710 W 2nd
Oakley, KS 67748
For more information, reach the Extension Office at 785-671-3245
|Prairie Star Flowers Blog||
The Golden Prairie district (comprised of Trego, Logan, and Gove counties in the western part of the state) has its flower trial garden in Oakley, Kansas at the courthouse. A few years ago the K-State county extension agent was interested in having a flower trial in the Golden Prairie district to help the horticulture clientele. The local county courthouse in Logan county was working to landscape the corners of the courthouse. During this time the extension office met with the commissioners to request one of the corners for flower trials. The rest is history as so many people all across the community have loved watching the flowers each year and deciding which ones they want to plant in their own flower gardens! This is the third year for the trials in this location and they have been a huge success. What a great testimony to the hard work and great research done through Kansas State Research and Extension!
The garden is located at
710 W 2nd
Oakley, KS 67748
For more information, reach the Extension Office at 785-671-3245
Each year the K-State flower trial researches new plants that sometimes thrive and sometimes die in the Kansas climate. It's great information to know, so a major part of what we do is transferring that knowledge out to the ornamental horticulture industry and general gardening public. Now that the season has come to a close, let's take a look at what the professionals and Extension Master Gardeners were buzzing about the most from 2014!
Front and center in the flower trials were the 'Big Bounce' and 'Bounce' Impatiens. And WOW did they ever impress! These hybrids are disease resistant against Impatiens Downy Mildew and will likely play a large role in replacing the "standard" Impatiens walleriana that were frequently planted in shady areas up until the recent outbreaks of this disease. The cultivars performed very well in the landscape in full sun and also in pots in the shade. They have a very high density of flowers on the plant that rivals the most florific petunia or other garden annual.
Master Gardeners are always asking what hummingbirds and pollinators flock to the most in the trials, and this new Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' had them very intrigued for those reasons. It's definitely best suited for container plantings where people can inspect it up close. This plant will appeal to those gardeners who are looking for something a little unusual to add to their collection.
Cannas, Cannas, everywhere! New seed-propagated 'Cannova' colors were easy growing and strong performers. The 'Happy' series of vegetative Cannas also impressed, with some cultivars showing very nice flower/foliage color combinations. All these Cannas stayed compact at about 36" in size or less, so they worked in both the landscape and large containers.
Petunias are always one of the largest groups in the trials each year, and it would be a very long post indeed to talk about all the new ones. But one that stood out as groundbreaking is 'Supertunia Morning Glory Charm.' The small flowers looked almost like a Calibrachoa but the vigor and color impact was all Petunia - by July the container was no longer visible due to the blooms reaching all the way to the ground! It's got a beautiful and unusual blue color, too.
The Geranium 'Glitterati Ice Princess' was one of the most vigorous variegated Geraniums we have trialed. All the Geraniums struggled a bit in the early cool weather, but this one held its own and looked great through September.
The Scaevola 'Surdiva' series is already on the Prairie Star list, and the newest 'White Improved' is a fantastic addition. It had a very nice compact growth habit and the plants were packed with white fan-shaped flowers that made a full circle around the stem. It looked great in the landscape and in containers.
Since every year is different on the prairie, these will all need to be tested again before they can be added to the Prairie Star list -- but so far there seems to be some exciting new flowers coming to the market that we can add to our color palette!
Even though we are easing into cooler weather, your patio planters of annual flowers do not have to lose their color. Now is the time to choose some plants that will continue to decorate your space for the fall season! You don't necessarily have to start from scratch, but rather remove any tired annuals that have passed their prime and replace the voids with some better looking options. Chrysanthemums, ornamental grasses, flowering kale, pansies and other cool-loving plants are great when planted alone or in combinations.
Ornamental peppers offer some nice late-season bursts of color with their foliage and/or fruits. There are many good dark-leaved varieties like 'Black Pearl,' while the All-America Selections winner for 2014, 'NuMex Easter' puts on a great show with its unique orange and purple combination.
We love the ornamental sweet potato 'Bewitched' - it's hard to get a more perfect plant for Halloween! Combine this spooky-looking foliage with a pumpkin or orange chrysanthemum and you have a fantastic decoration for your front entry. Other non-plant items can also go in your pots: ornamental gourds, decorative corn, and arts and craft items celebrating autumn, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. Involve your kids and grandkids - get creative and experiment with some fun fall displays!
Ornamental millet can also be used in fall containers. Their foliage provides good color, plus the bold seed heads offer some unique texture. Leave the plants out over winter to provide a natural bird feeder. Small birds enjoy the millet seed.
Lastly, remember that the color of the container can be as important as what goes in the pot! The plants in the picture below are all various shades of green, but when they are combined with bright colorful pottery it makes a very eye-catching display. The same can be done with autumnal hues.
An example of a city that successfully transitioned containers from summer to fall plantings is Greensburg, KS. This picture was taken before the infamous tornado hit and wiped out much of the town, but the community businesses always put out pots of summer annuals. When fall arrived they added some pumpkins and mums, but left the geraniums and sweet potatoes in tact. Easy and effective at adding color and beauty!
Located in the center of the Hutchinson Community College campus, this garden is an example of community groups working together with fantastic results. The Reno County Master Gardeners needed a place for their demonstration gardens and HCC was interested in enhancing their landscape. Horticulture Extension Agent Pam Paulsen collaborated with HCC groundskeeper Nathan Shelton and developed a plan with help from Dr. Alan Stevens, K-State Floriculture Specialist. The college approved it and has since embraced the garden. Master Gardeners provide the planning, planting, and maintenance, while the college is able to help with the big projects like soil work and constructing the garden beds and retaining walls.
Pam's own words tell of the great developments that have come about from the garden:
The president (HCC) really wanted to bring more visitors to campus and saw the garden as one way to do so. It's developed into a great partnership from there. The yard of the president (who just retired in June) was even on our garden tour last year. The new president is just as supportive. Since starting the garden, the HCC board of trustees has invited our Master Gardeners to one of their meetings each year to thank them for their hard work in the garden.
There is a Prairie Star bed, but also a wide assortment of other plants on display that grow well in the area. See the bird/butterfly garden, ornamental grass garden with plants donated by the KSU, John Pair Horticulture Center, a prairie/native garden, a cottage garden, raised vegetable beds, and a historic iris collection dating back to the 1850s.
Plans for 2015 include a Thomas Jefferson garden to display plants grown from seeds of the actual plants in Monticello, plus a shade garden display!
So next time you are in the area be sure to explore the gardens, then sit on one of the many benches and soak up all the beauty around you!
The garden is located in the center of Hutchinson Community College campus at 1300 N. Plum. For more information, contact the Reno County Extension Office at 620-662-2371.
Located at the El Dorado Lake State Park office, the Butler County Demonstration and Research Garden is a site in south central Kansas to see a nice assortment of annuals and perennials that are well-suited for the area. The garden is planted and maintained by Master Gardener volunteers, under the guidance of extension agent Larry Crouse. It's a great example of people working to make their community a more beautiful and enjoyable place to live!
The flower garden is located east of town at the entrance to the El Dorado Lake State Park.
For gardeners interested in more than flowers, there is also a demonstration garden 4 blocks south of the Extension Office in El Dorado – half of it is vegetables, showing things like raised beds, plastic culture, K-State vegetable variety trials, etc. The other half is landscaped with a water feature complete with a 3 ft waterfall, hardy perennials and shrubs that require little care, such as 5 earth-kind rose beds, lilacs, desert willow, cotoneaster, elderberry, iris, day lilies, redbud, vitex, sedum and grasses. There is even an area with more shade adapted plants such as hostas, clematis, japanese maple, viburnums and more. It is always open to the public and it is located on the north side of the recycle center.
For more information on either garden, contact the El Dorado Extension Office at 316-321-9660
206 N Griffith, Suite A
El Dorado, KS 67042-2039
Get out the popcorn! This is a movie trailer like no other! We obtained some video footage from a drone during the K-State OHREC field day in July. It certainly offered some great views that would otherwise be hard to get! Dr. Cary Rivard (the K-State Fruit & Vegetable Extension Specialist) and his son put together some clips in this fun compilation. Check it out - very high horticulture drama!
In Hays, Kansas, the KSU Agricultural Research Center is home to one of the larger testing sites for Prairie Star Flowers. If you live in the area or are passing by on I-70, it is an educational stop to see which flowers do well there. The grounds manager, Joe Becker, does a great job of making sure the plants are properly planted, labeled, and maintained. Every year offers a different display of color!
All of the flowers are nicely labeled, and some container trials are also included. This enables us to test some cultivars like Calibrachoa, that only perform well in pots, in the western Kansas climate.
A late-summer tradition in western Kansas are the K-State Horticulture Nights. The public is invited to come hear K-State Research & Extension experts talk on lawn and garden issues pertinent to the region. The KSU Agricultural Research Center - Hays hosts one night (see the previous blog post featuring the Northwest Research-Extension Center in Colby for the other).
The 2014 Program is being held on Thursday August 14. Registration starts at 5:30, with the program at 6:00. The speakers this year from K-State Research & Extension will address the following areas:
Flowers: Prairie Star Flower Trial
Lawn: Management Issues
Landscape: Shrub Varieties
Vegetables: Tomato & Pepper
Insects: Friends of the Garden
It is always an informative and fun evening! A light hotdog supper is provided.
Otherwise the grounds are open for visitors during daylight hours on regular business days.
KSU Agricultural Research Center - Hays
1232 240th Avenue
Hays, Kansas 67601
Located in the far northwest corner of the state in Colby, KS, the Northwest Research-Extension Center is a facility primarily used for agricultural research, but is also a trial site for Prairie Star flowers. This year marks the Center's 100th Anniversary as a site for agriculture research and outreach!
With Kansas being such a big state, the climate and growing conditions for the flowers at this site are quite different from the eastern or southern parts of the state. While the days are very hot and rain is scarce, the higher elevation and drier atmosphere lead to much cooler night temperatures. Under the cooler nights the flowers store more sugars in their petals, resulting in deeper, darker, richer and more vibrant colors.
The highly landscaped grounds and flower trials are a wonderful respite for travelers. Visitors are encouraged to stop and stroll through gardens. The grounds of the research & extension center are open during daylight hours 7 days a week.
Every year in late summer, Kansas State University holds a Horticulture Field Day at the Colby station. Held in the evening hours, it's a chance for local gardeners to hear pertinent information from K-State Research & Extension.
The 2014 Field Day is on August 13 with the following schedule:
5:30 Guided tour and Welcome
6:15 Speakers begin the program:
Tree selection and care for northwest Kansas
Turfgrass selection and care for northwest Kansas
Shrub selection and care for northwest Kansas
Prairie Star annual flower trials
Attendees are encouraged to bring in samples from their home gardens for identification and diagnosis.
The Northwest Research-Extension Center is located at:
105 Experiment Farm Rd
Colby, Kansas 67701-0505