The Univ. of Arkansas initiated a statewide plant evaluation program in 1999. This trial will enable us to evaluate plants on a statewide basis, improve statewide marketing programs, and serve as a propagation source for nonpatented or non-trademarked material. Trees and shrubs will be evaluated for 5 years and herbaceous material for 3 years. Three test sites were established across the state, one in Fayetteville, Little Rock, and Hope, Ark. These sites correspond to the three USDA plant hardiness zones found in Arkansas (Zones 6, 7, and 8). A consistent planting protocol (e.g., distance between plants, irrigation system, bed width) is used at all three locations. Data collection consists of annual growth measurements and qualitative evaluations for factors such as time of flowering, length of flowering, and disease or insect problems. A standard protocol has been established for identifying future plants to be evaluated in the program. In the first year, 17 accessions were planted at each of the three different locations. Best plant growth on 15 of the 17 accessions occurred at the Little Rock site. This may be a reflection of the environment present at the sites in Hope and Fayetteville. Both of these sites are exposed, full-sun situations, whereas the Little Rock site receives some afternoon shade. Reception to this trial program has been favorable, with the Little Rock site gaining much attention from the Arkansas nursery industry.
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