KC Gardens

Get a glimpse of new plants for our climate at research center’s Field Day

The research center is testing more than 500 species and varieties of annual flowers.
The research center is testing more than 500 species and varieties of annual flowers. Special to The Star

The K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Center has been testing more than 500 species and varieties of plants to see what will work best in our climate. And now it is offering you a rare chance to see just how they all fared … or didn’t.

Go behind the scenes Saturday to get a peek at the newest varieties at the annual Field Day at the center in Olathe. The Field Day offers a chance to see how universities influence your purchases as they test plants for future release and to talk with university professors about tips for success in the home garden.

The center provides valuable information for Kansas City residents, since trials are conducted right in our backyard under similar growing conditions and soil type.

The showpiece is the Prairie Star annual flower trials. Plant breeders from all over the world have submitted entries to be grown under our ever-changing and often brutal Midwest growing conditions. If a plant not only grows but thrives under our local conditions, that makes it a winner here.

This year more than 500 species and varieties of annual flowers are being tested. Highlights of the trials include dwarf cannas and coleus. Many of the plants are tested both in the ground and in containers; research has found many plants are best suited for container growth. Other trends are more pollinator-friendly plants, and vegetables for smaller spaces such as containers for urban dwellers.

The research center is leading the way with the local food movement. K-State researchers are working with growers to improve their techniques, which leads to better yields and a wider selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Research into more extensive high tunnel growing allows producers to extend the season on many crops and improve quality, which benefits you as a consumer. See how your local produce is being grown. Bring money, as fresh produce will be for sale. Hot trends such as urban gardening, cultural gardening and foodscaping will also be featured.

The Field Day will also feature turf research that helps determine the best variety of grass for your lawn or the best herbicide to control the nasty weeds. Fertilization and watering studies have been conducted to help you maintain a nice lawn with less inputs. This is your chance to talk with K-State turf science professors about issues that concern you.

The Johnson County Extension Master Gardeners maintain a demonstration garden that focuses on backyard gardening. Plantings include vegetables, trees and small fruits, herbs, a cutting flower garden and an extensive perennial display with some of the best varieties for local gardens.

Throughout the day there will be lectures, informal presentations and friendly faces to answer all your questions and enhance your look at university research.

Horticulture Field Day

8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, July 29, at the K-State Research and Extension Horticulture Center, 35230 W. 135th St., Olathe (about 9 miles west of Kansas 7 on 135th Street). Admission is $5; cold water is free and lunch can be purchased at the site. For more information go to johnson.k-state.edu or call 913-715-7000.