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...
Ushio Sakazaki feature

June 22, 2017

Japanese Breeder Ushio Sakazaki Wins Medal of Excellence Award for Industry Achievement

From Supertunias to Superbells, this innovative Japanese breeder has used wild genetics to create game-changing plants that help consumers reconnect with the beauty of nature.

Read More
CallaFornia Red

June 20, 2017

Dümmen Orange Enters Calla Market With Acquisition of Golden State Bulb Growers Portfolio

Golden State will continue to supply the market through September 2018, at which time Dümmen Orange will assume supply and delivery of much of Golden State’s product line.

Read More
Plantpeddler Variety Day

June 14, 2017

Plantpeddler Hosting Variety Day on Aug. 4 in Cresco, IA

The free event will allow attendees to tour Plantpeddler’s trial gardens, which include more than 1,200 varieties of vegetative annuals displayed in large containers, baskets, window boxes, and beds.

Read More
Latest Stories
Ushio Sakazaki feature

June 22, 2017

Japanese Breeder Ushio Sakazaki Wins Medal of Excellenc…

From Supertunias to Superbells, this innovative Japanese breeder has used wild genetics to create game-changing plants that help consumers reconnect with the beauty of nature.

Read More
CallaFornia Red

June 20, 2017

Dümmen Orange Enters Calla Market With Acquisition of G…

Golden State will continue to supply the market through September 2018, at which time Dümmen Orange will assume supply and delivery of much of Golden State’s product line.

Read More
Plantpeddler Variety Day

June 14, 2017

Plantpeddler Hosting Variety Day on Aug. 4 in Cresco, I…

The free event will allow attendees to tour Plantpeddler’s trial gardens, which include more than 1,200 varieties of vegetative annuals displayed in large containers, baskets, window boxes, and beds.

Read More
Jonathan Babikow, Emerald Coast Growers

June 9, 2017

New Head Grower at Emerald Coast Growers is Excited abo…

Jonathan Babikow, Emerald Coast Growers’ new general manager/head grower for its Lancaster, PA, location, talks about his favorite perennials, the advantages of growing in Pennsylvania, and his future hopes for his career.

Read More
Petunia 'Amore Mio' (Danziger)

June 8, 2017

AmericanHort Update on Genetically Engineered Petunias

AmericanHort is actively assisting affected plant breeders, distributors, growers, and retailers as the genetically modified petunia regulatory response continues. Since the last update, there have been several changes to the list of petunias confirmed or suspected of being genetically engineered and therefore unauthorized to be imported or sold. Also, the list of recognized laboratories for petunia variety confirmation testing has expanded. Most importantly, petunia varieties on the USDA-APHIS Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) list require an APHIS Form 2000 for importation. APHIS also began requiring that any Petunia spp. Shipments, not including regulated GE varieties, must be accompanied by a list of variety names. This resulted in some inspection delays at the USDA-APHIS plant inspection station in Atlanta over the past two weeks. In response, AmericanHort has negotiated a more flexible approach with APHIS, and new guidance has just been posted for importing Petunia plants, cuttings, or seed. The new guidance allows […]

Read More
Bailey Expo

June 8, 2017

Bailey Nurseries Expo to Take Place in Late July in Min…

This year’s expo will focus on bridging the gap with Millennials and non-gardeners through creative marketing, engaging in-store displays, and heightened customer service.

Read More
Scaevola Mix from Suntory

June 6, 2017

How Was Your Spring? Let Us Know by Taking Greenhouse G…

Please take a few minutes to answer Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 Spring Recap Survey. The deadline for completing the survey is June 20.

Read More
Eason Horticultural Resources Hot New Perennials Booklet

June 6, 2017

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials B…

“Hot New Perennials for 2018” is a compilation of information shared with Eason from a broad range of perennial young plant producers, breeding companies, and breeder representatives.

Read More
Beedance Bidens Yellow (Suntory Flowers)

June 1, 2017

Recommendations for Successfully Growing BeeDance Biden…

Anne Roberts of Meadow View Growers says growers in northern states can take advantage of cooler temperatures early in the season and grow BeeDance Bidens varieties with less heat.

Read More

May 30, 2017

Danziger Launching New Interactive Marketing Programs D…

The new campaigns include a focus on Danziger’s Amore petunia series, using videos and displays to help attendees “share their love” for Amore.

Read More

May 25, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Breeders Take Swif…

Now that the initial shock of genetically engineered petunias is wearing off, breeders continue testing for tainted stock and look toward the future. On the consumer side, uncertainties remain.  

Read More

May 23, 2017

USDA-APHIS Bulletin on Unauthorized Distribution of Gen…

On May 2, 2017, USDA-APHIS was informed that an orange petunia variety was potentially genetically engineered and had been imported and moved interstate without required authorization by APHIS. This led to testing of numerous petunia varieties, which confirmed this particular variety and several others are genetically engineered, and meet the regulatory definition of a regulated article under APHIS regulations. APHIS continues to work with the industry to ensure unauthorized GE petunias are not distributed in the United States.

Read More
Petunia F1 African Sunset from American Takii

May 22, 2017

Genetically Modified Petunia Update: Question and Answe…

AmericanHort’s key role interfacing with the USDA on the recall of genetically modified petunias has helped the horticulture industry rapidly address the problem. Senior Vice President Craig Regelbrugge talks about recent updates, the impact on the industry, and where it goes from here.

Read More
Eason 2017 spring trials report

May 16, 2017

New California Spring Trials Report Now Available From …

The report features genetics from 21 different breeding companies and information gathered from the 15 different stops on this year’s tour.

Read More
Schizachyrium scoparium The Blues

May 13, 2017

How Ornamental Grasses and Sedges Can Play a Role in Po…

Grasses and sedges provide food, shelter, and support for pollinators and the birds and mammals that keep insect populations in balance.

Read More
Asclepias with a bumblebee

May 8, 2017

How to Choose the Best Native Plants for Pollinator Gar…

The popularity of native plants is rising as gardeners become conscious of the need to plant more pollinator gardens. The challenge is to select the right plants to put in them.

Read More
Allan Armitage Of Naked Ladies and Forget Me Nots

May 2, 2017

Allan Armitage: How Growers Can Be Creative to Take Gar…

Our industry does a good job of making things convenient for our customers. It’s time to take it a step further.

Read More
Asclepias tuberosa

April 29, 2017

Greenhouse Growing Tips for Asclepias tuberosa

Madeline Maynor, Growing Operations Manager for Landenberg, PA-based North Creek Nurseries, shares greenhouse growing tips for Asclepias tuberosa, the 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year.

Read More