Getting Results

When great minds think alike, great things happen. The new Plant Trials Database is an example. Launched just last year, the goal is to consolidate information from the many trial gardens across the U.S. in a database that can be easily viewed and analyzed.

The brainchild of three industry leaders: Allan Armitage, Greenhouse Grower columnist and professor emeritus of horticulture at the University of Georgia, Diane Blazek, executive director of All-America Selections (AAS) and Timothy Howard, president of Clarity Connect — the development of the database is a solution to a need for consistency and easy access to information on trials results.

While not yet available to growers, the database allows breeders and trial managers to quickly see results from multiple trials and evaluate varieties.

“I had been wanting to do something where plants trialed in different locations can be easily viewed by anyone — certainly the breeders who pay money to get plants in the trials and by other trial gardens who might be interested,” Armitage says. “A number of years ago I talked to a couple of people in the South — in Tennessee and Dallas — and said, ‘Let’s just put our links on each other’s sites.’ We did that for awhile, but it never went any further. But about a year and a half ago, we said, ‘It’s time to really do this.’ So I started writing some people to find out what we could do to really get this going.”

Armitage found out he wasn’t the only one who saw the need. “Diane Blazek wrote me and said, ‘Someone told me you’re interested in doing a national trials site. It turns out we’re talking about that also at AAS.’ So we decided to do it together,” he says.

Blazek, who had begun working on the database idea in response to breeders who had asked for it at a meeting earlier that year, says, “That’s what I love about this industry — instead of competing, we said there was no need to make more than one — we’ll just work together.”

Connecting AAS to the project seemed natural, Blazek says. “Somebody needed to manage the program, and we’re the neutral party,” she says. “Our breeders were telling us to do this. We’re here to serve the industry, so for me, I just felt this was a very important role for us to play. We have relationships with so many of the trial gardens already, so that was also an easy step.”

Howard’s company, Clarity Connect, develops websites for the green industry, and he was asked to help design and construct the site.Functionality and consistency of presentation were of prime importance. The dozens of trial gardens provide their information in many different formats, including websites, Excel spreadsheets, downloadable PDFs, Word documents, etc., which was one issue. Another is
that some gardens collect data twice during the season, and some collect it three times. The types of information collected also may vary.

“We wanted a breeder to be able to get in and see how a variety did in multiple locations and make it easy for them,” Howard says.

How It Works

A trial garden gives a rating from zero to five for each plant. “Zero is dead and five is fabulous,” Armitage says. “This way, if a breeder sees that the plant was a five in Georgia and a two in Minnesota, maybe it’s a better plant for the South.”

Each plant’s ratings are averaged as well, so it is easy to see how it performed overall.

The Plant Trials Database is not intended to replace the individual trial gardens’
reports and websites.

“We’re starting with basic information and continuing to grow it,” says Blazek. “We’re not saying this is the only site and you’ll never have to refer to the other reports anymore. But it’s a good quick view, and you can make comparisons on the site.”
The websites of all the participating trial gardens are included on the Plant Trials Database, so it is easy to find more detailed information.

Blazek says they wanted to make it as easy as possible for trial managers, but sometimes participating in the database required some adjustments, such as changing their rating scale in order to be consistent with ratings from the other trials.
Another issue was making sure the names of plants were entered correctly, as Begonia boliviensis ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’ would not be recognized by the computer as being the same as Begonia ‘Santa Cruz Sunset.’ To maintain consistency, only breeders can enter the names of the plants.

Breeders Get Behind The Idea

“We have a pretty good list of breeders participating — we have most of the major players now,” Howard says.

Breeders pay $3,000 to sign up and then $1,200 per year after that. The money is used to support website development, and Armitage says ultimately he would like to see some go back to the trial gardens. A company can submit one variety or 500, but they should be plants that are actually being tested at one or more of the trial garden locations.

“I would think, given the cost, even if you’re not one of the major breeders, if you have 10 or 15 new plants it would be money well spent,” Howard says. “By submitting your plants, if you send them to 15 different trial locations, you can get consolidated reports.”

Currently, only breeders and trial garden managers can log on and access the database, but that may eventually change.
“We will discuss in year two and beyond what other audience would benefit from accessing the trial results,” Howard says.

Because the database has only been in use for a year, Howard says they have been listening carefully to users and tweaking as needed.

“Originally, we didn’t think of adding how it was grown,” he says. “But now we’ve added a ‘where planted’ category.  In other words, is it in the ground, or a container or a hanging basket. People need to be able to understand the difference between those. I want to schedule a follow-up webinar with breeders and trial garden managers to look at the pros and cons of this year and what needs to be done next year,” Howard says.

“We’re going to try to get more breeders and trial gardens to participate and continue to build it and make it more robust and available,” Blazek says. “We want to grow it, expand it and listen to both the breeders and the trial managers at this point. When the actual number of users starts to expand, we’ll listen to them and continue to make it something that will be very useful to different segments of the industry.”                                                                                             GG

Leave a Reply

More From Variety Trials...

June 7, 2016

It’s Time To Rethink The Value And Timing Of California Spring Trials [Opinion]

Fourteen years ago, Greenhouse Grower saw an opportunity to bring next-day coverage of California Pack Trials (now California Spring Trials or CAST) to your inbox. The objective was to be your eyes and ears on location, to report the debut of the newest varieties and marketing programs, and report major breeder announcements, especially for those not attending. We continued to develop new story-telling tools with video capabilities, slideshows, and more. And once social media took hold, everyone attending CAST became reporters of their favorite varieties and displays at trials. So we’re left with the question — how should we continue to evolve our coverage, to bring the most value for you? It’s easy to fall into a certain pattern, to stick with what works — or seems to work. And just because you’re working really hard at something that you’ve had success with in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s […]

Read More
National Garden Bureau CAST 2016 Bloggers

May 3, 2016

5 Things Gardens Bloggers And Writers Learned At California Spring Trials

For the second year in a row, the National Garden Bureau hosted five popular garden bloggers and writers on a trip to California Spring Trials. Here’s what each of them had to say about their experience.

Read More
Syngenta Pentas

April 20, 2016

Syngenta Flowers Opens Its Perennial Genetics To The Market, And Plans To Change The Future Of Pentas And Geranium Breeding

California Spring Trials 2016 visitors to Syngenta Flowers found the breeder company and its employees happy and excited for the future, in the wake of the announcement of its acquisition by ChemChina. Now Syngenta Flowers is ready to move forward with its breeding efforts in geraniums, pentas, and other crops, and it is opening its perennials offerings to the whole supply chain for a better chance to get those plants to retail.     Syngenta Wants To Revolutionize Geranium Breeding The big news in this year’s trial, says Karl Trellinger, Technical Services Representative at Syngenta, is the change in Syngenta’s breeding efforts in geraniums and pentas. The Calliope geranium series, long considered a premium line in the market, is getting a makeover. Growers have told the breeder that they love the colors available in the Calliope series, but the plants are just too vigorous for smaller containers and combinations. As […]

Read More
Latest Stories

June 7, 2016

It’s Time To Rethink The Value And Timing Of Cali…

Fourteen years ago, Greenhouse Grower saw an opportunity to bring next-day coverage of California Pack Trials (now California Spring Trials or CAST) to your inbox. The objective was to be your eyes and ears on location, to report the debut of the newest varieties and marketing programs, and report major breeder announcements, especially for those not attending. We continued to develop new story-telling tools with video capabilities, slideshows, and more. And once social media took hold, everyone attending CAST became reporters of their favorite varieties and displays at trials. So we’re left with the question — how should we continue to evolve our coverage, to bring the most value for you? It’s easy to fall into a certain pattern, to stick with what works — or seems to work. And just because you’re working really hard at something that you’ve had success with in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s […]

Read More
National Garden Bureau CAST 2016 Bloggers

May 3, 2016

5 Things Gardens Bloggers And Writers Learned At Califo…

For the second year in a row, the National Garden Bureau hosted five popular garden bloggers and writers on a trip to California Spring Trials. Here’s what each of them had to say about their experience.

Read More
Syngenta Pentas

April 20, 2016

Syngenta Flowers Opens Its Perennial Genetics To The Ma…

California Spring Trials 2016 visitors to Syngenta Flowers found the breeder company and its employees happy and excited for the future, in the wake of the announcement of its acquisition by ChemChina. Now Syngenta Flowers is ready to move forward with its breeding efforts in geraniums, pentas, and other crops, and it is opening its perennials offerings to the whole supply chain for a better chance to get those plants to retail.     Syngenta Wants To Revolutionize Geranium Breeding The big news in this year’s trial, says Karl Trellinger, Technical Services Representative at Syngenta, is the change in Syngenta’s breeding efforts in geraniums and pentas. The Calliope geranium series, long considered a premium line in the market, is getting a makeover. Growers have told the breeder that they love the colors available in the Calliope series, but the plants are just too vigorous for smaller containers and combinations. As […]

Read More
Petunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners)

April 20, 2016

Proven Winners Funds Gardening “It Couple,” Names Plant…

Since 1992, Proven Winners has been changing the gardening game, and it’s not stopping now. With new plants, improved series, and interesting retail customers, the brand aims to make planning easier for growers, and make gardening easier and more fun for consumers. At its new 2016 California Spring Trials location at Kirigin Cellars in Gilroy, Proven Winners had the space and a beautiful setting to lay all of its offerings out, from new and improved varieties in annuals, perennials, and shrubs, to marketing and retail programs. Check out the slideshow below for highlights.   Proven Winners Is Flexing Its Marketing Muscle One of the ways Proven Winners is working toward better use of its products and gardening in general, is by supporting the gardening authorities that gardeners of all ages trust on social media. Director of Marketing Marshall Dirks says while searching for influential gardeners, he came across a young […]

Read More
CallaFornia Red

April 19, 2016

Golden State Bulb Company Shows Off New Concepts In Cal…

There’s no question that Golden State Bulb Company’s specialty is in breeding virtually any color of Calla Lily, available in about any habit — cut flower, bouquet pot, upright pot type — the list goes on. But now, the bulb specialist is focusing on making calla lilies more accessible to the masses, for use in combination planters and the landscape, with calla six-packs. Calla breeder Peter Beckman showed us the shrunken-down version of these beauties, and they’re certainly perfect for patio pots, planting along paths or at the front of the garden, or en masse for an elegant statement. This presentation makes it easy for consumers to pick up and use callas, without the intimidation they might feel from a bulb crop, says Dr. Allan Armitage.   They’re also versatile for growers to plant in early to mid-February to add to finished containers in the spring, or to sell in […]

Read More
Disney Trial Garden

April 17, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For Florida Flower Trials In May

The two-day event, which takes place in Orlando, is held in conjunction with the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and offers educational seminars, tours, and open houses.

Read More

April 15, 2016

Pacific Plug & Liner Features Plenty Of New Varieti…

One of the best-merchandised spots on the California Spring Trials is always Pacific Plug & Liner (PP&L), where the greenhouse is stocked with beautiful plants and displays, and the people are dressed to the nines and graciously ready to help in any way.

Read More

April 15, 2016

American Takii Commemorates 180 Years Of Industry Commi…

American Takii, Hilverdakooij, and newcomer HMA Plants show off zombie-zone celosia, new dianthus, and hip succulents.

Read More

April 15, 2016

Ernst Benary of America Takes Plant Fashion Week To The…

Ernst Benary of America gave growers a taste of the fashion world during the new variety promenade held during California Spring Trials 2016.

Read More
Delizz Strawberry packaging

April 14, 2016

ABZ Seeds’ Delizz Strawberry Makes Mouths Water At Spee…

Speedling, Inc. hosted Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, ABZ Seeds, Plant Source International, and Vista Farms For California Spring Trials 2016. Here are some of the highlights of the trial.

Read More
Begonia Evi Pink and Evi Bright Pink

April 14, 2016

Westhoff, Beekenkamp, PAC-Elsner And Plug Connection Pr…

Floricultura-Pacifica in Salinas opened its doors to invite California Spring Trials visitors to experience new offerings from European breeders including Westhoff Flowers, Beekenkamp, and PAC-Elsner, as well as California native The Plug Connection. While there, it was interesting to witness the ongoing and highly automated production of orchids, as well as construction of more greenhouse space happening simultaneously. As is tradition, Westhoff Flowers invited its visitors to flag their favorite combos at the entrance, and showed off its unique assortment of annuals, as well as a few concepts. The breeder is working loosely with Florist Holland to show mixes used with Westhoff Flowers — or Westflowers — annuals and Florist gerberas in the center. The combinations are bright and cheerful, and spur a happy reaction in those who have seen them, so it will be interesting to see what happens with this concept going forward. Another new idea is putting together […]

Read More

April 14, 2016

Sakata Ornamentals’ 2016 California Spring Trials…

Sakata is celebrating 10 years of SunPatiens production, and a whopper-sized, three-layer SunPatiens cake was featured at Sakata’s display at California Spring Trials. There are four new colors in SunPatiens, three compact and one spreading, with lots more to come. The Mix it Up combos promise three seasons of color — rain or shine, sun or shade. ‘Sunpatiens Shell Pink’ is not new this year, but is still noteworthy as a recent All-American Selections winner. It was impossible not to notice the electric colors in the Majorette Gerbera line. This new series promises uniformity, a characteristic hard to achieve in gerberas. It comes in six colors, plus one orange color with a ring around the eye. Also worth mentioning is a Clear White, another breeding challenge for gerberas. There are two new mixes in the SuperCal Petchoa line. The Pink Lemonade mix received a lot of attention from trial attendees. […]

Read More

April 13, 2016

Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm Breeding Focuses On Market A…

The company is using available technological breeding advancements to align its products with market demand and give them every chance for commercial success.

Read More

April 13, 2016

Hort Couture Builds Relationships With Independent Bree…

The company works with independent breeders from all over the world to introduce unique genetics to the market.

Read More

April 13, 2016

Dümmen Orange Succulent Combos Stole The Show At Barrel…

Succulents and succulent combos were bigger hits than the beer at Dümmen Orange’s BarrelHouse Brewing location in Paso Robles, CA. With the acquisition of Florexpo, Dümmen Orange now has the capabilities to produce broader selections of perennials and herbs, which featured prominently in its display, along with succulents. Succulent guru Robyn Foreman was on hand to pump up the excitement about succulents and demonstrate their versatility for use in everything from half-cut wine bottles to coffee cups and mini-pots. Color bowls of succulents with Kalanchoe Calandiva and other combos designed by Foreman were a popular item with trial-goers. The company is looking at mapping out some of these combos and pre-determining recipes to make it easy for consumers to achieve the same look. These succulents are moving toward being available as Confetti liners, which could streamline production of succulent combinations, says Tom Costamagna, National Production Manager at Dümmen. More information […]

Read More
Verbena Wicked Purple 2017

April 13, 2016

Dr. Allan Armitage Highlights His Favorite Varieties Fr…

From the explosive color of a new verbena, to the vigor of an upright veronica, Armitage says there’s a lot to like from Dümmen’s new introductions this year.

Read More

April 13, 2016

HGTV Celebrates New Simplified Order Fulfillment And Ex…

The HGTV brand continues to grow, as consumer interest in products associated with the popular home improvement brand increases. Streamlined ordering will help growers improve plant quality and reduce frustration. This year’s big deal at HGTV is its new alliance with young plant grower EuroAmerican Propagators. The partnership allows one-stop-shop ordering for young plants, which will allow growers to receive the plants for containers at the same time, so they can be stuck together, in an HGTV box. Previously, growers would often receive cuttings from multiple locations, at different times, in boxes that didn’t indicate they were from HGTV. This caused growers to not be able to stick cuttings at the same time — a major issue in production, especially for combination plantings. Rolling out to Lowe’s Canada stores, HGTV simulated a mass merchandiser display, to demonstrate how that would look. It’s important to the brand, says representative Maria Zampini, […]

Read More

April 13, 2016

Dümmen Orange Presents Its Impressive Annuals Collectio…

Dümmen Orange’s Edna Valley Vineyard location is a favorite California Spring Trials stop for its view, food, and beverage. But this year’s trials in San Luis Obispo also yielded a number of new variety introductions, new combos, branding, and a streamlined distribution and ordering method that will improve communications and reduce headaches for growers and brokers. With two farms in Guatemala and one in El Salvador, the company revealed it will generally assign annuals production to Oro Farms in Guatemala and Las Mercedes in El Salvador, while the perennials and herbs it acquired with the Florexpo acquisition in 2015, and its new succulents program will be produced at its Antigua Flowers facility, formerly owned by Paul Ecke Ranch. This shift was made to accommodate crops’ environmental needs, as well as to simplify ordering and fulfillment, says Tom Costamagna, National Production Manager at Dümmen Orange. There will be some exceptions, depending on […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]