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...
Wave Petunias Team

May 3, 2016

Hot Pink Wave-Rave Van Making Its Way To The Big Apple To Promote Wave Petunias And Pansies

Imagine driving down the road, minding your own business, when you’re passed by two smiling, waving, happy women driving a hot-pink van that’s adorned with petunia and pansy flowers. That’s not something you see every day, but motorists in the Midwest and Northeast may catch a glimpse of the Wave-Rave van this week as Ball Horticultural Co.’s Claire Watson, Product Marketing Manager, and Katie Rotella, Marketing Communications Manager, make their way to a media tour and plant giveaway in New York City. Watson and Rotella visited Cleveland’s WOIO Channel 19 news on Tuesday morning to tell consumers about Wave Petunias and Wave Pansies, and remind them to visit their local garden centers to purchase gifts for Mother’s Day this weekend. Check out this clip on Periscope. After the morning news, the ladies stopped by to visit the Greenhouse Grower staff at Meister Media Worldwide in Willoughby, OH. Next stop: Chelsea Garden Center in Brooklyn, NY, where […]

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
Chick Charms

April 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: Why The Plant Collector Market Is Set To Explode, And What It Means For You

In his latest column for Greenhouse Grower magazine, Kelly Norris says there are more plant collectors out there than we think, which opens the way for the gift plant market to explode.

Read More
Latest Stories
Wave Petunias Team

May 3, 2016

Hot Pink Wave-Rave Van Making Its Way To The Big Apple …

Imagine driving down the road, minding your own business, when you’re passed by two smiling, waving, happy women driving a hot-pink van that’s adorned with petunia and pansy flowers. That’s not something you see every day, but motorists in the Midwest and Northeast may catch a glimpse of the Wave-Rave van this week as Ball Horticultural Co.’s Claire Watson, Product Marketing Manager, and Katie Rotella, Marketing Communications Manager, make their way to a media tour and plant giveaway in New York City. Watson and Rotella visited Cleveland’s WOIO Channel 19 news on Tuesday morning to tell consumers about Wave Petunias and Wave Pansies, and remind them to visit their local garden centers to purchase gifts for Mother’s Day this weekend. Check out this clip on Periscope. After the morning news, the ladies stopped by to visit the Greenhouse Grower staff at Meister Media Worldwide in Willoughby, OH. Next stop: Chelsea Garden Center in Brooklyn, NY, where […]

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
Chick Charms

April 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: Why The Plant Collector Market Is Set To …

In his latest column for Greenhouse Grower magazine, Kelly Norris says there are more plant collectors out there than we think, which opens the way for the gift plant market to explode.

Read More
Pennisetum Fireworks

April 28, 2016

Why Ornamental Grasses Are Great For People In Condos A…

Allan Armitage says breeders need to do a better job of making growers, brokers, and garden centers aware of better ornamental grass cultivars for the increasingly shrinking garden space.

Read More
Andropogon gerardii Blackhawks (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

April 27, 2016

Know Your Market When Choosing Ornamental Grasses

Growers have no shortage of choices in the ornamental grass market. Narrowing down the selection comes down to finding the right plant for the right purpose.

Read More
Bee on Bidens

April 25, 2016

Breeders Go The Distance To Bring New Plant Varieties T…

Breeders are meeting the demand for new varieties that perform and sell well by extending trialing to engage the grower community, using advanced technology, and encouraging international collaboration.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

April 20, 2016

Growers And Breeders Are Always Looking For A Better To…

While edibles become more diverse, there's one goal that hard-core gardeners and urban foodscapers share.

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
Scaevola 'Purple Haze' (Danziger 2016)

April 19, 2016

Allan Armitage Picks His Favorites From Proven Winners,…

From “crazy” petunias to container pentas, there was plenty that caught Allan’s eye during the final day of 2016 California Spring Trials.

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
Dianthus Paint the Town Fuchsia_CJW14 (2)

April 16, 2016

Proven Winners Focuses On A Better Consumer Garden Expe…

Excellent, long-lasting performance, and easy maintenance are at the core of Proven Winners’ introductions.

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
Fashion Show At Benary

April 15, 2016

California Spring Trials: Dr. Allan Armitage Notes Emer…

Attractive new varieties will draw the eyes of consumers, but innovation and creativity will keep them coming back.

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