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John J. Sloan, Wayne A. Mackay, Phil Colbaugh, Steve W. George and Sam Feagley

Excessive soil moisture in clay soils can cause poor aeration and adversely affect plant growth. Small [1 to 3 mm (0.039 to 0.118 inches)] and large [3 to 6 mm (0.118 to 0.354 inches)] diameter expanded shales (ExSh), quartz sand, sphagnum peatmoss (SPM), and cottonseed hulls (CH) were evaluated as soil amendments for Austin silty clay soil. A 3-inch (7.6-cm) layer of each amendment was incorporated to a depth of 6 inches (15.2 cm), resulting in a 1:1 mixture by volume. Pansies (Viola × wittrockiana `Crown Azure Blue') were grown from December to June, followed by scaevola (Scaevola aemula `New Wonder') from June to November for two growing seasons. Foliage quality and extent of flowering were evaluated biweekly. Pansy root weights and above-ground biomass were quantified at the end of each growing season. None of the amendments significantly affected pansy foliage quality or the number of blooms per plant. Small diameter ExSh and SPM decreased pansy nitrogen content the first year after application, but not the second. During the first growing season, when soils were frequently saturated due to excessive rainfall, pansy root weights were significantly higher in soils amended with the small and large diameter ExSh. Large diameter ExSh treatments significantly increased the survival rate of transplanted scaevola plants and also the quality of foliage and percent blossom coverage during both growing seasons. Cottonseed hulls also increased scaevola survival for both growing seasons, but did not consistently improve scaevola foliage quality or bloom coverage. Of the five amendments tested, large diameter ExSh consistently improved overall plant performance more than the other amendments.

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Wayne A. Mackay, Steve W. George, Tim D. Davis, Michael A. Arnold, R. Daniel Lineberger, Jerry M. Parsons, Larry A. Stein and Greg G. Grant

The Coordinated Educational and Marketing Assistance Program identifies outstanding landscape plants for Texas and provides support for the nursery industry, thereby making superior plants available to Texans. CEMAP funding comes directly from industry and from consumers through the sale of plant tags bearing the Texas Superstar logo. Additionally, the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association and Texas Department of Agriculture is conducting a Texas Superstar publicity campaign. An estimated $10 million in new plant sales have been generated during the first 10 years of this program. Because plants are chosen based on their performance under minimal input conditions, Texas SuperStars greatly reduce their impact on the urban environment.