Late Season Performance in the Raker Trial Gardens

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.

Agastache mexicana Acapulco White and YellowMost 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 FortuneAgastache ‘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 SylvesterCoreopsis 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 Permathread Red SatinCoreopsis ‘Permathred Red Satin’ was heavily infected with powdery mildew, though still blooming reasonably well.



Coreopsis verticillata Route 66Coreopsis 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.


Coreopsis Mercury RisingCoreopsis ‘Mercury Rising’ has a compact, well-branched spreading, habit and is very floriferous. It was also free of powdery mildew. This variety is very attractive, and looks like a real winner.



Coreopsis verticillata Imperial SunCoreopsis verticillata Bengal TigerTerra 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 RedEchinacea ‘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 GlowEchinacea ‘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 Secret AffairEchinacea ‘Secret Affair’ remained compact and had strong flowering. The vivid, fully double, magenta flowers are quite attractive, and a unique color.



Echinacea Vanilla CupcakeEchinacea ‘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.


Other Perennials

Penstemon hartwegii Arabesque seriesPenstemon hartwegiii ‘Arabesque’ series form Goldsmith looked very attractive, with strong stems, large white-throated flowers, and good flower power. The series was also very well matched in habit.


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.

Caryopteris Good As GoldCaryopteris ‘Good As Gold’ is a nice, gold foliage selection with a compact habit. There was no burning of the foliage in its full sun location.



Tradescantia Amethyst KissTradescantia ‘Amethyst Kiss’ is compact and floriferous, with attractive, light purple flowers with a satiny sheen.



Veronica Pink Moody BluesVeronica ‘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.


Jelitto sponsor bedThe 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 GlowRudbeckia 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)

Hibiscus AAS entryIn 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.