Tried-and-true varieties that growers and landscape professionals have come to trust don’t come around every day. Plant trials are critically important in discovering which varieties work in various climates and which simply don’t make the cut. Here are a few we think you’ll find useful.
Chicago Botanic Gardens Plant Trials
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
The Plant Evaluation Program, managed by Richard Hawke, is one of the largest and most diverse in the nation. It is also one of the few programs in the United States that formally evaluates perennials.
Michigan State University
500 S. Bogue St
East Lansing, MI
Michigan State University grows and evaluates hundreds of new varieties each year including annuals, perennials, and vegetables. Their goals are:
• To determine how these plants perform in mid-Michigan growing conditions
• Inspire the gardening public to explore new varieties and plant combinations
• To educate the horticulture industry and garden visitors about their findings and recommendations.
Raker-Roberta’s Trial Gardens
10371 Rainey Rd.
Litchfield, MI 49252
In addition to extensive sponsored areas (landscaped beds, rows, large containers and hanging baskets), numerous comparison trials are conducted at Raker-Roberta’s. They have expanded their focus on perennials and include trials of first year flowering varieties in addition to sponsored displays. This is also an AAS trial and display garden site.
The Gardens at Ball
622 Town Road
West Chicago, IL
The Gardens at Ball have been the evaluation and testing grounds for horticultural introductions and improvements for over 80 years. What began as a row trial garden for seed varieties in 1933 has grown to encompass over 9 acres of display beds for annuals, perennials, cut flowers and vegetables, including the newest plants from the industry’s leading breeders and brands.
Mt. Cuba Center
3120 Barley Mill Road
Mt. Cuba Center employs expert researchers who seek to expand the knowledge and appreciation of native plants and promote conservation. Their trial garden is used to evaluate native plants and related cultivars for horticultural and ecological value.
Longwood Gardens Plant Trials
1001 Longwood Road,
Kennett Square, PA 19348
Longwood receives plant specimens or seeds from across the country and around the world that are put into trial. Trial plants are grown in their 5,500-square-foot research greenhouses, their behind-the-scenes outdoor nursery, and in their public Trial Garden in the Idea Garden. They trial about 500 new plants every year.
Massachusetts Horticultural Society at Elm Bank
The Gardens at Elm Bank
900 Washington Street
Wellesley, MA 02482
The Mass Hort Gardens at Elm Bank are one of three trial gardens in New England. They trial new and yet-to-be-released varieties of annuals, perennials and vegetables. Plant under trials are grown in comparison beds beside similar, established varieties and are judged on their suitability for growing in zones 5 and 6.
University of Georgia (Athens) Trial Garden
1030 West Green Street
Athens, GA 30602
This trial includes the newest varieties of annuals from the top plant breeders from all over the world and puts perennials to the test to find those that stand up to southeastern heat and humidity. The Trial Gardens at UGA are open all year and provide a great source of ideas and information for students, gardeners and industry professionals.
Colorado State University Flower Trial Garden
1401 Remington Street
Fort Collins, CO 80525
The trials at Colorado State University were developed to test plants in the unique Rocky Mountain environmental conditions. Plants in the trials must endure tough conditions including high altitude, intense solar radiation, drying winds, severe hailstorms, large fluctuations between day and night temperatures and a season-long need for irrigation. The two-year Perennial Trial program is designed to test newer perennial cultivars that have been introduced in the past three years or less.
University of Guelph Trial Gardens
University of Guelph
50 Stone Road E. Guelph
Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1
Located along the entrance to the Guelph Turfgrass Institute, this trial garden spans 1,400 square metres of growing space and allows gardeners to see what flowers and plants perform best in southwestern Ontario’s climate. It is the only university-operated ornamental trial garden in Ontario and is part of a network of research centres across North America set up to determine which plants grow higher and fuller, bloom quicker, stand up in extreme weather conditions and resist common plant diseases.