In addition to evaluating poinsettia cultivars, the National Poinsettia trials, with trial locations at the University of Florida, North Carolina State University and Homewood Nursery, Raleigh, N.C., surveys consumers regarding their favorite poinsettias.
University of Florida. At the University of Florida, evaluations were conducted in the production greenhouses. Participants were asked to select their 10 favorite cultivars from all cultivars, which were labeled (see Figure 1, right). In addition, sel-ected cultivars were arranged in groups of five or six and participants were asked to select the one cultivar they would purchase (see Figure 2, page 21). Plants were numbered and not labeled by cultivar name. Results were based on 237-379 responses.
Homewood Nursery. At Homewood, the public voted for their five favorite poinsettias from a group of 45, each identified by a number (see Figure 3, page 22). Customers were asked to select their five favorites without ranking them. The survey was conducted from Nov. 18 to Dec. 10, 2006, and 660 people voted.
North Carolina State University. At North Carolina State University, an open house took place just for consumers. All 104 cultivars were presented, with two plants of each cultivar on display. Of the 200 attendees at the open house, 115 completed surveys. It was not an easy task because there were so many cultivars from which to choose. To make the job easier, cultivars were organized into six groups: red, pink, white, jingle, marble and novelties. Consumers were asked to select their three favorite cultivars within each group (see Figure 4, page 23). They also were asked to select their three overall favorite cultivars from all of the cultivars on display (see Figure 4, page 23).
The star of the trials was ‘Ice Punch’ from Paul Ecke Ranch. This cultivar had a striking new color pattern with a blaze of pinkish white in the center of each bright, rosy-red bract. ‘Ice Punch’ topped the consumer surveys at the three trial locations. Consumers are notoriously fickle on preferences, so it is rare to have consumers in all three locations pick the same cultivar as the favorite. More than 50 percent of participants at the University of Florida and Homewood trials picked it as one of their favorites, and around one-third of those at the NC State Open House selected it as well.
Two other cultivars were also among the top favorites in all three locations. ‘Sonora White Glitter’ ranked fourth at the University of Florida and Homewood trials and fifth at North Carolina State University. Consumers said they loved the bold combination of bright red, white and green that ‘White Glitter’ presents. This well-established cultivar has often been among the top favorites at these trials.
A newer cultivar, ‘Visions of Grandeur’, ranked third at the University of Florida and ninth at Homewood and NC State. This vigorous plant has large, slightly ruffled bracts that make quite a show. The color starts as a pale golden pink, darkening to a light peachy pink as the plant ages.
Among cultivars that ranked in the top 10 in at least two locations were ‘Cortez Burgundy’ and ‘Premium Picasso’. ‘Cortez Burgundy’ is another perennial favorite for its rich burgundy-red bracts. It ranked second at the University of Florida and sixth at Homewood. A more recent introduction, ‘Premium Picasso’, has a striking Á pattern similar to ‘Monet Twilight’ but is more compact with dark-green leaves and a longer post-harvest life. Picasso’s bracts are apricot pink and heavily marked with rose-pink flecks coalescing into a rose-pink margin. This color pattern has proven exceptionally popular over the years. It received much notice and publicity when ‘Monet’ was released many years ago, and consumers have ranked either it or its replacement, ‘Monet Twilight’, very high every year since then.
It is in the red category that opinions differ quite a bit among consumers at the various trials. ‘Premium Red’ and ‘Christmas Feelings’ were the top-ranked reds at the University of Florida. At Homewood, the favorites were ‘Enduring Red’, ‘Estrella Red’ and Ecke 1090. A different set, ‘Metro Red’, ‘Christmas Carol’ and ‘Christmas Star’, topped the surveys at North Carolina State University.
The difficulty with studying red is there are so many cultivars with very similar shades of red from which the consumers have to choose. University of Florida tried to shed some light on the question with a focused comparison of several shades of red (see Figure 2). The brighter red of ‘Christmas Feelings’ was preferred by a little more than 50 percent of the respondents. Complicating matters is that reds look very different under the natural sunlight in a greenhouse, the fluorescent lights of grocery stores or the HID lights of some home improvement stores.
White poinsettia cultivars are especially important these days due to the popularity of painted poinsettias. ‘White Christmas’ with its bright white bracts ranked first among whites at both Homewood and NC State Univer-sity. Florida tackled the painted poinsettia issue with a focused comparison of various colors (see Figure 2, page 21). The favorite was actually ‘Monet Twilight’ colored with neon orange. ‘Snowcap’ decorated with brown and glitter ranked second.
‘Polly’s Pink’ was a standout due to it very bright, almost fluorescent-pink color. It was the favorite pink at University of Florida and ranked second among pinks at Homewood. ‘Mars Pink’, which was released just last year to complement ‘Mars Red’, was the favorite pink at Homewood and the second-favorite pink at North Carolina State University. ‘Enduring Pink’ with its perky, upright-facing bracts ranked first at NC State.
In the jingle category, besides the previously discussed ‘Sonora White Glitter’, ‘Shimmer Surprise’ received the most votes at Homewood for three years in a row now and was the second-ranked jingle at University of Florida. This striking cultivar is a bold jingle bell pattern with large white and pink patches and spots on bright-red bracts.
Finally, three other novelty reds should be discussed in addition to ‘Ice Punch’. ‘Carousel Dark Red’, a very dark red version of ‘Carousel Red’ made a great impact. It was one of the top five cultivars with consumers in Homewood’s trials and one of the top five novelty cultivars at NC State. As with the original cultivar, the bracts were small with wavy edges but much darker. ‘Prestige Maroon’ was the third overall cultivar at Home-wood and fifth among reds at NC State. This dark, brick-red version of ‘Prestige Red’ has the same strong branching and uniformity as the popular ‘Prestige Red’. ‘Avant-garde Red’ was the favorite among six novelty reds in Florida and among the top 10 overall at NC State. This quirky red has distinctively irregular red bracts.