Trials have become a big part of Costa Farms research and development program. In addition to conducting its own extensive evaluations, Costa Farms brought in four guest judges to spend a day evaluating more than 360 plants in its spring trials in Homestead, Fla. Visiting judges included Delilah Onofrey, editor of Greenhouse Grower; Dr. Jim Barrett of the University of Florida; Doug Jimerson, executive editor at Better Homes & Gardens; and Heather Will-Browne, who directs horticulture and the plantings at Walt Disney World.
Costa’s trials are directed by Dr. Kate Santos, who joined Costa from the University of Florida last fall. Being located near Miami provides the opportunity for three seasons of trials—Spring, Summer and Fall/Winter. The spring trials were planted in Week 45 in November and plants withstood an unseasonably cold winter in January. Summer plantings will be installed Week 23 in June and go through Week 33. Fall/Winter trials will run from weeks 34-8, starting over with Spring again, Weeks 9-22.
The trials are underwritten by sponsoring breeders and brokers, with Dummen, Ball and Syngenta representing the Gold level. Silver-level sponsors were Fafard and Sakata. Bronze-level sponsors included Fides, Bethel Farms, Ecke Ranch, Classic Caladiums, Aris, Proven Winners, ForemostCo., Michell’s, Benary, McGregor Plant Sales, EuroAmerican Propagators, Suntory and GroLink. In addition to the row trials, gold sponsors adopted beautifully landscaped beds that dressed up the grounds. Below are the highlights of plants from the trials, including the new black petunias from Ball.