Visiting Flower Trials: Worth the Journey!by Brian Wheat on September 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm
One of the best perks of being the Flower Guy is to get out and explore and source plants and flowers. There is nothing I like more than to jump in my truck and head down (or up) the road visiting great growers. Standing out in a colorful perennial field or looking over a crop of annuals in a greenhouse, and chatting with the owner about how the home gardener is going to love a new color or variety… really makes my day. I am truly blessed in Colorado to have some of the nation’s top growers just a stone’s throw away.
Every year, for the last 20 or so, I’ve attended flower trials. In late summer, these displays are sponsored by breeder and plant companies to showcase their newest and improved product. An opportunity to see what’s coming down the pike in the flower market. Garden professionals, growers, wholesalers, retailers and the general public get to see how these plants perform in their backyards and region. A fun time, taking pictures, voting for favorites, jotting down notes for next season, talking with other plant/flower lovers. Basically you’re a kid in a candy shop.
My friends at Welby Gardens host the Hardy Boy Flower Trials in their greenhouses in Arvada, Colorado. We gazed over 900 new or improved flower varieties and cast votes for best of show. This
year’s carnival theme attracted over 300 industry leaders. Colorful descriptive names of plants like Karma, Funtastic, Super Sonic, Bonfire and Tumbler were labeled on their signage. There were hundreds of new cultivars of old workhorses of the garden like geraniums, petunias and impatiens, but also many new faces of osteospermum, angelonias and verbenas. The plants are judged and evaluated on the number of flowers, leaf count and color, informality of habit, disease/insect resistance, performance, and overall appearance. Thanks to our industry supporters and suppliers that generously help sponsor the event.
This year’s Top Three Winners 2012 are: (drum roll please)
1st Place- Verbena, Lanai, “Candy Cane”: Early to bloom, non-stop eye catching red and white flowers. Full sun, resistant to powdery mildew and tolerant of heat and humidity. Trailing habit that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
2nd Place- Oxalis, Allure, “Ebony” Accent plant for both its flowers and shamrock foliage. Full sun and mounding habit. Stunning black foliage with white/light pink flowers that provide excellent color and contrast in patio pots.
3rd Place- Angelonia, Alonia, “Big Indigo” (my personal fav): Loves the sun with its dark blue flower spikes. Common name is Summer Snapdragon. Compact mounded growth habit. Vigorous and perfect for patio containers, landscape plantings and window boxes.
Look for these and other new plant varieties next spring in your local garden centers.
Another great Colorado tradition of flower trials is just up the road in Fort Collins. Colorado State University plants up an outdoor garden display on their campus. This test area is open daily to the public and is free of charge from late May to October. A gorgeous display, with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, maintained by dedicated Staff and hard working horticulture students.
So, as you travel around this floral nation, Google “flower trials” and stop by and visit nature’s beautiful bounty of flowers. From Epcot to Cornell there are more than 40 trials annually across the nation. It’s worth the trip. Drop me a note or picture of your journey!