U of M Master Gardener Flower Trials

The March/April issue of Northern Gardener has the results of the University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener vegetable trials. These are very useful for gardeners deciding which varieties to grow in their gardens. But, did you know that the Master Gardeners also test annuals each year as well?

We don’t usually have room to include those results in the magazine, but they are worth considering when you plan your annual gardens. In 2014, the Master Gardeners trialed shasta daisies and white alyssum varieties. Below are the different varieties and what the Master Gardeners had to say about each:

White Alyssum

Four of the six varieties tested were rated “poor” for germination by the Master Gardeners, and the remaining two (‘New Carpet of Snow’ and ‘Clear Crystal White’) only rated “average” for germination. But once the plants got started, all six of them were rated “excellent” for survival into September. In order of preference by the Master Gardeners, here are the six varieties:

'Snow Crystals' alyssum Photo courtesy of Pan American Seed

‘Snow Crystals’ alyssum
Photo courtesy of Pan American Seed

‘Snow Crystals’ ranked No. 1. The plants were 6 inches tall and 10.5 inches wide. The majority of Master Gardeners said they would purchase these again.

‘New Carpet of Snow’ was the largest of the plants and ranked No. 2 overall. Plants were an average of 6.3 inches tall and 11.3 inches wide. Most MGs said they would purchase ‘New Carpet of Snow’ again.

‘Clear Crystal White’ ranked No. 3 overall, with most MGs saying they would buy it again. On average plants were 5.6 inches tall and 9.8 inches wide.

‘Wonderland White’ ranked No. 4, but most Master Gardeners said they would not buy this plant again. It was on average 4.7 inches tall and 10.7 inches wide.

‘Easter Bonnet White’ ranked No. 5 and was the smallest of the alyssums tested, at 4.6 inches tall and 9.3 inches wide. MGs said they would not buy this one again.

‘Giga White’ came in 6th among the alyssums, with most MGs saying they would not buy it again. The plants were 5.2 inches tall on average and 10.8 inches wide.

Shasta Daisies

Like the alyssum, the shasta daisies were grown from seed and germination rates were fairly low. Between 34 and 49 percent of the seeds germinated. But, unlike the alyssum, the gardeners ranked all of the shasta daisies as worthy of re-planting again. Here are the six varieties tested.

'Snow Lady' shasta daisy Photo courtesy of All-America Selections

‘Snow Lady’ shasta daisy
Photo courtesy of All-America Selections

‘Snow Lady’ was the most compact of the plants, at 8.8 inches high by 9.3 inches wide on average. It ranked No. 1 overall, however.

‘Silver Spoons’ ranked No. 2. It was a taller variety—13.1 inches tall by 11.9 inches wide on average with a blossom that was a dainty 2 inches across.

‘Crazy Daisy’ ranked No. 3 and was even larger at 12.5 inches tall by 14.0 inches wide with a 2.5 inch bloom.

‘White Breeze’ was a tall and narrow plant—14.7 inches tall by 9.6 inches wide. It ranked 4th overall.

‘Alaska’ was a big plant overall (13.5 inches tall by 14.5 inches wide with a 3.0 inch bloom) but it tied for last place.

‘Silver Princess’ shared the No. 5 ranking with ‘Alaska’. It was 11.5 inches tall by 10.2 inches wide.

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener trials were conducted by 96 gardeners in 42 counties. The trials were coordinated by Sue Schiess, Larry Cipolla, Marc Battistini, Lisa Gilliland and Travis Gerjets. Master Gardeners volunteer thousands of hours each year teaching best practices in gardening and connecting home gardeners to university-based research.

Thanks to all the Master Gardeners for their work!

Pollinators swarmed the shasta daisies at the trial gardens at the U of M St. Paul campus last summer.

Pollinators swarmed the shasta daisies at the trial gardens at the U of M St. Paul campus last summer.