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Winter 1999-2000 Annual Plants Trials Report

North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina


The annual trial gardens at NC State University are located within the JC Raulston Arboretum, 4301 Beryl Road, in Raleigh. The Arboretum is an 8 acre site administered by the Department of Horticultural Science and located on latitude 35° 47'N, longitude 78° 42'W with an elevation of 400 feet.

Seedling and vegetatively derived plants were grown to transplant size in 2.5 inch x 2.2 inch containers, with most planted outdoors on 9 November 1999. The remaining selections were planted when transplant survival was determined to be optimized. Plant spacing in the trials was 10 inches x 12 inches (in-row x between-row spacing). Twelve plants of each entry were used to evaluate the performance of the cultivars. A total of 238 cultivars were evaluated with the majority being pansies (166 cultivars). Beds were fertilized with a pre-plant incorporation of 18 lbs./1000 square feet of 10-10-10, and every 6 weeks thereafter with broadcast applications of 15.5-0-0 through March. No pesticide applications were made during evaluation in order to document the impact of pests, and no major pest or disease problems were noted throughout the trial period.

sunflowerRobert E. Lyons
Professor and Director

Bernadette Clark
Horticulture Research Technician

Cultivar Evaluation Criteria

Plants were given a visual rating by the same individual once a week for 20 weeks from 30 November 1999 through 11 April 2000. The rating was based on plant performance and appearance, including floriferousness, plant size and shape, and freedom from insect and disease problems. The rating scale ranged from 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent), with 0.5 unit increments; a 0 rating indicated all seven plants of the cultivar trial died. Weekly ratings were averaged to provide an overall rating for the entire season to determine estimates of seasonal performance.

A cultivar that received a seasonal rating of at least 3.0 is considered an excellent choice for full winter season (November - April) display in the Raleigh area; a seasonal average of at least 2.6 indicates satisfactory performance; and a rating below 2.6 is a sign that our conditions were very stressful and a the cultivar is probably not a good choice for our area.

The Pansies

Pansies are divided into pure color and multi-color flower forms. Solid color cultivars are called "clear" whereas cultivars with distinct, dark blue or black flower centers are called "blotched" or "faced" pansies. There are cultivars with non-blue or non-black blotches, in which case that will be noted in the tables (e.g. Accord Yellow/Red Blotch). Other multi-colored pansies have white or light colored petal edges or non-matching petals altogether.....most of these also have a dark face. A slash ("/") is used to separate the major colors comprising multi-colored cultivars (e.g. 'Bingo Rose Frost' is listed as Rose/White in color).

violaOther Species and Cultivars

There is growing interest in providing 12 month color in the landscape using bedding plants. We continue to examine different species which may have performance potential in the Raleigh area. In this regard, we also examined the performance of calendulas, dianthus, California poppies, dusty millers, verbascum, verbena, and miscellaneous ornamental winter vegetables.

Seed Sources

Seed companies are the backbone of our trials and our thanks go out to this year's participants. They are acknowledged in our tables throughout this report by the abbreviations found below.

BALL Ball Seed Co., P.O. Box 335, West Chicago, IL 60515
BEN Ernst Benary of Amer., Inc., 1444 Larson St., Sycamore, IL 60178
BR Bodger Seeds, Ltd., 1800 N. Tyler Ave., S. El Monte, CA 91733
GLK Gloeckner Seeds, 600 Mamaroneck Ave., Harrison, NY 10528
GOLD Goldsmith Seeds, Inc., P.O. Box 1349, Gilroy, CA 95020
JOHNNYS Johnny's Selected Seeds, Foss Hill Rd., Albion, ME 04910
NOV Novartis Flower Seeds, Inc., 5300 Katrine Ave., Downers Grove, IL 60515
PA Pan American Seed, 1017 W. Roosevelt Rd., West Chicago, IL 60185
PK Park Seed Co., Cokesbury Rd., Greenwood, SC 29647
SAK Sakata Seed America, Inc., P.O. Box 158, Wrens, GA 30833

We also gratefully acknowledge the support by Fafard, Inc. (P.O. Box 26, Anderson, SC 29622) and the North Carolina Commercial Flowers Growers Association.

Temperature Graph

The average minimum and maximum temperatures for the trial months of November and December, 1999, and January - April, 2000, in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Historic minimums and maximums represent the 30 year period from 1961-1990.

Rainfall Graph

Total precipitation for the Trial Period November and December 1999 and January through April 2000, in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Historic Mean represents an average total precipitation from the years 1948 through 1995.

Missing Graph

Photoperiod length (sunrise to sunset) for Raleigh, North Carolina from October 1 - May 31.

violaWeather Notes of Interest During Trials

The most significant event during the winter trials for 1999 - 2000 was January's historic snowstorm. While any measurable accumulation of snow is unusual for Raleigh, an amount in excess of 20 inches is historic. The entire trial area was covered completely for more than a week as temperatures were slow to warm up after the storm, and snowmelt was gradual. For some plants in the trials, this event was damaging; for others, the snow provided a deep blanket of insulation. With the exception of January, the majority of the trial period was characterized by less than average rainfall each month. This indicated that the drought of the preceding summer was continuing throughout the winter as well.

The average minimum temperature for each month for the trial period tended to be warmer than the average of the past 30 years. The average maximum temperature each month, however, showed more variability, with only November, December, February and March warmer than the historic means for those months.

N.C. State "Leaders of the Pack"

The following were selected in the Winter Trials for their ability to display attractive landscape color throughout the majority of the season. At any one time, other species or entries may have made a better short-term showing, but the "Leaders of the Pack" were selected for consistent, dependable full-season performance in the winter landscape. All "Leaders" had an average seasonal rating of 3.0 or greater and only one cultivar per color was selected if several cultivars of the same color were rated 3.0 or better. Cultivars that tied for the highest rating in the same color were all chosen as "Leaders."

Dianthus Floral Lace Lilac Purple BALL
Pansy Baby Bingo Lavendar Blue Blue-Blotch PA
  Universal Plus True Blue Blue-Clear GOLD
  Universal Plus Beaconsfield Blue/Purple-Clear GOLD
  Universal Plus Mariner Mix Blues GOLD
  Baby Bingo Beaconsfield Purple & Yellow-Clear PA
  Clear Sky Purple Purple-Clear NOV
  Purple Rain Purple-Clear PA
  Dancer Beaconsfield Purple/Yellow BALL
  Fama Lilac Shades Purple-Clear BEN
  Universal Plus Red Wing Red & Yellow-Blotch GOLD
  Skyline Red Red-Blotch NOV
  Accord Clear Rose Rose-Clear GOLD
  Fama Dark Eyed White White-Blotch BEN
  Scala Primrose Yellow BALL
  Delta Pure Yellow Yellow-Clear NOV
Violas Penny Azure Wing Blue & White-Clear GOLD
  Penny Blue Blue-Clear GOLD
  Alpine Summer Blue/Yellow-Clear NOV
  Sunkiss Mix Mix-Clear BALL
  Penny Violet Beacon Purple & Blue-Clear GOLD
  Penny Orchid Frost Purple & White GOLD
  Penny Violet Flare Purple & White GOLD
  Alpine Wing Violet/White-Clear NOV
  Penny Cream White-Clear GOLD
  Penny Primrose Yellow-Clear GOLD

NC State Exceptional Performers

Those cultivars which display outstanding performance during our trials are designated as "Exceptional Performers." Their average seasonal rating puts them in the top 2% of all entries for that year. Growers, retailers, and landscape contractors are encouraged to consider these cultivars for their "color" requirements for the Raleigh area and similar regions. This winter trial period, the following 4 entries out of 238 received this status.

Viola Penny Blue 3.5 GOLD
Viola Sunkiss Mix 3.5 BALL
Viola Penny Violet Flare 3.5 GOLD
Viola Penny Orchid Frost 3.5 GOLD

Average Ratings for Cultivar Series
Grown During 1999-2000 Winter Trials

Only those series represented by 3 or more cultivars are included in this summary. A rating of "1" is very poor performance and "5" is the best.

Bon Bon 5 MI 0.15
Floral Lace 9 BALL 2.85
Assorted 5 PARK 2.0
Osaka 3 ___ 3.0
Accord 21 GOLD 2.7
Baby Bingo 6 PA 2.8
Bingo 15 PA 2.5
Clear Sky 5 NOV 2.8
Dancer 4 BALL 2.6
Delta 13 NOV 2.6
Fama 17 BEN 2.6
Scala 13 BALL 2.7
Skyline 6 NOV 2.8
Universal 25 GOLD 2.7
Montego 7 NOV 1.0
Assorted 4 ----- 0.75
Alpine 4 NOV 3.2
Penny 10 GOLD 3.3
Quartz 4 PA 0.4

Off The Cuff Comments

Several less commonly grown species were examined for winter landscape performance....some worked, some didn't, and still some showed promise.

California poppies showed some potential when planted in the fall. Given their need for long days for flowering, they did not exhibit flowers until well into late winter and very close to the termination of the winter trials in March. However, the plants themselves exhibited excellent winter hardiness as leafy rosettes. 'Mission Bells Mix' was the strongest cultivar. While we cannot recommend them yet, we will try them again in the future

As also observed in last year's report, calendulas flowered only up to the end of the calendar year 1999 when they succumbed to the repeated freezing temperatures. They did not survive the winter and, therefore, hold no promise as reblooming plants in the following spring in the Raleigh area.

Dusty millers have long been considered part of the summer annual landscape inventory. They are, however, also hardy perennials in the Raleigh area and might be considered for the same contrast purposes along with pansies. Their performance was mixed, and all cultivars ranked quite poorly in our trials. In our minds, however, they remain a viable candidate worthy of further evaluation.

Most of the verbenas were a total loss and did not survive the winter season completely. If they are to be considered useful in our area, this feature deserves additional attention by breeders.

The snapdragons survived the winter, although flowering was greatly diminished during the coldest months; they were on the way towards growing back from limited die-back by the end of the trial period.

Of the winter vegetables examined, the Swiss chard was most damaged by this time and all the ornamental kales were bolting, a feature we found to be acceptable from an ornamental perspective, as did many of our visitors. The colorful display provided by these species is worth the limited period that we can expect them to look their best.

The 'Lace Cherry' dianthus was the fastest to recover from the impact of winter and, like last year, was a good performing cultivar for winter use.

Pansies and Violas continue to dominate the winter color options, and as has been noted in the past, the Violas outshine them all. Most displayed greater vigor than their pansy cousins and were covered in flowers on incredibly uniform plant habits. All 4 of the Exceptional Performers were Violas and by a wide margin. In fact, 'Penny Violet Flare' was also on last year's list. Their relatively small flowers were produced in abundance and over a long period.

Despite their attractive landscape appearance, all orange-flowered pansy cultivars tended to be weaker and poorer performing than others, regardless of the series. This was also noted in last year's trials (1998-1999) so additional cultivar improvement is needed to be competitive in the Raleigh area.


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