NC State Extension

2005 Cut Flower Cultivar Trials

John Dole

North Carolina State University

Overview:

Zinnias have become one of the staples of the outdoor cut flower industry. And for good reason – zinnias are productive for a long period of time, available in many beautiful colors, and familiar to the general public. Over the years we have had a number of great zinnia cultivars in the trials including the Benary Giants and Takii’s Sun series. This year we had two cultivars from Goldsmith that are new to most cut flower growers – ‘Uproar Rose’ and ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’. Both received great reviews and have been nominated for the ASCFG cut flowers of the year. ‘Uproar Rose’produced large fully double flowers on long stems. As with most commercial cultivars, plants were somewhat mildew resistant with problems occurring only late in the season for most growers. The uniformity and productivity appealed to many trialers.

The color of ‘Zowie Yellow Flame’ got everyone’s attention – petals were a bold combination of colors starting with cherry red at the base, blending into orange and finally tipped with yellow. The flowers were smaller than ‘Uproar Rose’, Benary’s Giants or Sun and a bit variable in coloring and doubleness but prolifically produced on strong plants. ‘Zowie Yellow Flame’ is an updated cut flower version of the charming species Zinnia haageana and sure to become a hit with cut flower producers. Both cultivars had an excellent vase life (see separate postharvest article in this issue).

Another long time favorite of specialty cut flower growers is the sunflower and we had five cultivars in the trials this year. The top rated cultivar was’Pro Cut Yellow Lite’ from Seed Sense with bright yellow petals and orange-yellow center florets. It produced stems average 40 inches long and received high marks for its uniformity and earliness. The other single-stemmed, pollenless Pro Cut cultivars, ‘Peach’ and ‘Red/Lemon Bicolor’ also performed well in the trials. The striking bronze and yellow of ‘Red/Lemon Bicolor’ was especially noted. ‘Orange Queen’ and ‘Orange King’ from Gloeckner also scored well with the trialers, who noted the classic sunflower coloring of orange petals and dark centers, sturdy stems, and uniform flowering. ‘Orange Queen’ was a shade or two lighter than ‘Orange King.

Snapdragons are another important specialty cut indicated by the fact that we had ten cultivars from four companies. Two of the highest scoring cultivars were ‘Animation Deep Orange’ and ‘Animation Yellow Improve’ from Ernest Benary. Trialers loved both cultivars for their strong colors, high productivity and good return flowering. ‘Overture Orange’ from Goldsmith and ‘Potomac Cherry Rose’ from Pan American also scored well, the latter having stems up to 30 inches long.

The experimental pepper from Kieft, labeled ‘Cappa Conic White/Red’ for now, put on a great show producing two foot tall plants covered with large fruits. The fruit started out a pale whitish green, matured to bright orange and finished at scarlet. The strong branches were covered with fruit which tended to mature at once, making them easy to harvest. Trialers were able to harvest up to ll stems/plant for an average harvest of 4 stems/plant.

Ageratum is a cut flower with a mixed reputation. A filler flower with a great color but not always worth the time it takes to pick the stems after the heads and stems get small – which they inevitably seem to do. Thus, it was with great anticipation that we looked forward to seeing how ‘High Tide Blue’ and ‘High Tide White’ (Pan American) were going to do in the trials. As the film critics say – one thumb up and one thumb down. While both cultivars were prolific, only ‘High Tide White’ produced long enough stems to be commercially acceptable as a cut flower crop. The heads started out large and stayed reasonably sized the entire season. Several trialers noted that the flower heads browned quickly, a common occurrence with white ageratum, indicating that the plant had to be picked regularly. On the other hand, ‘High Tide Blue’ started out short and stayed short the entire season. As one visitor to the cut flower trials noted ‘hmmm, nice bedding plant’. Not what one wants to hear in a cut flower trial. Interestingly, both cultivars rebounded with long strong stems and large heads at the very end of the season. At least two other trialers noted that same thing, Unfortunately, the handful of nice stems at the end of the season was not enough to redeem ‘High Tide Blue’ as a cut flower.

Pan America has reorganized it lisianthus offerings to make them easier to understand and also submitted several new cultivars to the trial this year. They combined their double flowered types – Avila, Balboa, and Catalina – into one series known as ABC and their single flowered types – Laguna, Malibu – into the Laguna series. The names are followed with a number referring to the optimum season or day/night production temperature: 62-66/55-60oF for the 1-2 group, 66-70/64oF for the 2-3 group, and 68-71/65oF for the 3-4 group. Obviously, groups 2-3 and 3-4 are best for outdoor summer field production. This year two of their cultivars ‘ABC 3-4 Purple’ and ‘ABC 2-3 Rose’ performed well enough to be nominated for ASCFG Cut Flowers of the Year due to long stems and beautiful flowers. ‘ABC 2-3 Rose’ was formerly ‘Balboa Rose’ and ‘ABC 3-4 Purple’ was formerly ‘Catalina Purple’.

Over the last couple of years we have tested two series of hybrid delphinium – Guardian and Aurora. This year we added a third series to the list, Delphinium ‘Candle’ from Sakata, and it was a great one. Four colors were included in the trial ‘Blue Shade’, ‘Lavender Shades’, ‘Violet Shades’, and ‘White Shades’. Candle produced long stems of large, beautiful florets in a short amount of time. Trialers were able to harvest up to 6 stems per plant – those growing delphiniums in cooler climates were able to get a return flush of flowers. While the trials focused on field production, these delphinium are fast enough to be profitable in hoop houses and greenhouses.

I have a confession to make. I love dark purple tracheliums. At first it may seem like a misguided love – the flower heads are rather unassuming, almost unattractive. However, when they fully open with their large clusters of tiny deep purple flowers and richly colored stems, they make great filler flowers. We have one problem – we cannot grow them in the field. In the greenhouse we get wonderful long stemmed, large headed cuts, but in the field we get short stems and small flowers. Year after year we try them and they just don’t perform well. If you read the comments section below, you will see that other trialers have been frustrated by this plant also. In our defense we are getting better at them and this year we actually had many harvestable stems. The problem with trachelium is three fold – it has a rather narrow optimum temperature range, resents drying out, and is a long day plant. Trachelium grow best at night temperatures of 55 to 60oF, but yet are not cold-hardy so they cannot be planted too early. Transplants put out in May or June are subjected to warm temperatures and long days, causing them to flower fast and short. We have had the best luck starting transplants in late January or early February, hardening them off in late March or early April (remember we are zone 7), and planting them in early April (avoiding any frosts, if possible). This schedule provides a period of shorter days and cooler temperatures to build up the plant before flowering begins later in the season. So why did I bring this all up? This year we had three trachelium cultivars in the trials and one of them was a dark purple -‘Lake Louise Purple’. I loved it and it performed well for us and few other trialers. Several trialers have figured this species out – enough so that one trialer wrote that ‘Lake Louise Blue’ was ‘My choice for #1 new flower of the 18 I trialed this year.’ Of course, the best way for most of us to avoid the disappointment is to grow them in the greenhouse or cool season hoop house where temperatures and photoperiod can be controlled.

Overall, we had 47 cultivars from eight companies – down a bit on cultivars from last year but more companies than we have ever had participating in the trials. Based on trial results, the top five performers are automatically nominated for the ASCFG Cut Flower of the Year. The rankings are based on the combined ratings score: market appreciation (average of wholesale, florist, and consumer) + repeat again + ease of cultivation for those cultivars where more than three trialers responded. Thus, from the 2005 trials Sunflower ‘Pro Cut Yellow Lite’, Lisianthus ‘ABC 3-4 Purple’ and ‘ABC 2-3 Rose’, and Zinnia ‘Uproar Rose’ and ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’ are nominated as Cut Flowers of the Year and will join other nominations from ASCFG members.

Interpreting Cut Flower 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 Amanda Muller, Paradise Specialty Cut Flowers, for being the first trialer to return their evaluations. I would also like to thank Ingram McCall and Diane Mays for taking care of the North Carolina State University portion of the trials, Ingram McCall for data entry, Tina Krug, Aliya Donnell, Brad Holland, and Tim Ketchie for assisting with the NCSU trials, and Amber Stewart, Betty Coleman and Rachel McLaughlin for laboriously typing in everyone’s comments. In preparing the report I have edited the participants’ comments for space and clarity; my apologies if I’ve altered the tone or content of anyone’s comments. Also, in a few cases we could not determine what was written.

2005 ASCFG National Perennial and Woody Trials Report:

John Dole

North Carolina State University

Overview:

Echinacea is a genus that is just beginning to hit its horticultural stride. Anyone reading the plant catalogs knows that many interesting hybrids are now available and more are coming. We haven’t forgotten the beautiful of the original species, however, and Echinacea ‘Ruby Star’ is one of the best representatives. This species has large bright purple petals held horizontal from the rich red center. The durable plants flower second year after planting. Apparently enough ASCFG members thought that ‘Ruby Star’ was among the best to vote for it as the ASCFG Fresh Cut Flower of the Year for 2006.

Heuchera ‘Florists Choice’ and ‘Magic Wand’ continue to impress me. These rather unassuming plants were very productive in the second year of trials, producing an average of 15 stems per plant with at least one trialer getting 35 stems/plant for ‘Magic Wand’. Both cultivars were easy to grow with few problems. They were not the most impressive cut stems because of their small heads, but the ease of harvest overcomes that problem. The plants produce a dense clump of foliage from which the 18 to 26 inch long flower stems arise.

The well-named Zantedeschia ‘Edge of Night’ produced gorgeous deep maroon purple flowers. The foliage was even prettier with large leaves covered in white spots and edged in the same maroon as the flowers. Productivity and stem length was a little low, however, with only 1 to 3 stems/plant and a stem length of only 14 to 18 inches. Colored callas seem to be special enough that customers want them even if the stems are short – one trialer reported getting $2/stem. Always nice to hear.

One of the highest scoring perennials among the trial plants was Geum ‘Fireball’ with its large striking orange flowers. This productive plant produced over 9 stems/plant with some growers getting up to 15 stems/plant. The stems ranged in length from 18 to 36 inches, with growers averaging 25 inch stems. Plants perform best with excellent drainage, especially during the winter.

There is nothing quite like the metallic blue purple of Eryngium ‘Blaukappe’. That fact that the thistle-like eryngium has established itself as a specialty cut flower is a testament to how far the cut flower industry has come from the days of only roses, carnations and chrysanthemums.’Blaukappe’ is another plant that requires good drainage during the winter. Flowers are typically cut fresh but also make long lasting dried flowers.

We had high hopes for three shrubs that produced great results last year even in their first year: Callicarpa ‘Early Amethyst’ (Spring Meadow Nursery), Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ (Spring Meadow Nursery), and Physocarpus ‘Diabolo’ (Bailey Nursery). We were certainly not disappointed in the second year. All three cultivars are fast growing and productive plants. ‘Early Amethyst’ produced a multitude of long stems heavily covered in purple berries. Trialers harvested an average of 47 stems/plant and got 23 to 42 inch long stems. Now if only we get a callicarpa that dropped it leaves in early fall or late summer to eliminate the time consuming leaf removal – well, we can dream can’t we.

‘Limelight’ has only gotten better with age – the large spectacular flower heads are produced on stems up to 3 feet long. Considering that trialers, including NCSU, were able to harvest marketable stems from our plants in the first season, the added 26 stems/plant from this year make it an even better choice for cut flower production. The stems are strong and straight making this a better choice than the original species.

‘Diabolo’ seems to be making more of an impact as a cut foliage than as a cut flower. The infloresences are 2 to 3 inch wide clusters of small white flowers – attractive but not very distinctive. The bronzy foliage, however, makes a great filler for bouquets. Stems averaged around 29 inches long and plants produced anywhere from 2 to 30 stems/plant.

Based on trial results, the top five performers are automatically nominated for the ASCFG Cut Flower of the Year competition. The rankings are based on the combined ratings score: market appreciation + repeat again + ease of cultivation for those cultivars where more than three trialers responded. Thus, from the 2005 trials Geum ‘Fireball’, Heuchera ‘Florists Choice’, Heuchera ‘Magic Wand’, Hydrangea ‘Limelight’, and Zantedeschia ‘Edge of Night’ 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. For example, with annual asters some people harvest the entire plant as one bunch while others harvest each individual flowering branch, giving very different stem lengths and yield data. 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 species sounds interesting but did not appear to do well, try it anyway. The cultivar may work well for you.

Acknowledgments:

All cut flower growers should thank the perennial and woody plant producers for providing the plant materials and the growers for producing the plants, collecting data and submitting trial reports. The growers paid for shipping expenses and agreed to provide data for at least two years. Plant were donated by perennial producers and shipped as the perennial plugs or dormant roots directly to the trialers. I would like to compliment Chaz Gill, Betsy Hitt, Carolyn Ramsbotham, and Vicki Stamback who participated in both the seed and perennials trials and returned evaluations on all of their trial plants. I would also like to thank Amber Stewart and Betty Coleman for laboriously typing in everyone’s comments, Ingram McCall and Diane Mays for taking care of the North Carolina State University portion of the trials, Ingram McCall for data entry, and Leslie Tichner, Aliya Donnell, Brad Holland, and Tim Ketchie for assisting with the NCSU trials. In preparing the report I have edited the participants’ comments for space and clarity; my apologies if I’ve altered the tone or content of anyone’s comments. Thanks to everyone for making this service of ASCFG possible.

Cultivars

  • Agastache
    • Golden Jubilee

     

  • Ageratum
  • Ammi
    • Graceland
  • Antirrhinum (Snapdragon)
    • Animation Deep Orange
    • Animation Pink Imp.
    • Animation Rose
    • Animation Velvet Red
    • Animation Yellow Imp.
    • Charming White
    • Overture Orange
    • Potomac Cherry Rose
    • Potomac Red Improved
    • Potomac White Imp.
  • Aronia
    • Brilliant
  • Callicarpa
    • Early Amethyst
  • Callistephus
    • Daylight Blue Frost
    • Daylight Pink Frost
    • Hulk
  • Campanula
    • Bernice
  • Capsicum (Ornamental Pepper)
    • Exp.
  • Cotinus
    • Young Lady
  • Delphinium
    • Candle Blue Shades
    • Candle Lavendar Shades
    • Candle Violet Shades
    • Candle White Shades
    • Guardian Blue
  • Dianthus
    • Radiant Purple Eye
    • Radiant Red Eye
    • Radiant Scarlet
    • Radiant White
    • Radiant White with Ring
    • Sweet Experimental Scarlet
    • Sweet Red
  • Echinacea
    • Comet
    • Primadonna
    • Ruby Star
  • Eryngium
    • Blaukappe
  • Euphorbia
    • Chameleon
  • Eustoma (Lisianthus)
    • ABC 2-3 Blue
    • ABC 2-3 Blue Blush
    • ABC 2-3 Blue Rim
    • ABC 2-3 Rose
    • ABC 2-4 Yellow
    • ABC 3-4 Purple
    • ABC 3-4 Rose
    • ABC 3-4 White
  • Geum
    • Fireball
  • Helianthus (Sunflower)
    • Orange King
    • Orange Queen
    • Pro Cut Peach
    • Pro Cut Red Lemon Bicolor
    • Pro Cut Yellow Lite
  • Heptacodium
    • miconioides
  • Heuchera
    • Florist’s Choice
    • Magic Wand
  • Hydrangea
    • Limelight
  • Ilex
    • Berry Nice
  • Lobelia
    • Fan Salmon
    • Ruby Slippers
  • Persicaria
    • Brush Strokes
    • Silver Dragon
  • Physocarpus
    • Diablo
  • Prunus
    • Double Red
    • Kobai
  • Sambucus
    • Edulis
  • Syringia
    • Asessippi
    • Beauty of Moscow
    • Edit Cavell
  • Trachelium
    • Lake Louise Blue
    • Lake Louise Purple
    • Lake Louise White
  • Viburnum
    • Blue Muffin
  • Zantedeschia
    • Edge of Night
  • Zinnia
    • Uproar Rose
    • Zowie Yellow Flame

Seed Companies

  • Cut Flower
  • Perennial
  • Woody

Growers

  • Cut Flower
  • Perennial
  • Woody
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