2017 Mast Young Plants Field Trials Results

Mast Young Plants trialed more than 1,200 variety entries this year in Grand Rapids, MI. Former Research and Development Manager Laura Robles, who is now the Trials Manager at Walters Gardens, says the display garden typically houses a fairly similar number of entries from year to year since it is a living catalog of Mast Young Plants’ young plant program.

Here are her comments on the Mast Young Plant 2017 field trial season:

Entries: We try to hold the number of entries close to 1,200 each year, balancing our adds and drops to the program as much as possible, and this year we had just over our goal with 1,235. In addition to the display garden of items in our catalog, we featured around 210 of the Ball FloraPlant varieties that we carry as a rooting station and also 16 Green Fuse Botanicals First Light perennials.   

Our comparison trial this year focused on the summer-loving genera lantana, scaevola, and annual salvia, as well as begonias, and totaled about 360 varieties, and there were about 50 varieties in our All-America Selections garden, for a grand total of just over 1,500 entries.

We also have a private trial site at a different location where we had another 1,200-plus varieties of annuals and perennials in containers and hanging baskets, mostly varieties that were introduced at California Spring Trials this past spring.

Weather: This year felt like a pretty normal summer overall. Average temperatures were very close to what Grand Rapids normally averages throughout the summer, with only a couple of short stretches of very hot weather (about a week in June and a few days in July). The biggest difference from a normal year was that we were about 3½ inches under the normal rainfall for the months of June, July, and August, which put us in the abnormally dry category but not into a drought. We saw very little disease pressure until September in terms of mildews, etc.

Challenges: Overall, this year went quite well, with very little in terms of disease stress, and the weather conditions were favorable for our garden trials. The biggest challenge this year was keeping up with weeding and plant maintenance, which is something we face every year.

New: This year we decided to increase our spacing on our large containers in the garden, so we increased them to 4 feet on centers and used more of our lower garden space to accommodate them. This was definitely a good move, as the plants had more air movement and room to grow without touching their neighbors, and it also made viewing and photographing the varieties more enjoyable for our visitors. We also made sure that all of the large panterra pots were up on a cement block, which further increased air circulation and helped with drainage.

Judging: Our display garden is not judged formally, but we definitely use it as a learning tool for everyone from customer service to growing to research and development, to learn more about the varieties and what performs best in a given year, as well as for our customers and other visitors to learn from.

The All-America Selections (AAS) garden is judged according to the AAS standards. Our blind trial is evaluated on a bi-weekly basis on a number of criteria including but not limited to bloom quantity and quality, disease-resistance, habit, etc., and it is voted on by our visitors so we can get an idea of what their favorites are.

Top Ten Performers: (not necessarily in order)

Dianthus ‘Rockin’ Red’

Phlox Gisele Series

Canna Cannova Series

Calibrachoa ‘Bloomtastic Rose Quartz’ and ‘Bloomtastic Serenity’

Cleome ‘Clio Pink Lady

Bidens Pretty in Pink’

Bidens ‘White Delight’

Scaevola ‘Surdiva Blue Violet’

Lobelia ‘Techno Heat Dark Blue’

Calendula ‘Caleo Yellow’ and ‘Caleo Orange’

Best In Show

Begonia On Top Sunset Shades

Consumer Favorites

Eucalyptus ‘Silver Drop’

Chick Charms

Begonia On Top Sunset Shades

Calibrachoa ‘Chameleon Blueberry Scone’

Celosia ‘Intenz’

Nemesia ‘Babycakes Little Orange’

Zonal Geranium ‘Tango Cherry Bicolor’

Canna Cannova Series

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