The Board of Directors of FloraStar recently met in Colorado to visit the research and trialing facilities at Colorado State University at Fort Collins. During the Board meeting, Gary Hudson assumed the position of executive director from Mike Novovesky, who retired because of family reasons. The FloraStar office will be relocated to Hudson’s office in West Sacramento, Calif.
Mike and his staff will work with Hudson and his staff over the next few months to make sure that the transfer goes flawlessly and that the present trials continue smoothly. All communication will be handled by Hudson and his staff effective March 1, 2005.
According to Hudson, “Mike Novovesky and the Board have done such a good job of creating a solid base for FloraStar, they have all of the components pretty much in place, they get the entries in and all of that is working very well. What I think I can do is add to the marketing component. I’ve had some pretty good success in my life helping other companies creating marketing programs, and if I can do that for FloraStar, I will be able take it to the next level with better marketing and better positioning of the FloraStar products to the marketplace.”
Gary Hudson has been in the industry for many years, working in marketing/sales and management. He is the former vice president of Goldsmith Seeds, and co-founder and president of Plant Genetics, a pioneer in the biotechnology industry.
In 1984, already well known internationally for his expertise in both management and marketing, Hudson founded Hudson & Associates, a business-consulting firm that is active in a number of industries, especially in floriculture. He has also served as a consultant to and on the Board of Directors of many outside industry companies as well.
Hudson has a long list of clients in the horticultural industry and belongs to a number of associations and committees that have helped him become so well known and respected in the industry.
The FloraStar Awards Program was developed from conversations at the Education and Research Committee meetings held at a BPI Conference during the 1980s. Industry leaders who saw a need for testing and recognition of new plants, including both seed and vegetatively propagated species, founded FloraStar in 1988 under the umbrella of the Professional Plant Growers Association. The grower members of BPI believed that there was a need for a trialing program for containerized plant material. FloraStar has been a separate corporation since its inception, and in 2000 FloraStar became a directorship.
The purpose of FloraStar is to use independent trialing locations and judges to evaluate new varieties that are to be sold as containerized plants in the United States. To do that, 20 trialing locations distributed geographically around the United States were established to give a representational sample of growing conditions found across the country. These trialing locations consist of commercial growers, industry suppliers and universities. Entries are solicited from both North American and international breeders.
In order for a new variety to receive the prestigious FloraStar Award, it must pass a rigorous trialing period in which the judges evaluate it. FloraStar only gives awards to varieties that are truly outstanding. As a result, growers know that these varieties are ones that they want to include in their product offering. Garden writers throughout the United States write about these new varieties in their newspaper columns and talk about them on their radio programs. FloraStar award winners also receive trade magazine press for broad exposure to the American greenhouse production community and to plant and flower retailers.
The FloraStar Gold Star New Variety Trial is FloraStar’s original program begun in 1989. The Gold Star New Variety Trial is conducted by professional growers and universities with well-known floriculture departments. To be declared a winner, the new plant must offer improved performance and value to the commercial grower and the consumer. This extensive program evaluates blooming plants and decorative foliage for interior use, plus plants for outdoor use in planters, window boxes, or hanging baskets. Plants submitted may be propagated by cutting, seed, corm, bulb or tuber. Each trial is limited to 20 entries that are new and never before offered for commercial sale in North America. Two trials are held each year, one in fall/winter and one in spring/summer.
Every entry is paired with a commercially available comparison, and to be declared a winner, the entry must exhibit improved characteristics. Entries are judged on: plant habit and form, flower color and form, foliage, genetic uniformity, ease of culture, fragrance, earliness, disease resistance, holding ability, shipping ability, longevity, ease of care in home or office, and overall impression. Judges located at each trialing location score the entries through the production cycle based on these criteria.
FloraStar’s most recent trialing program was designed to provide growers with hands-on production information and tips for many of the newest spring plants grown in the greenhouse. FloraStar conducts the Elite Performance Trial in cooperation with the University of Florida, Colorado State University, Penn State University and North Carolina State University.
The trial started in 2002 at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Industry researcher, Dr. Jim Barrett, developed the production guidelines and format for the trial. Which varieties are best in class? What kind of growth regulator rates do you use? What about fertilizer/pH recommendations? These are just a few of the production variables studied during the trial.
Each year several plants are selected by the FloraStar Board to study. Each crop is produced according to general production guidelines and evaluated on a set of criteria that Barrett has deemed important for that crop. In 2005 crops to be evaluated include osteospermum and ivy geraniums. For 2006 the Elite Performer Trial will tentatively test zonal geraniums, mounding petunias from seed, calibrachoa, gerbera and lavender. In 2007 the crops to be tested tentatively include New Guinea impatiens, verbena, mounding petunias (vegetatively propagated), dianthus, bracteantha and dahlia. New to the Elite Performer Trial program is that the Colorado State University will be added as a greenhouse test location in 2005.
Elite Performer awards are made to those varieties that excelled in the areas judged. Whether or not a variety wins or loses, the trialing process itself generates valuable production information for growers. Merit awards are given to varieties that are great for production, but do not excel in all areas under evaluation. Elite Performer awards and Merit awards are made based on the variety’s performance in the greenhouse at Colorado State and the University of Florida in time for the OFA Short Course in July. Varieties in the Elite Performer Trial are studied outdoors at the University of Florida, Colorado State University, Penn Sate University and North Carolina State University.
“Mike has built such a solid foundation,” said Hudson, “and my goal is not to goof up what he has done but to leverage what he has done. I want to capitalize on his years of work and add to it a way to market the products and take them to another level, another dimension.” Mike Novovesky will be missed in the industry and from all of us at GPN, we wish he and his family the best, as well as a good luck to Gary.
Much of the previous information about FloraStar and its programs was taken from the organization’s Web site, www.florastar.com.