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NC State Extension

2009 ASCFG Seed Cut Flower Cultivar Trials

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John Dole, Ingram McCall and Erin Regan, North Carolina State University
Judy Laushman, ASCFG

Overview

Gomphrena is the Rodney Dangerfield of cut flowers – it gets no respect. This prolific, durable flower is grown by many as a great filler flower for bouquets, both fresh and dried, but little discussed by growers. That has changed this year with the introduction of ‘Audray Pink’ and’Audray Purple Red'(Takii). Trialers reported harvesting 15 stems from each plant and the stems averaged 17 inches long, quite good for gomphrena. At least one trialer reported getting 26-inch inch long stems. Even the postharvest life appears good, with an average vase life over 9 days. These gomphrenas scored well enough in the trials that both are nominated for ASCFG Cut Flower of the Year. Note that Takii has changed the name of gomphrena ‘Bicolor Rose’ to ‘Audray Bicolor Rose’. This cultivar did quite well when it was tested in the ASCFG Trials back in 1995.

As you go through the comments section, you will see “Cornell Trial” in bold with many of the cultivars in the Additional Comments section. Chris Wien continued his popular high tunnel/field comparisons this year and noted when differences in yield and stem length occurred between the two environments. As you can see, the yield and stem length were quite different in some cases. For example, with ‘Audray Pink’ Chris harvested 12 stems from the field, 21 stems from the tunnel and the length was 24 inches in field and 28 inches in tunnel.

In contrast to gomphrenas we have had a number of zinnia cultivars in the trials over the year but zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Wine'(Benary) stands out as one of the best. People loved the color, productivity – over 12 stems per plant – and long stems, averaging 20 inches but some getting 30 inches. We noticed, as did a couple of our trialers, that the burgundy color changes to purple a few days after harvest. The color is still nice but not as rich as the original burgundy color. The other zinnia in the trials, ‘Red Beauty'(Genesis), also performed quite well. A number of trialers loved its bright red colors; however, at least one person thought it was too bright. Not a bad problem to have! Plants produced an average of 12 stems each and stem length averaged 20 inches.

The campanula Champion series (Sakata) was first tested in these trials in 1997 and went on to become a favorite cut flower of many growers. The large upright purple or pink bells became an instant wedding flower, and other colors were released later. This year improved versions of all four colors, purple, lavender,pink and white, were tested in the trials. Each plant produced an average of a little over three stems, which were approximately 17 inches long. Champion flowers under long days but needs some time under short days to build up enough plant to produce quality stems. If planted too late in the summer when days are long, stems will be very short. Plants should remain under short days until they have at least 2 to 3 true leaves but the best stems are produced if plants have 8 to 9 leaves before long days start. If growing in the greenhouse or high tunnel, shorts days should be 16 hour nights and long days at least 12, preferably 16, hours long days if using lights. Postharvest is similar to lisianthus in that flowers have a long vase life. Buds on the purple cultivars will tend to open up pale purple if not treated with a flower food containing sugar.

We have two lisianthus trials to report on this year. Four cultivars were in the regular seed trials and ten were in a separate, mini trial using plugs provided by Gro ‘N’ Sell. In the regular trial the soft color, long stems and long vase life of ‘Vulcan II Champagne'(Takii) made it a hit. Stem length averaged 20 inches, with at least one person getting 26-inch long stems. Folks tend to prefer double lisssies but the single flowers of ‘Vulcan Champagne’ had enough substance to get noticed. Of the ten cultivars in the plug trial, ‘Advantage Purple’and ‘Arena IV Rose’ received the highest marks. ‘Advantage Purple’ was noted for its long stems and elegantly colored buds and ‘Arena Rose’ for its long stems (tallest of the trial) and great color.

Red was the snapdragon color this year, seen in ‘Opus III/IV Bright Red'(Goldsmith), ‘Opus III/IV Red'(Goldsmith), and ‘Potomac Crimson'(Ball). While stem lengths were a bit longer for Opus cultivars, the number of stems harvested was slightly more for Potomac. However, considering the informal nature of this trial, all three cultivars performed rather similarly. With stem lengths averaging 22 to 26 inches, ‘Opus Red’ was the overall favorite, scoring higher than the other two cultivars. Here at NCSU we continue to be impressed with the summer performance of snaps in our heat. They slow down during the middle of summer but still continue to produce stems suitable for small bouquets, and then come back strong in the fall.

It would not be an ASCFG cut flower trial without sunflowers and we had three in the trials this year from Genesis: ‘Tapuz’, ‘Zahav’ and ‘Zohar’. Unfortunately, the sunflower market is quite competitive (Translation: growers are a bit jaded when it comes to new sunflowers.) and it is difficult for a new cultivar to get noticed, especially if it is a classic orange-petaled/brown-centered cultivar. All three entries from Genesis performed quite well, producing stems of at least 30 inches. Flowers lasted a respectable 8 days according to participants and in the NCSU postharvest trials, Alicain Carlson got 12 days for ‘Zohar’ and 10.5 days for ‘Tapuz’. Chris Wien continued his long-running work at Cornell on sunflower photoperiod and noted that all three cultivars were sensitive to short days, and would flower much earlier if planted in greenhouses or high tunnels early in the spring or late in the fall.

Fresh cut stocks are one of our favorite flowers, with their fragrance and soft colors. The fragrance of the Vivas cultivars (Sakata) was noted by a number of trialers who tested ‘Vivas Blue’, ‘Vivas Clear Lavender’,’Vivas Light Pink’ and ‘Vivas Salmon Pink’. All produced stems averaging 20 to 23 inches but at least one trialer got up to 34-inch stems. ‘Salmon Pink’ was judged the favorite because of its color, sturdy stems, and large bloom size. This cultivar performed so well that it was nominated for Cut Flower of the Year.

In the deep south, winter is prime time for stock production. One of our trialers, Chazz Hesselein, held his 2008 stock ‘Katz’ seed until he planted it in the fall, after the time when results were compiled for the 2008 trial report. He was pleased to report that the stock ‘Katz Cherry Blossom’ and ‘Katz White’ performed very well, each producing one 30-inch stem per plant. They received a score of 5 and 4, respectively, for consumer interest and both got a 5 for ease of production. Chazz noted stock ‘Katz Cherry Blossom’ for its fragrance, very attractive bicolored pink, strong stem, full head, and short crop time, resulting in a grow-again rating of 4. Stock ‘Katz White’ was noted for its fragrance, nice form, size and stem strength, but had too many singles compared to all double white cultivars. Thus, he gave it a grow-again rating of 2.

Overall, we had 34 cultivars from nine companies. Based on trial results, the top five performers are automatically nominated for the ASCFG Cut Flower of the Year. Rankings are based on the combined ratings score: market appreciation (average of wholesale, florist, and consumer) + repeat again + ease of cultivation. Thus, from the 2009 trials gomphrena ‘Audray Pink’ (Goldsmith) and ‘Audray Purple Red’, lisianthus ‘Vulcan II Champagne’, snapdragon ‘Opus III/IV Bright Red’, stock ‘Vivas Salmon Pink’, and zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Wine’ are nominated as Cut Flowers of the Year and will join other nominations from ASCFG members.

Interpreting the trial results

The numbers reported are averages of all the respondents and many factors will affect the success of any plant species. Our participants are growing and harvesting the trial plants in a wide variety of ways. After looking at the average, check the range of responses listed below each number to see how the cultivar performed at its best and its worst. If the range of responses in the ratings is narrow and high, i.e., 3-5 or 4-5, the plant was a winner for most of the respondents and is likely to do well for you. The ‘Repeat Again Rating’ is particularly important because it indicates if the trialer would take the time, money, and space to actually grow the cultivar again. Review the trial results carefully. If a cultivar sounds interesting but did not appear to do well, try it anyway. The cultivar may work well for you.

Acknowledgments

A hearty thank you to all of the evaluators who returned their trial reports and to the seed companies for providing such great cultivars. Congratulations to Judith Reith-Rozelle and Carolyn Ramsbotham for being the first trialers to return their evaluations. We would also like to thank Emma Locke, Erin Moody, Erin Regan, Diane Mays, Brad Holland, and Tim Ketchie for assisting with the NCSU trials; and Erin Moody for typing in the comments of several trialers. In preparing the report we have edited the participants’ comments for space and clarity; our apologies if we’ve altered the tone or content of anyone’s comments.

Cultivars

  • Agastache
    • Cotton Candy
    • Sangria
    • Summer Sky
  • Antirrhinum (Snapdragon)
    • Opus III/IV Bright Red
    • Opus III/IV Red
    • Potomac Crimson
  • Baptisia
    • Purple Smoke
  • Brassica (Flowering Kale)
    • Giraffe
  • Calendula
    • Maayan
  • Campanula
    • Champion Blue Improved
    • Champion Lavender Improved
    • Champion Pink Improved
    • Champion White Improved
  • Consolida (Larkspur)
    • Stilleta Indigo Blue
    • Stiletta Rosy Red
  • Delphinium
    • Belladona Exp. Blue Donna
  • Dianthus
    • Fandango Purple Picotee
  • Digitalis
    • Candy Mountain
  • Echinacea
    • Big Sky Summer Sky
    • Doubledecker
    • Mac n’ Cheese
    • Merlot
    • Purity
    • Tiki Torch
    • Tomato Soup
  • Echinops
    • Star Frost
  • Eryngium
    • White Glitter
  • Eustoma (Lisianthus)
    • Advantage Purple
    • Arena III Champagne
    • Arena III Pink
    • Arena III Yellow
    • Arena IV Rose
    • Cinderella Lime
    • Super Magic Apricot
    • Super Magic Deep Blue
    • Super Magic Lavender
    • Super Magic Peach
    • Super Magic Purple
    • Super Magic White
    • Vulcan II Champagne
  • Gaillardia
    • Amber Wheels
  • Gomphrena
    • Audray Pink
    • Audray Purple Red
    • Las Vegas Pink
    • Las Vegas Purple
    • Las Vegas White
  • Hedychium
    • Tahitian Flame
  • Hellebore
    • Double Queen Mix
  • Helianthus (Sunflower)
    • Tapuz
    • Zahav
    • Zohar
  • Heuchera
    • Paris
    • Velvet Night
  • Leucanthemum
    • Summer Snowball
  • Matthiola
    • Vivas Blue
    • Vivas Clear Lavender
    • Vivas Light Pink
    • Vivas Salmon Pink
  • Monarda
    • Raspberry Wine
  • Ocimum (Basil)
    • Cardinal
  • Penstemon
    • Dark Towers
    • Sunburst Amethyst
  • Salvia
    • Jerusalem
  • Zinnia
    • Benary’s Giant Wine
    • Red Beauty

Participating Seed Companies – Annual Trials, 2009

American Takii
301 Natividad Rd.
Salinas, CA 93906
www.takii.com

Ball Horticultural
P.O. Box 438
West Chicago, IL 60186
www.ballhort.com

Ernst Benary of America Inc.
2759 Wagner Court, Suite C
DeKalb, IL 60115
www.benary.com

Fred C. Gloeckner & Co.
600 Mamaroneck Ave.
Harrison, NY 10528-1613
www.fredgloeckner.com

Genesis Seeds Ltd.
Ashalim, Israel
www.genesisseeds.com

Goldsmith Seeds
P.O. Box 1349
Gilroy, CA 95021
www.goldsmithseeds.com

Kieft-Pro-Seed
Venhuizen, Holland
http://www.kieftseed.com/

Sakata Seed America
18095 Serene Drive
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
www.sakata.com

Participating Growers – Annual Trials, 2009

Erin Benzakein
floret
Mount Vernon, WA

Christof Bernau
UCSC Farm & Garden
Santa Cruz, CA

Leon Carrier
Plantmasters
Laytonsville, MD

Maureen Charde
High Meadow Flower Farm
Warwick, NY

Josie Crowson
Josie’s Fresh Flowers
Nacogdoches, TX

Connie Dam-Byl
William Dam Seed, Ltd.
Dundas, Ontario

Shravan Dasoju and Sharon Hampton
Ball Horticultural Company
Santa Paula, CA

Thea Folls
Foll’s Flower Farm
Auburn, NY

Chas and Linda Gill
Kennebec Flower Farm and Nursery
Bowdoinham, ME

Chazz Hesselein
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Mobile, AL

Laurie Hodges
UNL Agronomy and Horticulture
Lincoln, NE

Ingram McCall, John Dole
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC

Carolyn Ramsbotham
Riverview Farm 
Madbury, NH

Judith Reith-Rozelle
West Madison Ag. Research Station
Verona, WI

Brenda Smith
Smith & Smith Farms
Dayton, NV

Vicki Stamback
Bear Creek Farm
Stillwater, OK

Cheryl Wagner
Wagner’s Homestead Farms
Belleville, MI

Chris Wien
Dept. of Horticulture
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY