Chasing The Flags At UGA’s Field Trials

Chasing The Flags At UGA's Field Trials

The Trial Gardens at the University of Georgia (UGA) are open every day, and every day campus and townspeople wander through, enjoying the beauty and occasionally taking notes. Each year we organize two formal open houses, one for the commercial industry and one for the gardening public. This year we had nearly 300 people at the industry affair in June.

Three weeks later, we hosted nearly 500 people at the public get-together. Each attendee is given three small plastic flags to tag their favorite plants. When presented with more than 2,000 taxa, choosing but three is a daunting task.

From these events, we learn a number of things–not all plant related. The first is that people are returning to plants. Even given the miserable economy, the depressing news we are constantly subjected to, and for us, temperatures well over 90°F on the days of the open houses, record numbers of people came to see flowers, beauty and fragrance. They even paid! It is still tough out there, but let’s be at least as optimistic as our visitors.

The second thing we learn is that people want to be impressed. Often it is not the jazzy new cultivar hyped at California Spring Trials that catches a visitor’s eyes, but the lesser-known plants in a mixed container or single flower in a basket or bed that is most popular. However, if a plant does not get flagged, it’s not necessarily a negative–it may be the result of too many geraniums, petunias or calibrachoas on display. So people simply walk by. But there is no denying the buzz when a dozen flags are fluttering in front of one variety.

Lastly, members of the floral industry and the public do not always agree on what catches the eye. But I suppose that’s no newsflash.

The overall winner, hereafter named the UGA Award (pronounced “ugg-uh,” not as individual letters) is rudbeckia ‘Denver Daisy’ from Benary. Voted first overall in the industry visit and second by the public, this is the only plant that was in the top five vote-getters by both groups. Even those of us who see it every day give it top marks.

Other Picks

‘Scentropia Dark Blue’ heliotropium. This was a bit of surprise to us, but it’s a great plant to be sure. People loved the deep color and excellent habit of this Syngenta Flowers variety. This was number two in the industry polling and also did well by the public.

Generic vines. Another huge surprise: Two vines absolutely kicked the competition. Senecio confusus (orange flamevine) was in full flower during the industry open house, and Cissus discolor (rex begonia vine) was in the garden community’s top five. This is a quick lesson for those who discount vines: if properly displayed, people love them.

Petunias. We have more than 75 petunias on display so I was particularly interested in which varieties would be selected. The overall winner chosen by both groups was ‘Rhythm and Blues’ from Ball FloraPlant. Industry people chose Ball FloraPlant’s ‘Black Velvet’ first, but the public chose ‘Pretty Much Picasso’ from Proven Winners as its runaway winner, followed by Syngenta’s ‘Hurrah Blue Vein.’ ‘Black Velvet’ did not make the public list.

Coleus. There was not as much interest in coleus this year compared to other years–none was in the industry top 10–but the public still loves them. Athens Select’s ‘Mariposa’ was ranked number four overall by gardeners. ‘Red Head’ and ‘Henna’ from Ball FloraPlant also garnered significant public flags.

Lantanas. Only a dozen or so lantanas were on display in 2010, and ‘Lucky Sunrise Rose’ was the clear winner in industry polling. No lantana cracked the public top 10.

Geraniums. A difficult category to judge because of the sheer numbers. The only one to be on both lists was Syngenta’s ‘Caliente Orange,’ although Syngenta’s ‘Calliope Deep Red’ and Dömmen’s ‘Atlantic Burgundy’ did well in public voting.

Portulacas. These were also surprise vote-getters, but if allowed to show off, there are few more eye-catching plants. Way ahead of everyone (fifth place, public) was Sakata’s ‘Duet Rose & Yellow Stripe.’ The public also liked Danziger’s ‘Pazazz Ultra Pink’ but none made the industry’s top 10.

Osteospermums. The best by far was Ecke’s ‘Crescendo Primrose,’ which has been stunning from day one. Not far behind it was ‘Crescendo Yellow.’

Vegetables. We displayed many veggies in the trials this year and, oh my, did the public love them. We focused mainly on the patio vegetables from Floranova. The overall winner in this category was ‘Ivory’ eggplant, with small, clean white fruit. Pay attention to these patio varieties, we may only have a few strong market years in vegetables, so let’s take advantage of public sentiment. 

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 4, 2015

California Spring Trials Preview: 32 New Perennials For…

Perennials are hot and if this preview of the 2015 California Spring Trials is any indication, there are going to be some great new perennial introductions for 2016. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new perennials making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years …

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More

February 18, 2015

California Spring Trials Sneak Peek: New Annuals For 20…

If you're like us and you can't wait until the 2015 California Spring Trials to see some of the new genetics that will be hitting the market in 2016, never fear. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out our slideshow to see some of the new annuals making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Athena Brazil Salvia 'Brazilian Purple'

February 18, 2015

ForemostCo And Athena Brazil Unite To Supply Unrooted P…

ForemostCo, Inc. and Athena Brazil have forged a working relationship to support each other in the unrooted perennial cuttings market for North America. The partnership, geared toward accommodating increasing demand for unrooted perennial cuttings in North America, adds diversity to a recently consolidated market.

Read More

February 17, 2015

Poinsettias Had Their Best Year In Many In 2014

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Growers were encouraged by high plant quality, enthusiastic shoppers and a stronger, less saturated market for poinsettias throughout the selling season. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish.

Read More
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

February 17, 2015

Geranium Hybrid ‘Biokovo’ Dubbed 2015 Peren…

Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo,' a naturally occurring hybrid of G. dalmaticum and G. macrorrhizum, is the Perennial Plant Association's top pick for 2015 Perennial of the Year. Learn why this tough, landscape geranium took home the prize.

Read More
Costa Farms' Season Premier 2015

February 4, 2015

Costa Farms’ 2015 Season Premier Reveals Newest V…

The annual Season Premier at Costa Farms in Miami, Fla., is the industry's very first peek at new varieties for debut the following year, even before the California Spring Trials, heralded widely as the jumping off point for new varieties. This year's event revealed breeders' best and brightest new varieties for 2016, shown in field trials, landscape trials and containers at Costa Farms tropical trial gardens. Plant breeders presented their new varieties to buyers and members of Lowe’s grower panel. Growers, brokers and other allied industry members, including Home Depot growers and buyers, were also able to peruse the grounds to see how the new varieties fared in the winter trials. Later this season, the hot and humid conditions at Costa’s summer trials will help identify the true performers.

Read More

January 28, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces Additional 2015 Winne…

All-America Selections has announced more 2015 AAS Winners, bringing the grand total of introductions for the 2015 gardening year to 25. The seven winners join the 12 announced last November and six announced last July. This year, AAS has had the most winners in one year since 1939.

Read More

January 28, 2015

Holiday Plant Trends And New Varieties

Growers had mixed feelings about the 2014 poinsettia season according to Greenhouse Grower's 2014 Poinsettia Survey. Read about their plans for 2015 and stay up to date on 14 of the newest cyclamen and poinsettia varieties on the market.

Read More

January 21, 2015

Pantone Marsala Plants To Grow In 2015 [Slideshow]

Marsala, an earthy wine-red color, is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2015, and it presents a great marketing opportunity to showcase Marsala-colored plants for outdoor and indoor decorating. Enjoy this round-up of plants with Marsala hues.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Liven Up Indoor And Outdoor Living With 24 New Tropical…

Uniquely colored foliage and vivid blooms are just two of the great features new tropicals and foliage plants add to energize indoor and outdoor spaces.

Read More

January 13, 2015

Take Purdue University’s Survey On Vegetatively P…

Do you have problems callusing or rooting vegetatively propagated perennials? The Purdue University Floriculture Lab would like to help you with these problems, but first the research team there needs your help.

Read More
Poinsettia 'Charon Red'

January 6, 2015

Dan Schantz Farm 2014 Poinsettia Trial Recap And 2015 D…

The 2014 Dan Schantz Poinsettia trials featured more than 170 poinsettia varieties. Here's a summary of the event, as well as a 2015 date for your calendar.

Read More

December 31, 2014

Engage Busy Consumers With Modern-Day Tropical And Foli…

Contemporary tropical and foliage plants fit right in with the hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century. Their versatility lends itself to countless uses both inside the house and out on the patio.

Read More

December 30, 2014

2015 California Spring Trials Are Just Around The Corn…

Are the California Spring Trials on your schedule for 2015? Before the busy growing season sidelines your plans, use this handy resource to get a jumpstart on registering for your trip.

Read More

December 29, 2014

Top 5 Slideshows Of 2014

These popular slideshows from 2014 highlight everything from new perennials, to new veggies, to California Spring Trials.

Read More