One of the highlights of going to the Tropical Plants Industry Exhibition (TPIE) is heading down the coast to Costa Farms in Miami. The innovative grower hosts the Season Premier Trials there, which includes a night of breeder presentations to the grower councils for big box retailers like Lowe’s and The Home Depot. During these presentations, breeders reveal new variety introductions and growers then determine what varieties to grow and trial for the big boxes. It’s sort of a season kick-off for new varieties. The next stop: California Spring Trials.
Costa Farms grows new varieties in a two-acre garden, where they are presented in traditional trial plots, landscape beds, idea gardens, containers and hanging baskets. This year’s hanging basket trial focused on begonias and geraniums, because they are so popular among consumers, says Costa’s Consumer Marketing and Digital Specialist Justin Hancock, who designed the trial gardens.
Lowe’s and The Home Depot also get to see a retail set up for their respective stores, where varieties are presented on retail benches and left for two weeks, with only one watering per day, Hancock says. The gardens included a deck with container-grown vegetables to present the way consumers are growing their produce, and included ideas for incorporating veggies and herbs with flowers for attractive and delicious-looking combos.
Costa Farms also takes the opportunity to premier some of their new ideas and products. This year’s cool new offering was the Drop & Grow flats – “plants for creative gardening and landscape trouble spots.” Drop & Grow allows gardeners and landscape pros to drop flats of plants onto the garden bed and fill in soil gently around them, water them in and go, Hancock says. Flats can be monoculture crops or combos. Costa trialed these among pavers to show how they take the work out of planting flower beds, both for the gardener and the professional landscaper.