the ornamental trials and demonstration garden at the Overton center headquarters from 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Lunch is from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Afternoon speaker programs will be indoors at the Overton center’s Bruce McMillan Jr. Auditorium. Speakers and topics will include:

— Pemberton, Top Performers from Recent Trials – the Labor Day Report.

— Jenny Wegley, Dallas Arboretum horticulture director, Dallas, Top Performers at the Dallas Arboretum.

— Suzanne Wainwright, Buglady Consulting ornamental entomologist, Using Biological Control in Production.

Dr. Dotty Woodson, AgriLife Extension water resource specialist, Dallas, Rain Barrel Demonstration.

Pemberton said prior to the trials, there was little information available to greenhouse growers and the industry as to whether particular bedding plant varieties were suited to the East Texas climate and soils.

The bedding plant industry has had a $500 million annual economic impact in East Texas over the past decade, Pemberton said. Ornamental plants remain in high demand every planting season.

“For everyone who likes to have flower color in their landscape, this is a great place to see the newest and the best for East Texas and this region of the country,” Pemberton said.

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