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Jon T. Lindstrom, James A. Robbins, Gerald L. Klingaman, Scott Starr, and Janet Carson

The University of Arkansas established a new, replicated, woody ornamental plant evaluation program in 1999. Three sites were used across the state and these sites encompassed the three different USDA Plant Cold Hardiness Zones found in Arkansas, Zones 6, 7 and 8. In the first year, 17 different woody ornamental plants were established in the evaluation. Information obtained from performance in this evaluation will be used in Arkansas Select, a marketing program for customers and nurserymen in the state. Nonpatented and nontrademarked plant material will be made available for propagation purposes. Woody plants will be evaluated for 5 years and herbaceous perennials will be evaluated for 3 years.

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Louis B. Anella, Michael A. Schnelle, and Dale M. Maronek

Oklahoma Proven is a plant evaluation and marketing program developed by the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Oklahoma State University. An advisory committee comprised of representatives from state agencies, industry, and Oklahoma Botanical Garden and Arboretum Affiliate Gardens makes plant recommendations to an executive committee which in turn selects one tree, shrub, perennial, and annual for promotion each year. Trees and shrubs are selected 3 to 5 years ahead of promotion while perennials and annuals are selected 1 to 2 years in advance to give nurseries time to increase production. Marketing includes posters, billboards, pot stakes, and hang tags with the Oklahoma Proven logo and related extension service programming and news coverage. Consumers appreciate having help selecting plants and one retail nursery reported an 81% increase in sales of Oklahoma Proven plants. Funding for the program is provided by industry, Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, and a grant from Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.

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W.C. Dunwell, D. Fare, M.A. Arnold, K. Tilt, G. Knox, W. Witte, P. Knight, M. Pooler, W. Klingeman, A. Niemiera, J. Ruter, T. Yeager, T. Ranney, R. Beeson, J. Lindstrom, E. Bush, A. Owings, and M. Schnelle

The Southern Extension and Research Activities/Information Exchange Group-27 (SERA/IEG-27) is sponsored by the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors. Thirteen universities and the U.S. National Arboretum cooperate with official representatives from extension and research programs. The objective of the group is to identify, evaluate, select, and disseminate information on superior, environmentally sustainable, landscape plants for nursery crop production and landscape systems in the southeastern U.S. Plants are distributed to members responding to a request from cooperators for plant evaluation. Those who agree to cooperate are expected to grow the selected liner to landscape size, then transplant it in a landscape setting. The plant is rated for insect, disease, and cold damage, heat stress, growth rate, ornamental flowering and fruiting, fall color, commercial production potential, landscape potential, invasiveness potential, and insect disease transmission potential. Growth rate is evaluated annually by recording plant height and width. Initial bloom date is reported followed by bloom duration in days. Following evaluation, the group collectively and individually disseminates information gained from the plant evaluation system to a wide variety of audiences.

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Jon T. Lindstrom, James Robbins, Gerald Klingaman, Scott Starr, and Janet Carlson

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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Susan L. Hamilton

Many new plants and varieties are introduced into the market every year. Little information is generally available about the landscape performance of these plants. To take the guesswork out of their landscape performance in the Tennessee region, the Univ. of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) Gardens were established. Started in 1983 as an All-America Selections (AAS) Test Garden, on less than a quarter of an acre, the UTIA Gardens have grown to 5 acres and now include plant introductions from 25 commercial seed and plant companies. An average of 550 summer and winter annuals are evaluated annually in addition to an assortment of bulbs, perennials, herbs, groundcovers, ornamental grasses, aquatics, trees, and shrubs. Because of the volume of plants, evaluation criteria are in conjunction with industry requests and are not always replicated. In addition to university support, the gardens receive revenues from the sponsoring commercial seed and plant companies, the Tennessee green industry trade associations, a “Friends of the Gardens” support group, and gifts. As a result of the herbaceous plant evaluation program, the UTIA Gardens have grown to be a significant resource for the university, community, and green industry. A variety of university departments use the gardens in their teaching; community groups, including schools, tour and use the gardens; and open houses and field days assist commercial growers and landscapers in remaining current on new plant introductions and their performance.

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Winston C. Dunwell

SERA-IEG-27, Southern Extension and Research Activities–Information Exchange Group–27, is sponsored by the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors. Thirteen states cooperate with Official Representatives from Extension and Research programs. The objective of the group is to identify, evaluate, select, and disseminate information on superior environmentally sustainable landscape plants for nursery crop production and landscape systems in the Southeast. Plants are distributed to those responding to a request for plant evaluation cooperation. Those that agree to cooperate are expected to grow a liner to landscape size, plant it in an landscape setting and evaluate the plant (numerically, a scale of 1–10 for insect damage, disease damage, cold damage, heat stress, growth rate, flower, fruit, fall color, production potential, landscape potential, invasive potential, and insect disease transmission potential, as well as plant height and width and time/duration of bloom). Following evaluation the group is to collectively and individually disseminate information gained from the plant evaluation system to a wide variety of audiences.

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Willard T. Witte, Scott Schlarbaum, Roger Sauve, and Phillip C. Flanagan

Since 1988, efforts have been underway to establish a nursery research station in McMinnville, Warren County, Tennessee. Approximately 80 acres of farm property adjacent to the Collins scenic river has been conveyed to Tennessee State University (TSU) for this purpose. Scientists at TSU, Tennessee Technological University, University of Tennessee, and USDA's National Arboretum and Shade Tree Laboratory have cooperated in obtaining grant funds via the Capacity Building Grants Program to initiate a plant evaluation and introduction program. Replicated trials of woody genera include Acer, Castanea, Cornus, Lagerstroemia, Quercus, Syringa, Ulmus. Herbaceous genera are Echinacea, Hemerocallis, Hosta. Plantings will be made over a three year period as infrastructure at the new station develops. Additional grant proposals have been recently submitted.

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David Creech

The mission of the SFASU Arboretum is to promote the conservation, selection, and use of the native plants of Texas and to encourage diversity in the urban landscape philosophy of the region. A decade since its inception, the 10-acre arboretum features many uncommon, unusual, and difficult-to-find species and cultivars, many deserving greater use in the region. The living collection has been acquired through botanical gardens, arboretums, private collections, the nursery industry, and expeditions. The list of promising plants that have surfaced includes many that are not easily available in the trade. The issues involved in woody and herbaceous plant evaluation include computer mapping and record keeping constraints, the long-time frame for evaluation with many woody plants, and difficulties in propagation. The arboretums's plant acquisition policy and record keeping and computer mapping system is currently tracking more than 2500 taxa in the living collection. An overview of the first decade of plant performance and a strategic plan for acquisition, propagation, evaluation, distribution, and promotion are presented.

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David Creech, Greg Grant, and Dawn Parish

The SFA Mast Arboretum began as a landscape plant materials class project on the south side of the Agriculture building in 1985. In 2000, over 20 theme gardens now occupy 18 acres. The garden is computer mapped and an accessioning system is in place. Theme garden developments include daylilies, herbs, a rock garden, a xeriscape, plants for shade, wetland, and bog conditions, a line of vines, an Asian Valley, conifers and hollies, and numerous gardens that trial and display herbaceous perennials. Recent developments include a children's garden and, the biggest project to date, an 8-acre SFA Ruby Mize Azalea garden, with a grand opening in Apr. 2000. Theme gardens are utilized to display collections. Significant assemblages include Rhododendron (400 cultivars and selections), Acer (168 cultivars), Camellia (210 cultivars), Loropetalum (18 taxa), Cephalotaxus (43 taxa), Magnolia (47 taxa), Abelia (37 taxa), Ilex (73 taxa), and others. Plant performance and observational information is recorded. Second author Grant has numerous plant introductions in the past 5 years, many that are well represented in the nursery industry and recognized by TAMU's Coordinated Educational and Marketing Assistance Program (CEMAP) as “Texas Superstar” promotions (trademarked). SFA Mast Arboretum plants are promoted via distributions, trade articles, and the Arboretum's website:

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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.