Do you know what happened when the plant breeder crossed poison ivy with a four-leaf clover? He had a rash of good luck.

Speaking of luck, we’re fortunate to see and hear about the latest work of plant breeders and researchers during North Dakota State University’s upcoming garden event and tour.

NDSU’s Plant Science Department will host a public event called Plants, Local Foods and Outdoor Spaces from 3-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2, in the Horticulture Research and Demonstration Gardens, located on the NDSU campus at the corner of 12th Avenue North and 18th Street in Fargo.

The event will feature tours of the annual and perennial flower gardens. The gardens are also an official All-America Selections bedding plant display garden.

Each year in the beautiful display garden, the NDSU Plant Science Department evaluates the performance of more than 200 varieties of annual bedding plants. Plants are rated for vigor, bloom and uniformity. “New this year, we will have the public vote on their favorite annual bedding plants,” says Esther McGinnis, NDSU Extension horticulturist. “This is an example of how the public can help us with our research.”

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Red Spike Amaranthus as seen at the NDSU display gardens. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Red Spike Amaranthus as seen at the NDSU display gardens. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

In addition to garden tours, there will be talks under the big tent. Beginning at 3 p.m., NDSU art professor Meghan Duda will present “Art and Observation." At 3:30 p.m., Julie Garden-Robinson, Extension food and nutrition specialist, will present “Leafy Greens: Salad in a Jar.” At 4 p.m., I’ll discuss “Preparing Yard and Garden for Fall,” and NDSU Potato Breeder Susie Thompson will discuss potatoes at 4:30 p.m. At 5 p.m., Turf Specialist Alan Zuk will present “Turfgrass Selection and Care” at the turfgrass plot, and Esther McGinnis will discuss houseplants in the tent at 5:30.

Tours of the annual display gardens will be guided by NDSU’s Esther McGinnis and Research Technician Barb Laschkewitsch at 3:30 and 4:30. Besides annual flowers, the tours will include pollinator trials and the historic daylily collection.

There are children’s activities throughout the afternoon as well, including butterfly life cycles, cyanotype demonstration and the feeding habits of pollinators and insects. Extension Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer yard and garden questions, so samples can be brought for diagnosis or discussion.

Profusion Bicolor Zinnia is an All-America Selections winner. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Profusion Bicolor Zinnia is an All-America Selections winner. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

At 6 p.m., NDSU faculty will lead a special wagon riding tour of fruit, vegetable and irrigation research projects. Such research makes it easier to grow fruits and vegetables in home gardens. Included is information on small fruits, hardy grape breeding, vegetables, melons, irrigation and organic production.

Extension Master Gardeners will be at the site to accept donations of fresh garden produce and canned goods to benefit Fargo’s Emergency Food Pantry, as part of the Master Gardener Veggies for the Pantry initiative. “If you have excess cucumbers, tomatoes and other fresh produce, consider bringing them to the event to fight food insecurity,” McGinnis says.

I always enjoy visiting with Forum readers, so I hope you’ll attend. Voting for our favorite annual flower will be fun, and I don’t mean to sway your vote, but among the beautiful flowers, the following caught my eye:

  • Asian Garden Celosia: An All-American Selections (AAS) winner, unique pink, candlelike blossoms are held above sturdy plants.
  • American Gold Rush Rudbeckia: Another AAS winner, the mound-shaped plants are covered top to bottom with brilliant gold-colored flowers.
  • Holi Scarlet Zinnia: Showy large bright red flowers grace short plants perfect for flower bed edges or containers.
  • Profusion Yellow Bicolor Zinnia: A newer AAS winner, the prolific blooms are a unique blend of yellow, gold, red and pink.
  • Red Spike Amaranthus: Dramatic red spike-shaped flowers are held on plants 4 feet tall, making it an eye-catching background plant.
  • Fireworks gomphrena: A spreading mass of purple, this underused annual does well in hot, dry, full-sun locations.
  • Big Duck Yellow Marigold: An AAS winner, this large-flowered marigold maintains a neat habit of about 18 to 24 inches and is one of the best marigolds in the size category I’ve grown.

For a detailed schedule of events, visit https://www.ndsu.edu/agriculture/academics/events/plants-local-foods-and-outdoor-spaces. For more information, contact Esther McGinnis at 701-231-7971 or esther.mcginnis@ndsu.edu.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu.