I managed to make it back to the Raker Trial Gardens for an end of season visit. I always find it worthwhile to visit trial gardens early in the season and later, to evaluate season-long performance. Here is a brief summary of the most notable perennials in the trials. Kudos to the Raker staff for yet another successful trial season.
There were some surprises in the Agastache overwintering trials. Overall, this trial was looking very good, much fuller and more floriferous than in their first season.
Most of the colors in the ‘Acapulco’ series from Green Fuse overwintered successfully, with the exception of ‘Acapulco Red’. ‘Acapulco White & Yellow’ was particularly interesting, with unique, light yellow flowers. All the surviving colors were flowering well and reasonably uniform in habit.
Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’, a deservedly popular variety was looking excellent, though starting to decline. This vegetative variety is very uniform and floriferous. It is also very attractive to honey bees.
Coreopsis verticillata ‘Sylvester’ from Darwin Perennials is an excellent, floriferous, compact variety. ‘Sylvester’ was flowering strongly and was also free of powdery mildew, which was affecting many of the other Coreopsis varieties in the trial this late in the season. This one should be excellent for flowering in containers.
Coreopsis verticillata ‘Route 66’ from ItSaul Plants features bicolor flowers and was bloooming well, but was suffering from a moderate infection of powdery mildew. This is the first time I’ve seen powdery mildew on this variety. It has been an excellent performer, and mildew free, in previous seasons.
Terra Nova Nurseries new Coreopsis verticillata varieties ‘Bengal Tiger’ and ‘Imperial Sun’ were both disappointing and had declined significantly over the season. Both were severely infected with powdery mildew and flowering poorly.
Terra Nova Nurseries Echinacea varieties were still flowering well in their sponsor rows. Echinacea ‘Meteor Red’ maintained a compact habit and was flowering moderately well, though somewhat less strongly than other Terra Nova varieties in the trial. The fully double, rosy red flowers are attractive.
Echinacea ‘Secret Glow’ had become floppy by the end of the season. This variety would definitely benefit from having some support in the garden, as is the case for many of the taller double flowered Echinacea varieties. Plants remained quite floriferous, and the golden orange flowers are attractive.
Echinacea ‘Vanilla Cupcake’ remained compact, with good branching and strong flowering. Unfortunately, its spent flowers are very unattractive and detract significantly from this variety’s appearance in the landscape. Deadheading is recommended to keep plants looking their best.
A welcome new sponsor in the Raker trials is Star Roses & Plants (Conard-Pyle), and their sponsor bed contained some of their excellent new perennial varieties. Star Roses & Plants has a strong perennial breeding program, focusing on compact varieties well-suited to flowering in containers.
Veronica ‘Moody Blues’ series has a compact, well-branched habit with good uniformity across the series. ‘Dark Moody Blues’ and ‘Pink Moody Blues’ were both flowering very strongly, and attracted numerous honey bees.
The Jelitto sponsor bed was looking excellent, as usual. The excellent design of the bed features a wide range of species with bloom times ranging from spring to fall, for a long season of interest. It also features some interesting and funky sculptural elements which compliment the plantings well.
Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’ looked fantastic in the Jelitto bed. Plants have red flowers with yellow tips, fading to rusty orange shades. This variety is highly recommended, looks great in massed plantings, and compliments the straight species very well.
All-America Selections (AAS)
In the AAS trial, there was a red-flowered Hibiscus entry with a compact habit and attractive, deep red flowers. The color is a much truer red than the comparison varieties. This is definitely one to watch for in the future.