The annual event brings breeders, growers, and retailers together to compare new plant varieties and evaluate their performance. Ultimately, though, the event is all about making the end consumer successful.
The beautiful sunny weather at Costa Farms in Miami, FL, delivered the perfect backdrop for an early glimpse at new plant varieties and how they will perform next year. The company opened the doors to its 2-acre trial garden in the third week in January to welcome breeders, growers, and retailers interested in seeing how the plants will hold up in their regions.
Compared to California Spring Trials, where visitors see new varieties under the best possible growing conditions ─ straight out of the greenhouse ─ the Costa trials focus on plant performance and how plants fare during the wintertime climate in Southern Florida, which mimics spring growing conditions across the country. Dedicated sections of the garden highlight how plants will hold up in retail and landscaping conditions, as well as in hanging baskets and containers.
It All Comes Back to the Consumer
The garden’s purpose is not only about evaluating plant performance for growers and retailers; it’s also about the consumer experience and what they can expect when they bring the plants home. Everything related to the trials is about bringing things back to the end consumer and asking how does this translate for them, says Justin Hancock, Consumer Marketing and Digital Specialist at Costa Farms.
For example, the New Product Showcase, which displays new varieties of annuals and perennials, as they would appear on retail shelves, allows trial managers to test both their garden performance and retail shelf life, Hancock says. It also helps remind them how consumers will ultimately view these plants.
Additional exhibits throughout the gardens featuring do-it-yourself projects also targeted consumers. Hancock says the team wanted to highlight easy projects that incorporated inexpensive materials. One display showed 12 ways to decorate terra-cotta pots, with signs posted behind each pot that explained how to use rubber bands, paint, stones, and mulch to give the pots an upgraded look. Other projects featured colorfully painted pallets, tires, and paint cans, and an eye-catching wall of cement blocks attested to how easily consumers can transform them into vibrant planters.
New to the trials this year was the addition of perennial row beds, to give the Research and Development team better insights on how plants will hold up under different sets of conditions. The new beds will also allow Costa to compare the performance of perennials in Miami with those at its farm in Trenton, SC.
One of the main purposes of Costa Farms’ Season Premier is to bring grower-council members in from big box retailers to evaluate the performance of new varieties and vote on their favorites. It is the start of a decision-making process for growers and retailers, which culminates with delivering the best quality plants possible into consumers’ hands.