Trials and Tribulations By Bridget White

I usually only make it out to California once a year for theCalifornia Pack Trials, but the extra trip I’m currently on (yes, I am writingthis from the shade of a palm tree at the Ecke Ranch on a beautiful SouthernCalifornia day) has me thinking back to those frantic two weeks in April andall those plants we oohed and aahed over.

Whatever happened to all those new introductions? Did theymake it to production? Did they perform at production? (After all, everythinglooks great in California in April.) Are they on order lists for the comingspring season? Choosing varieties is a tough decision to make because, forexample, much of this year’s best introductions are unfamiliar crosses or newspecies, and even many of the “old standards” often have specialproduction requirements.

So I’m sitting here at a company known for innovations — acompany that takes an active part in offering a lot of new varieties each year– and I’m wondering what growers are supposed to do about all this great newmaterial available to them. There isn’t a single operation in the country largeenough or profitable enough to devote all the necessary space to trialing eachand every new introduction each year. Are we doomed to make random selections?

Fortunately not. We already have the university trialingsystem in place, and there are great trials across the country that areaccessible to everyone (see page 22 for Part II of the University of Floridaspring trial results and page 46 for The Ohio State University’s winter pansyand viola trial report). These trials are a great first step, but they’re notall we could do. If you visit one of the trials, you get great information onthe varieties and how they compare. If you don’t visit the trials…

At the risk of stepping on someone’s toes, much of theinformation released from the trials is skewed toward the positive byhighlighting just those varieties that performed well; the rest is often notrelated. We’ve tried to address this lack of complete information with ourannual bedding plant trial reports (see the December issue), which includes chartsand reasons why this variety received a high rating while the other didn’t.

I guess I’m just wondering if we could do more as anindustry? Woody ornamentals do. New introductions are trialed at bothuniversities and arboretums/botanic gardens to get input from more sources andto eliminate biases. I know of several good grower trials that are already inplace and would encourage everyone to visit as many trials as you can — atleast until we can get another trialing system worked out.

GPN weekly?

That’s right. Based on feedback from many of you, GPN haslaunched a weekly e-newsletter. To be published 48 weeks out of the year (wefigure no one else is working on Christmas and Thanksgiving, why should we!),our e-newsletter will bring subscribers the kind of quality news readers of GPNhave come to expect: important developments in horticulture, the latest fromour associations and the wider governmental and economic information that willaffect our businesses.

This is a totally new concept for horticulture that willfully explore the news that affects, or will affect, all of us, plus give youreferences to learn more on your own. Included will be second-day looks at someof the recent developments in our industry and how they played out after the initialannouncement and tips from industry professionals on operating your business.

Our first issue should have already reached subscribers bythe time you read this, but it’s never too late to subscribe. Simply go to ourWeb site,, and click on the link for newsletter subscription.

A quick Thank you

I want to quickly thank the companies that were nice enoughto show me around their facilities on my recent trip: Ecke Ranch andEuroAmerican Propagators. I didn’t mention before, but I was in California forthe Euro open house, which I’ll share in more detail with you in next month’snews.

Bridget White

Bridget White is editorial director of GPN. She may be reached at (847) 391-1004 * [email protected]

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