Landscapers choose favorites at LSU AgCenter trial gardens

Allen D. Owings  |  9/30/2009 7:44:48 PM

Ornamental grass Jade Princess was the top pick of landscape industry professionals attending the landscape horticulture field day at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station this past summer. (Click to download. Photo courtesy of Hammond Research Station.)

News Release Distributed 09/29/09

HAMMOND, La. – Landscape industry professionals attending the landscape horticulture field day at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station this past summer chose Jade Princess, a new ornamental grass, as their favorite in a vote comparing 340 assorted warm-season plants.

The gold-medal winner from PanAmerican Seed Company is a new pennisetum, or tropical grass, commonly called ornamental millet.

LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings says the 340 sun-loving varieties were planted for the warm-season evaluation trials at the station. The plantings mostly were annual bedding plants and herbaceous perennials. In addition, new roses and some “companion” woody ornamental shrubs (such as Southern Living plants) were included. The majority were “new” plants to the industry, but a few are industry standards were planted for “comparison” and “side-by-side” evaluation purposes.

Owings says ornamental grasses never have caught on significantly with home gardeners and landscape professionals in Louisiana. Yet, he says, ornamental millets such as Jade Princess have good potential. They do best from May through September. The plants have chartreuse foliage and reach 3 to 4 feet tall. They thrive in full sun and hot weather. They should be treated as annuals in beds of flowering annuals and perennials.

The second-place, silver medal winner was the new Purple Flash ornamental pepper. This plant is also from PanAmerican Seed and has already been named a Mississippi Medallion winner for 2010. It is one of the unique new ornamental peppers. Purple foliage is the main highlight. It looks great combined with yellow and gold flowers and is good for a fall landscape or container plant, Owings says.

The third-place, bronze medal winner was Profusion Double Fire zinnia from Sakata Seed. This is one of the colors in the new double-flower form of profusion zinnias. The double-form varieties are usually smaller than the single-flower forms. In LSU AgCenter trials, profusion zinnias lead the way in landscape performance. Zinnias are great for spring and late summer planting.

Additional winners were Bombay Lavender scaevola, Bombay Dark Blue scaevola, Early Bird gold rudbeckia, Dark Star coleus, Easy Does It rose, ornamental sweet potato Selection Number 8-23, Candlestick Tree – Cassia alata, Aristata Sunburst series gaillardia, Purple Diamond loropetalum, Mesa Yellow gaillardia, Corrie’s Gold gaura, Louisiana Red copper plant, Chili Chilly ornamental pepper, Tradewind Purple bicolor osteospermum and Gold Edge duranta.

Plants earning honorable mention included Senorita Rosalita cleome, Bouquet Rose Magic dianthus, Verde talinum, Maple Sugar hibiscus, Lemon talinum, Ballerina Blush gaura, Aurora Black Cherry coleus, Swizzle Cherry Vanilla zinnia, Red Hot Rio coleus, Sunny knock out rose and Antigua Gold marigold.

Owings says work at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station is focused on providing research and extension services for the commercial ornamental horticulture industry in Louisiana. To view more work at the Hammond Research Station visit its Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond.

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Editor: Mark Claesgens

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