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

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Four Star Greenhouse Proven Winner Plants At English Garden

May 26, 2015

Retailer To Grower: It’s Time To Offer Services To Local Garden Centers, Too

Retailers wonder why mass merchants are the only ones to receive stocking, merchandising and plant care from growers.

Read More
Greenhouse Electrical System

May 26, 2015

Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come Up Short – Part 1

Ensuring your greenhouse has enough electricity to operate all the equipment that is installed takes planning and consideration of an operation's needs. Part one of two articles on greenhouse electrical systems covers choosing an electrician, meeting immediate and future needs and planning for back-up power.

Read More

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New Markets

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Allan Armitage At Tradeshow

May 15, 2015

Allan Armitage On Plants: We Are Alive And Well, Thank …

Allan Armitage tells why the horticulture industry is about the people, not the plants, not the marketing and not the social media, and why horticulture is here to stay.

Read More
Coleus-Campfire-BallFloraPlant

May 6, 2015

Costa Farms Releases 2015 Midseason Top Performers

Costa Farms has announced the mid-season top performers in its 2015 Season Premier Trial Garden. Its research and development team has been working to grow and evaluate hundreds of varieties and their findings have been published online.The plants presented in the report have thrived in Miami’s mid-spring conditions. Every spring, the company’s research and development team trials more than 500 varieties of annuals, perennials and tropical plants from plant breeders around the world. All of the varieties have been tested in Costa Farms’ 2-acre Season Premier Trial Garden in Miami, Fla. The team assesses the plants for abundance of bloom, crop uniformity and overall performance. Within the report, the varieties are organized by their color. “There’s one thing pretty much everyone who shops has in mind when they step into a garden center: color,” the report states. Because of that, the report is divided by hue, so everyone can zero in on their favorite. Click here to […]

Read More

May 1, 2015

18 New Grasses To Grow

Ornamental grasses fit in with the needs of today’s landscapers and consumers better than ever. Whether your customers are looking for creative solutions for patio containers or a mass planting in a landscape, some of the 18 new varieties included here are sure to meet the need.

Read More
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific …

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, H…

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
Danziger_Coreopsis_Solanna Glow1

April 22, 2015

Industry Perspective: McHutchison’s Vaughn Fletch…

Vaughn Fletcher with McHutchison Horticultural Distributors is part of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence For Industry’s Choice Panel. Fletcher recounts some of the standout varieties he saw while visiting Danziger "Dan" Flower Farms and Beekenkamp during California Spring Trials.

Read More
Lomandra-Platinum-Beauty-Ball

April 22, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds A Lot To Love On His Last Day At T…

On the last day of the 2015 California Spring Trials, Allan Armitage and the Greenhouse Grower team visited three stops that accounted for 12 breeding companies. From annuals and perennials to herbs and strawberries, Armitage found plenty to get excited about.

Read More
Viola 'Yellow Purple Wing'

April 21, 2015

Benary Combines Fun Marketing Ideas With Strong New Pla…

It's no surprise that Benary, which built its company on begonia breeding more than 100 years ago, still has a magical touch when it comes to the genus. Two standouts among a field of great introductions were begonias.

Read More
Syngenta CAST 2015

April 21, 2015

Syngenta’s Getting Crafty With Containers

Containers seem to be the name of the game for Syngenta, perhaps because the company knows that the consumer garden of today and of the future is on the deck. From Kwik Kombos to veggies, Syngenta’s California Spring Trials display provided a variety of options and information that growers and retailers can use to drive consumer success. Bengal is a new series of F1 seed gerberas in six classic colors. The big brother to the popular Jaguar gerbera series, Bengal gerberas have a larger flower but remain compact in containers, and they’re ideal for six-inch and larger pots. The grandiflora F1 hybrid Tritunia series is a compilation of genetics from three different petunia lines, to allow Syngenta Flowers to declutter the market and growers to simplify their orders. Tritunia is available in 20 colors and three mixes. Kwik Kombos, Syngenta’s line of mixed containers, is a big deal for the breeder and […]

Read More
Danziger CAST 2015

April 21, 2015

Danziger Highlights The Best Of Its 2016 New Variety In…

After a long day during California Spring Trials (CAST), Vice President of Marketing Chanochi Zaks highlighted the cream of the crop among Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm’s new varieties. Check out the slideshow to see the 10 varieties that CAST attendees were most excited about.

Read More

April 20, 2015

Three Michigan State University On-Demand Webinars Offe…

The first rule of effective insect and disease control for vegetables is to take action to prevent problems before they occur. But in order to do that, you need to have an effective pest and disease management strategy in place that incorporates best practices to ensure a successful outcome. Michigan State University offers three pest and disease management on-demand webinars that will get you started and keep you on the right track.

Read More
PW_Sakata_CAST15-4

April 20, 2015

Sakata’s Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ Steals The Show In S…

Since January, when I first saw celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ in the landscape at Costa Farms’ Season Premier, I knew it looked like a great plant that would garner some serious attention. And sure enough, up and down the trials road, people were talking about Sakata’s hot new introduction. Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ is a seed-propagated, plume-type celosia that is said to actually perform better with less fertilizer and water. If it’s fed too much, its dark leaves lose their reddish-purple coloring and turn green, and by restricting water, it tends to bloom more. It tends to be a more vigorous plant than other plume-type celosias, and its large blooms are quite attractive. Sakata also introduced a new series of African Marigolds. Proud Mari comes in Orange, Yellow and Gold, and has huge, fist-sized flowers that bloom vigorously. New colors in SuperCal petunias are L.A. Yellow and Pink, and they are fabulous additions […]

Read More

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plant…

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winn…

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Gazania hybrid 'Amber Ice' (Cultivaris)

April 17, 2015

The 80/20 Theory Approach To Inventory Selection Is Put…

Tim Runte of Calloway Gardens is a member of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Here, he shares how he determines which plants shown at this year's California Spring Trials will make the cut at his retail stores.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Trends At California Spring Trials: AmericanHort’…

Michael Geary, CEO and president of AmericanHort, hit the road during California Spring Trials, and noted trends he saw at many of the stops. Here's one that he says we'll need to consider carefully.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Golden State Bulb At Spring Trials Has Great Appeal For…

While Golden State Bulb is a smaller stop at California Spring Trials, it’s always a treat. You not only get to see less common plants like calla lilies and eucomis, you also get to meet the passionate breeders who developed the plants you’re seeing. For plant geeks, this is a fun stop. First up, the Aloha Lily series of pineapple lily or eucomis was introduced last year, and a new variety, the dark red Kona, joined the lineup. The team at Golden State would like to see this sweet-scented series treated much like orchids by consumers. Like orchids, Aloha Lily does well in low light and has blooms that last two to three months. Now that homeowners have grown accustomed to having orchids, it just may be time to test which other long-flowering plant they would be willing to embrace. Golden State would like to see consumers approach callas in a […]

Read More
PW_calibrachoa_holy moly1

April 17, 2015

Proven Winners Shows Off Its Newest Plant Rock Stars At…

With its wide assortment of plants, great presenters and an amazing location atop a hill at a spa/resort, Proven Winners is a can’t-miss stop during California Spring Trials. The Greenhouse Grower team first visited with Proven Winners’ nursery partner, Spring Meadow, where we got to see the new shrub introductions. Shrubs Proven Winners has two new hydrangea series. The Let’s Dance series is third generation breeding and boasts strong reblooming and a compact habit. The new mountain hydrangea, ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff,’ is another rebloomer and grows to 1.5- to 2-feet tall. Its leaves take on a purple hue when they encounter cool night temperatures. The attractive new Gem Box ilex, an ink berry holly, is suggested as a boxwood replacement for those areas being hit with boxwood blight. It grows to 2- to 4-feet tall and takes full to part sun, but cannot take full shade the way boxwoods can. Spring Meado Nursery  is […]

Read More