Wednesday, June 3, 2009

U of I Extension News



Public Invited to Field Day June 10 at Aberdeen

ABERDEEN, Idaho—Gardening enthusiasts, native plant lovers and green-industry representatives are invited to the University of Idaho’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center June 10 to see the exquisite progress being made by the university’s four-year-old native plant evaluation program.

Steve Love, Extension horticulturist and station superintendent, timed this year’s Native Plant, Hardy Rose and Turf Field Day to coincide with peak bloom time for his three acres of native plant field trials and for his rose demonstration plots at nearby Rotary Park.

Participants can expect to be dazzled by penstemons, buckwheats, asters, daisies, columbines, mints, globemallows and such native shrubs as currants, hawthorns, mock-oranges and oakleaf sumac.

They can also compare the performance of exceptionally cold-tolerant varieties of floribunda, miniature, hybrid tea, modern shrub, Explorer, Parkland and Buck roses. In addition, they can examine the performance of 24 low-maintenance turfgrasses with potential for residences, golf courses and parks. Planted by research support scientist Tom Salaiz, these “utility” grasses get only about a third as much fertilizer and about three-fifths as much water as conventionally managed lawns. They include native and naturalized blue grama, buffalograss, prairie Junegrass, muttongrass and numerous fescues and wheatgrasses.

Love expects the native plant evaluation effort to lead to new varieties developed specifically for Idaho and Intermountain landscapes and sold by nurseries in Idaho and neighboring states. Most of the native perennials on display at the field day were grown from seed collected from more than 1,500 Idaho desert or mountain plants by Love and his colleagues during the past several summers. Winners of the side-by-side field evaluations must have exceptionally beautiful flowers or foliage, grow reliably under commercial production regimes and thrive with less than a third of the water that most Idaho landscapes get.

“So much of this material has tremendous potential for commerce,” said Love. “The hardest part of the project now is whittling the plants down to a few varieties that we’ll have to pick and go with.” Field day participants can let Love know which plants are their favorites, and they can get answers to their questions about native plants and low-water landscaping.

The free event will begin at 1 p.m. and conclude at 4 p.m. The Aberdeen Research and Extension Center is located at 1693 S. 2700 W. in Aberdeen. For more information, contact Love at (208) 397-4181 or slove@uidaho.edu. To learn more about Idaho gardening, visit http://www.extension.uidaho.edu/idahogardens/ .

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