Welby Gardens Finds Many Benefits In Having Its Own Trial Gardens

Al Gerace
Al Gerace

Running trial gardens used to be the primary responsibility of university horticulture departments and breeders. But the number of growers who are maintaining their own trials is increasing. Greenhouse Grower talked to Al Gerace, owner of Welby Gardens in Denver, Colo., about why he thinks it is worth the time and effort to have his own trial garden.

GG: How long have you been doing trials on your own?

Gerace: We have had trials of our own since 1990. I determined in the early 1970s that what I was seeing at trials around the country and abroad were not necessarily the same kind of results we were getting in Colorado. In those days, breeding companies were breeding under their particular climactic conditions. When the Japanese were breeding for high humidity conditions, varieties were better under greenhouse growing conditions here. Impatiens bred in Gilroy, Calif., do better in our climate, because Gilroy is hot and dry in the summer, like our climate.

GG: How large are your trials?

Gerace: Our field trials are about 1½ acres, with 260 varieties. We trialed 669 varieties indoors. Some years we have included up to 1,200 varieties. With the consolidation of the industry and the fast-moving changes, some companies have had so much on their plates that they haven’t been able to get trial material to us in a timely fashion. We are hoping this year that things will settle down a bit and people will be getting back to business as usual.

GG: Maintaining your own trial gardens is a major undertaking. Why not just rely on university trials?

Gerace: Our outdoor conditions are very different than even Colorado State University in Fort Collins. We are truly out in an open field, not protected by grassy areas or city conditions. Our climate here in Colorado is very arid and soil conditions are very different from most other areas in the country.

GG: How do you communicate your results to your customers? How do you use the results within your operation?

Gerace: We hold an open house each year in late July or very early August. We invite our landscape, retail and young plant customers, breeders, other growers and industry members to attend. About 300 people usually visit.

We give each attendee 10 poker chips to vote for their favorite plants. We also grow trials plants in 8-inch pots and distribute 100 each to selected retailers to conduct their own evaluations at their location and let the public give input. We publicize our results on the internet and by eMail.
We also grow out another trial of the best items for spring promotion at about 20 participating retailers. We send a member of our staff to introduce these varieties to the public at these locations.

We use the results of our trials, along with the input from our open house and the public, to determine the marketability of these items and select what we plant to add to the line for the upcoming year. We also use the trials to educate our growers and sales team about the merits of each new introduction and to instill the particular characteristics of each breeding company to our staff.

GG: What benefits have you seen?

Gerace: It’s a great way to launch new varieties, keep the selection fresh and pique interest in our assortment of offerings. It helps maintain our leadership in the field, keep our customers and staff informed and make our own contributions to the evolution of this very dynamic industry.

GG: Do you have a long-term strategy down the road regarding your trials?

Gerace: We have taken many cues from the Spring Trials and we add new categories of plants as they become available. We are very interested in both seed and vegetative items: annuals, perennials, tropicals, succulents and cut flowers. Many cut flowers and foliage plants make excellent landscape items that provide a whole new dimension in American gardens.

We intend to expand our involvement with the better breeding companies, doing private as well as public trials with and for them. We like to be involved in their own trialing processes so we can have a better picture of future developments. We want to be ready to make whatever moves we need as new developments come along. For our direct exposure to retailers and the public, we plant to improve our labeling of the new items. We want to help the public become more familiar with the individual breeding companies so consumers are anxious for their future introductions. GG


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