January 2017

2017 American Garden Rose Selections

Allen Owings

The 2017 winners from the relatively new America Garden Rose Selections (AGRS) program were recently announced.

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For many decades, the All-American Rose Selection trials have been our national rose trial. The AARS brand was proudly displayed on tags and in catalogues next to the roses who earned the right to receive it. But, like so many things over the past few years the economy took its toll and as of last year they ceased to exist. This left us without a true national trial that tested the same roses in gardens all over the United States. With AARS gone we were without a national rose trial for the first time since the 1930s.

The result was the idea to create a trial that would recognize roses that were easy to care for, disease resistant and suitable for different regions of the country. Roses can be entered in all the trial gardens but if a rose is outstanding in say the Southeast that will be noted as being a great rose for that region. That takes the pressure off a rose having to succeed in every climate in our vast country. If a rose did well in all regions so much the better! The rules and protocols are based on the German ADR Trials.

Fragrance Winner

‘Munstead Wood’ has over 70 velvety crimson petals. Strong old rose fragrance with a fruity scent. The David Austin English old rose hybrid is a bushy, broad shrub with emerging red foliage transitioning to mid-green. Disease tolerant foliage. Averages 3.5-4 feet tall.

Fragrance Winner and Regional Winner (NE, NW, SE and SW)

The large double flowers of ‘Lady of Shalott’ has salmon-pink on the upper side and golden yellow reverse petals has a warm tea fragrance with hints of spiced apple and clove. This David Austin Leander Hybrid is a large bushy bush with slightly arching stems. The foliage is mid green with bronze tones. Averages about 5 feet tall in Louisiana.

Regional Winner (SE and SC) and Heirloom Hybrid Award

‘Faith Whittlesey’, a tea rose that bears bright white, large, double, cupped flowers in small clusters or occasionally solitary. The lightly scented flowers are very recurrent. Responds well to fertilizer and loamy garden soil. Good “stand alone” rose. Averages 3 feet tall.

Regional Winner (NE, NC, NW, SE and SW)

‘Icecap’, a shrub rose produces pure white cup like blooms in profusion. Each stem can have 20 blooms and is very recurrent. No fragrance but good resistance to blackspot, mildew and rust. Makes an excellent hedge or an addition to a combination planting. Smaller grower – 2.5-3.5 feet tall.

Regional Winner (NE, SE and SC)

Exhibiting excellent disease resistant, ‘Tahitian Treasure’ is a deep salmon pink. The cuplike flowers have a slight fragrance and 18-20 petals on average. Bred by Bill Radler (the Knock Out rose breeder), the plant has dark green, semi-glossy foliage is with an upright in growth habit. Grows 4-5 feet tall.

Regional Winner (NE, NC, NW, SE, SC, and SW)

A winner in every region, ‘Peachy Keen’ has clusters of 5 shell pink blooms with a yellow center per stem that covers this low growing mounding shrub. The blooms are cupped and appear continually from spring to frost. No fragrance but excellent disease resistance (yes, even in Louisiana!). Grows 3 feet tall with a slightly wider spread.

2016 AGRS winners were ‘Phloxy Baby’ (regional winner, polyantha, small medium pink flowers), ‘Thomas Affleck’ (regional winner, Pioneer rose from Mike Shoup at the Antique Rose Emporium, intense cense pink semi-double flowers) and ‘Dee-Lish’ (hybrid tea, old fashioned deep pink flower, fragrance winner)

The LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden in Baton Rouge is an official trial location for the AGRS evaluations. Garden judges are LSU AgCenter horticulture research associate Wanda Ellis and horticulture professor Allen Owings. Another nearby location is the rose garden trials maintained by Pam Smith in Farmers Branch, Texas. See more information on this program and the winning varieties at


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Crape Murder – List of Attributes of a Properly Pruned Lagerstroemia

Allen Owings

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In Louisiana and across the Southeast, there continues to be record-breaking amounts of “improper crape myrtle pruning” occurring. Most knowledgeable horticulture industry members and home gardeners refer to the unnecessary "topping" of the trees to reduce height as “crape murder.” DO NOT PRUNE A CRAPE MYRTLE LIKE IN THIS PHOTO!!!! DO NOT!!!

More crape myrtles are being pruned improperly than crape myrtles being pruned properly. Although this practice does not kill the tree, it can result in trees declining in health after years of improper pruning. Wood decay can occur. If a crape myrtle becomes too large for a certain location, either it was planted in the wrong spot in the landscape or the wrong variety was selected. In addition to flower color, select crape myrtles for size at maturity.

When pruning a crape myrtle, plants should be thinned, not topped. Remove branches that rub against each other. Prune out branches that cross each other or are in competition with each other. Remove branches that do not contribute to the overall growth direction or shape that you desire for the tree. Also, eliminate suckers at the base of the tree and watersprouts (vigorous upright growth) in the tree canopy. Late fall through late winter is the ideal time to prune crape myrtles. Properly pruned crape myrtles will have:

• Stronger Wood

• More Flowers

• Larger Flowers

• More Pollinating Insects

• Enhanced Bark Features

• Fewer Watersprouts

• Fewer Suckers

• More Birds Nesting

• Less Fungal Decay in Wood

• Fewer Insects and Sooty Mold

• Less Leaf Spot

• More Canopy Air Circulation

It is everyone's right to prune their plants how they desire, but it is best to follow recommended horticultural practices to improve long-term plant health. Encourage your fellow residents to prune crape myrtles properly. When allowed to grow and mature, they are beautiful, majestic trees. If you must prune crape myrtles, do it right.

Is Tea, Camellia sinensis A New Crop For Louisiana? (from Yan Chen)

The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, was first discovered for brewing tea beverage in China around 4,700 years ago. There were different sayings of how exactly tea was discovered, but one of them seems more convincing after the book ‘Shen Nong Herbs’ was unearthed. It was mentioned in that book that Shen Nong, an ancient emperor in charge of agriculture, got very sick one day from tasting wild plants, however, drinking a brewed beverage with leaves from a nearby plant saved his life. That plant was C. sinensis.

The long history of tea as a beverage interweaves with the history of China and the rest of the world. Tea started as a tribute from its original production area to the Emperors and gained popularity in higher classes during Tang and Song Dynasties – the golden age of cosmopolitan culture in ancient China. By Qing Dynasty, tea has transformed from a medicinal drink to a daily beverage and was enjoyed by all classes. Type of tea products and the required brewing methods had also being developed by people from different production areas. The most consumed type of tea in China today is the green tea, which was processed right away without bruising and oxidizing the leaves, to keep its greenish yellow fresh color and taste. Red tea in China (aka black tea on European and US markets) was developed as an oxidized tea that the final product has a red color with mild taste that keeps the warms the tea received during the bruising and long baking process. Black tea in China (aka brick tea or Pu’er) was believed to be developed for long-distance transportation over the Tea Horse Road. It is firmly packed and better to be consumed after years of enzyme activity. We have seen some very expensive brick teas that are 30 years old during our trip in China last October. There are also yellow and white teas that are basically made with more specific varieties of tea plants with low yield compared to other major types of tea.

With other countries, there were peaceful trades such as the Tea Horse Road, which traded tea (as brick tea for prolonged storage during the trip) for seeds, meat, and other goods from Tibet and other Asian countries. There were wars such as the Opium wars between China and the British when the later forced to trade opium for silk and tea instead of paying silver. And there was the Boston Tea Party, where tea was involved in the initial US resistance to the British. Today, tea is the most popular beverage worldwide only after water and C. sinensis has become an important agricultural crop for many Asian and African countries with the top exporting countries being Kenya, Sri Lanka, China, and India by trading value in 2015. The US was the third largest importer of tea in the world only after Russia and Pakistan, with 285 million pounds of tea imported and over 80 billion servings of tea sold in 2015 according to ITC (International Tea Committee).

US tea consumption increased from $1.8 billion in 1998 to $11.5 billion in 2015, an almost six-fold increase, and this trend is projected to be continuing over the next ten years (www.teausa.org). Additionally, consumers are increasingly interested in where tea is sourced and whether or not it was produced in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. With the local food movement in the recent 5 or 6 years, there is a strong demand for domestically grown tea. This market demand provides an opportunity to US growers and investors to consider tea as a new crop.

The environmental conditions in the southeastern US are suitable for growing tea. There was a time in the history that the Lipton Company experimented with tea growing and processing in Charleston SC and there is an operating tea plantation making loose and bagged tea under the Bigelow brand. Tea growers in Hawaii have established a local name supported by technical assistance from USDA-ARS, University of Hawaii, and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. Most of these growers are small family operations that sell tea locally and online to the mainland, and also do private tours and tea tasting as one of their income sources. Over the past decade, the number of tea growers in the mainland has increased, including small growers in AL, CA, FL, GA, LA, MD, MI, NC, NY, OR, SC, WA, and a couple large plantations in MS and TX (east TX). This part of the industry is still in its infancy stage and is not supported by a strong production and processing base, however, enormous experiences are being accumulated by these growers and they are willing to share through a tea grower association currently very active in the mainland (US League of Tea Growers, https://usteagrowers.com/).

Marketing of final products from small growers are mostly through Farmers Market, ecommerce, tradeshow, and joining other distribution networks that sells imported tea products. A survey being conducted by a joint effort of several land-grant Universities in the southern states is underway to pulse consumer demands for locally grown tea.

Other than developing tea into a primary crop for those interested, it is easy to add tea plants to a growers’ current crop structure as a cash crop. This may help vegetable growers by having a perennial crop added to their annual production of vegetables, or adding a secondary income to blueberry farm in case we have a late March freeze that hurts the berry crop badly. However, it is always suggested to have tea as the only crop if you want to develop a name out of it and to be popular – just for tea, which will need you to focus whole heartedly. Tea plants are long-lived, plants from cuttings can maintain good production stage for 30 years, and plants from seedlings can have at least 80 years of high quality and yield. Getting into the ‘tea business’ requires a lot of research and trialing, but it is better to start small and grow by your own pace.

The biggest concern about growing tea as a crop is labor. Historically, tea has been grown and produced in developing countries to take advantage of low wages. However, economic improvement in these countries has decreased the availability of low-cost labor to the tea industry. For example, tea production in China has largely moved from the southeastern provinces to western provinces (Guizhou and Yunnan Provinces) due to booming of economy in the east coast, and new development of tea production has been noticed in more arid region in the northern (Shandong Province) and western China (Shӑnxi Province) to take advantage of low labor cost with the help of modern irrigation technology.

Several faculty member from the tea research team visited China on tea production and research progress in October 2016, and as we learned both academic and marketing aspects of tea in China, we believe that the US tea production will not be large enough to meet its own consumer demands and won’t be able to compete with Kenya or China by price in a long time. However, the large consumer base in the US provides a nice size market for current specialty growers to consider tea as an additional crop. For primary tea growers, we have observed a great collaboration among them so far, and anticipate more research support from USDA and local grower associations. Then, we expect that there will be the development of a business model that will assist small growers in all post-production sections (harvesting, processing, and marketing). This will need a large grower or investor to take the lead.

For nursery growers in our industry, propagating and selling tea plants, either seedlings or cuttings, is profitable per current market demand. Quality rooted cuttings or seedlings are key to a grower’s success for the next 50 years, and they are willing to purchase premium quality plants. A 1-year old rooted cutting in 1 gallon pots can be priced at $6 to $8 wholesale or $15 retail (to home gardeners). At the Hammond Research Station, We have started a small planting of tea field to test fertilization and trimming schedules for growing tea plants. With a new propagation greenhouse being ready, we will test various propagation methods in the coming spring. Hopefully we will be able to provide more information as we expand our knowledge on growing tea. Stay tuned!

Kelos Atomic and Kelos Fire Celosia Observations

Allen Owings

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We planted some "new to us" varieties of celosia in the sun garden at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station after the floods in late August.

The Kelos Atomic series are Celosia spicata. Colors in the series are light pink, neon pink, purple pink, violet and salmon. Beekenkamp is the wholesale source.

  • Kelos Atomic Light Pink – most compact, heavy bloom, bloom shape/size reminds of Intenz Classic.
  • Kelos Atomic Neon Pink – taller plants, “taller standing” flower blooms, more height/less width.
  • Kelos Atomic Salmon – similar size, performance, bloom, canopy to neon pink, 5-10% shorter.

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Another new group of celosia from Beekenkamp are the Kelos Fire series. These are Celosia argentea var. plumosa. Colors in the series are lime, magenta, orange, purple violet, purple, pink, red, yellow and scarlet improved.

  • Kelos Fire Orange – smallest of the ones we have in this series, fewer blooms than pink, purple or purple violet.
  • Kelos Fire Pink – very good habit, similar to purple, mostly green foliage, most flowers of the four varieties (best canopy coverage and good plant-to-bloom ratio).
  • Kelos Fire Purple – best habit, darker foliage, great blooms.
  • Kelos Fire Purple Violet – tallest of the ones we have in this series.

So, what is the difference? Kelos Fire has broader feather duster-type blooms while the Kelos Atomic has more of the look of the Intenz-type coleus (now called Intenz Classic).

We will be trialing these again in the upcoming season and will be collecting more data on observations.

(Thanks to Buddy Perino at Perino's Garden Center for his help with this project.)

Trip to China (from Texas A&M horticulturist Mengmeng Gu)

We all LOVE plants and China is “Mother of Gardens”(said E.H. Wilson in 1929). You may have thought about traveling to China, but worried, about many things. Let me introduce Dr. Mengmeng Gu, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and an alumna of the “best landscape horticulture program in China” (Beijing Forestry University; says Dr. Gu). She has led several horticulture trips in China. In 2017 Dr. Gu is leading an amazing trip, following E.H. Wilson's footstep in NW Sichuan Province. Check out the links of different places in the blog----Amazing scenery, culture, people, cuisine and most importantly, PLANTS! https://greenviion.wordpress.com/announcement/. Contact Mengmeng Gu at mgu@tamu.edu if interested.

2/5/2018 7:41:03 PM
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