Gaillardia compositae ‘Fanfare’ By Paul Pilon

Being a “die hard” plant lover and a commercial perennial grower, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of really cool plants out there. But how many times are the cool plants not conducive to commercial production? They are, more often than not, either too expensive and/or hard to grow. Both of these traits combined will drive even the most adventurous grower away from commercially producing these types of plants. But, occasionally a really exciting plant comes along that can easily be placed into mainstream perennial production. Gaillardia ‘Fanfare’ is one of those plants that has caught my eye and is receiving rave reviews from countless growers, retailers and avid gardeners alike.

Like its name implies, Fanfare produces a large flourish of tubular, scarlet, trumpet-like blooms with bright yellow flares. The astonishing display of flowers begins in June and lasts throughout the summer and even into early fall when the blooms are dead-headed. Not only does Fanfare make an impressive display as a landscape plant, it performs well in containers and has a long vase life when used as a cut flower. It’s compact, mounding plant habit reaches 12-18 inches high, and it is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

Gaillardia cultivars belong to the family Asteracea, which includes numerous other commercially grown perennials such as aster, coreopsis, echinacea, erigeron, heliopsis, liatris, rudbeckia and solidago. This floriferous, long-blooming gaillardia was discovered by Richard Reed in West Sussex, England. PlantHaven out of Santa Barbara, Calif., has brought Fanfare to the North American market and currently holds the propagation license for this variety.

Propagation

Fanfare is vegetatively propagated through tip cuttings by a limited number of licensed propagators. Plant patent protection has been applied for, and self-propagation is strictly prohibited. Rooted liners are available in sizes ranging between 72-cell and 21/2-inch pots; see below for a listing of the current licensed propagators.

Production

Typically, Fanfare is produced in 1- or 2-gal. containers. For best performance, plant one liner into each pot filled with a good-quality, well-drained peat- or bark-based growing medium. The pH of the media should be maintained between 5.8 and 6.5. Fanfare is a light to moderate feeder, requiring a controlled-release fertilizer incorporated at a rate equivalent to 1 lb. of nitrogen per yard of growing medium. Growers using constant liquid ç fertilizer programs can irrigate with 50-100 ppm nitrates with each watering or 150-200 ppm at every other watering.

Gaillardia requires an average amount of irrigation, with a preference towards being on the dry side. It does not tolerate real wet or overly dry conditions. I recommend, when watering is required, to do so thoroughly and allow the substrate to dry slightly between waterings. Fanfare grows best when produced under long-day conditions (daylength over 14 hours) with high light levels.

Depending on the time of the year, production temperatures and size of the starter material, Fanfare can generally be grown to a finished size in as little as 6-8 weeks. For example, when a 72-cell plug is transplanted into a 1-gal. container in calendar week 10, then grown at temperatures averaging 65¼ F, it will generally reach a finished size in approximately eight weeks. Whereas, when transplanting occurs during week five and temperatures average 65¼ F, it will most likely take at least 10 weeks to reach saleable size.

Fanfare is very floriferous and will flower under any photoperiod. It does not have a critical photoperiod necessary to achieve flowering. Regardless of the daylength, Fanfare will flower faster when grown under high light intensities. Providing supplemental lighting is not necessary but will reduce the time to flower, especially when grown under low light levels. Due to its free-flowering habit, many growers find it beneficial to pinch off any visible flowers either at planting time or within the first two weeks of production. This early pinch builds more of a well-branched plant as opposed to the plant putting its energy into producing flowers.

Some growers have also found it beneficial to apply Florel as a chemical pinching agent/lateral branching promoter. If desirable, apply 500 ppm Florel when the roots become established and the plant is actively growing. Although this Florel application is not always necessary, it generally helps to build a fuller appearing plant. Florel applications often delay flowering by up to six weeks. If this application is necessary, I recommend applying it only one time and early in the production cycle, as mentioned above.

To extend the flowering season, it is also beneficial to remove any spent blooms. When deadheaded throughout the season, Fanfare will bloom continuously. Many growers cut their perennials back when they are either too large or when flowering is finished. Once trimmed back, they can often be re-flushed and sold later that season. When a majority of the flowering is done, containers of Fanfare can be trimmed back to approximately 4 inches above the top of the pot and re-grown into blooming plants in about six weeks.

Usually, when grown with adequate spacing and proper growing conditions, it is not necessary to apply chemical growth regulators. If growth control is necessary, B-Nine combined with Bonzi has been effective at controlling the height of Fanfare. In the northern United States, B-Nine at 2,500 ppm combined with Bonzi at 15 ppm has shown adequate control of plant height when two applications are applied seven days apart.

Pests and diseases

Aphids are the primary pest of gaillardia. They can be controlled preventatively using systemic products such as Endeavor, Marathon or TriStar. Curative chemicals such as pyrethroids or insecticidal soaps can also be applied as needed. For this crop, I would recommend applying a drench of Marathon 60 WP once plants are rooted to provide season-long control of aphids.

There are no major diseases known to plague this crop at this time. As mentioned earlier, plants do best when grown slightly dry. If produced under overly wet conditions, root and crown roots such as Pythium or Phytopthora are more likely to occur. With good watering practices, adequate plant spacing and plenty of air circulation, the occurrence of most diseases can almost be negated.

Availability

Currently gaillardia Fanfare is available to growers as finished plugs from two licensed propagators: Walters Gardens, Zeeland, Mich., and Skagit Gardens, Mount Vernon, Wash. Fanfare will also be available through two mail order companies: Jackson & Perkins, Medford, Ore., and Wayside Gardens, Hodges, S.C.

Paul Pilon

Paul Pilon is head grower at Sawyer Nursery, Hudsonville, Mich. He can be reached by E-mail at pjpexpress@juno.com.



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