June 2, 2008
On June 26, nursery growers,
greenhouse managers and gardening enthusiasts can view field
tests of flowering bedding plant varieties at the annual
Horticultural Field Day.
"We have close to 500 varieties this year, and that includes 70
varieties in the container trials," said Dr. Brent Pemberton,
horticulturist with Texas AgriLife Research .
This year, there will be an emphasis on vinca, including two new
series that are resistant to aerial phytophthora, a serious
landscape problem with this crop all across the South, Pemberton
“The disease-resistant vinca are quite revolutionary for the
industry,” Pemberton said.
The new vinca are the Cora and Nirvana series. A large selection
of colors from both series will be on display.
The field day will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Texas AgriLife
Research and Extension Center at Overton’s North Farm site. The
tour will continue at the site until about 10:30, then move to
the Overton Center's headquarters building, where a
demonstration garden is located. Lunch will be served at about
After lunch, the program will move inside with a presentation by
Pemberton and Jimmy Turner of the Dallas Arboretum on the 2008
California Spring Showcase, also known as Pack Trials. Dr. Terri
Starman, department of horticultural sciences, College Station,
will give a presentation on container gardening, including
results from the container trials done in cooperation with
Pemberton since 2006. The program will conclude by 3 p.m.
Pemberton began trials of bedding plants at the Overton center
to serve the commercial greenhouse and bedding plant industry.
In recent years, the industry has had a $500 million annual
economic impact on the region, according to Pemberton.
Before Pemberton began his trials, there were few if any tests
under East Texas conditions of the many new varieties released
by seed companies each year, he said.
Since the first field day with less than 100 varieties, the
event has grown to include vinca, ornamental peppers, trailing
petunias, verbenas, begonias, portulaca, zinnias, geraniums and
"There's also a good selection this year of geranium and
lantana," he said.
"We also coordinate trial results with the Dallas Arboretum,"
Pemberton said. "Over five million consumers in the northeast
Texas region now have the opportunity to see how promising new
plants from all over the world perform in our climate."
There also will be an award program in cooperation with the
Dallas Arboretum called the “North Texas Winner’s Circle.” Each
year the best performing plants at both locations are chosen by
Pemberton and Turner for promotion as award winners. Many of
these award-winning plants will be on display at the field day.
Plants in the running for designation as Texas Superstar™ also
will be on trial, as well as many of the past plants receiving
that designation. This statewide program is promotes plants that
perform well in trials across Texas. The plants being promoted
for spring and summer 2008 are Firecracker Shrub and
Pride-of-Barbados, both flowering shrubs.
Though begun primarily to serve the bedding plant industry, the
trial's thousands of square feet of plots planted purple, pink,
red and white flowers have become popular with regional
Preparation for the trial has also become a way for local Master
Gardeners to fulfill their requirement for community service.
Moreover, with the ever-increasing number of entries by seed
companies, the trials could not have grown to be so
all-inclusive without the volunteers, Pemberton said.
"The Smith and Rusk County Master Gardeners Associations are an
integral part of these trials," he said. "They provide hundreds
of hours of labor every year. A lot of hard work goes into
planting the trials and the Master Gardeners provide the labor
and enthusiasm that gets this job done.”
Registration is free and includes lunch. The Overton center is
located 1 mile north of downtown Overton on State Highway 3053.
Coming from south of Overton, take State Highway 135 into town.
At Overton's single red stop light, take a left, go across the
railroad tracks and turn right immediately after the
Brookshire's Supermarket. Look for the large white sign on the
right side of the road identifying the Overton center.
The North Farm site is about 4 miles north of the center on Hwy.
3053. For an online map, go to