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McCrory Gardens Trial Report aids in flower selection

BROOKINGS, S.D. – The 2022 McCrory Gardens Trial Report, issued this spring by SDSU Extension and McCrory Gardens, helps South Dakotans choose flower varieties that do well in local conditions. 

The trial looked at 189 cultivars, or cultivated varieties, in five different categories across two growing seasons to determine their ability to weather South Dakota’s unique environmental challenges. Two evaluators rated the plants using scores of 1-5 on a variety of criteria and averaged their scores. They evaluated five categories of cultivars: in-ground annuals, container annuals, perennials, roses, and trees/shrubs. 

Trial evaluators ranked the top 10 in-ground annuals: a type of begonia, two types of million bells, three kinds of petunias, a kind of purslane, a kind of sunflower, and two types of sweet potato vines. 

For the container annuals (potted plants), evaluators gave top rankings to three types of begonias, two kinds of petunias, a type of purslane and a type of sweet potato vine. In the perennial categories, evaluators rated a type of garden phlox and ornamental oregano, along with two types of Russian sage and two types of stonecrop as the best performers. 

In addition to the evaluations, visitors to McCrory Gardens voted on a People’s Choice winner in each category. Voting was open from August to September, and visitors to the gardens could vote on their first-, second-, and third-favorite plants. Scores were tallied to determine the overall winners.

The People’s Choice winners for in-ground annuals were Lantana “Luscious Basket Tangelo,” Petunia “Supertunia Mini Vista Yellow,” Coleus “Main Street Venice Blvd,” and Salvia “Rockin’ Blue Suede Shoes.” People’s Choice for container annuals went to two varieties of begonias, “Surefire Cherry Cordial” and “Surefire Rose,” and Sweet Potato Vine “Sweet Caroline Medusa Green.” For perennials, the People’s Choice winners were Garden Phlox “Luminary Ultraviolet,” Ornamental Oregano “Drops of Jupiter,” and Stonecrop “Rock ‘N Grow Back in Black.” 

The full results are available here.

In 2023, visitors to McCrory Gardens can vote for their favorites from June through September.

McCrory Gardens and the SDSU Extension horticulture team will host a Trial Night: Annual and Perennial Garden Tour from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 9 at McCrory Gardens in Brookings. Participants can learn how the trials got started, the evaluation process, and will be able to vote for their favorite plants. It is free.

Companies that chose to participate in this round of trials were All-America Selections, American Rose Trials for Sustainability, Dummen Orange, Proven Winners North America LLC and Walters Gardens Inc. 

Kristine Lang, SDSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist and one of the cultivar evaluators, said the trials provide valuable information for garden centers and gardeners. 

“It can be hard to know what to pick, and what’s going to do well in my garden in South Dakota,” Lang said. “These localized trials test materials that are already available in our area.” 

Lang said the McCrory Gardens trials evaluate plants for two growing seasons, since no two winters are the same in South Dakota. 

“By the time these trials are done, we’ll have looked at these plants eight different times, which is pretty robust,” she said. 

Chris Schlenker, horticulture and grounds manager for McCrory Gardens, said McCrory Gardens has been a trial site for the All-American Selections Trial Program since the garden’s founding in 1965. David Graper, a professor emeritus of horticulture science at SDSU and former SDSU Extension Horticulture Specialist, expanded the trial program in the early 2000s by inviting companies and organizations across the U.S. to include their plants in the trials. 

Lang, Schlenker and Amy Knofczynski, collections technician and horticulturist for McCrory Gardens (and the other plant evaluator during this set of trials) said they are pleased to continue the work of Graper and others with the trials. 

For more information on the trials or how to participate, contact Kristine Lang, SDSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist.