Trials and Tribulations
I usually only make it out to California once a year for the
California Pack Trials, but the extra trip I'm currently on (yes, I am writing
this from the shade of a palm tree at the Ecke Ranch on a beautiful Southern
California day) has me thinking back to those frantic two weeks in April and
all those plants we oohed and aahed over.
Whatever happened to all those new introductions? Did they
make it to production? Did they perform at production? (After all, everything
looks great in California in April.) Are they on order lists for the coming
spring season? Choosing varieties is a tough decision to make because, for
example, much of this year's best introductions are unfamiliar crosses or new
species, and even many of the "old standards" often have special
So I'm sitting here at a company known for innovations -- a
company 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 new
material available to them. There isn't a single operation in the country large
enough or profitable enough to devote all the necessary space to trialing each
and every new introduction each year. Are we doomed to make random selections?
Fortunately not. We already have the university trialing
system in place, and there are great trials across the country that are
accessible to everyone (see page 22 for Part II of the University of Florida
spring trial results and page 46 for The Ohio State University's winter pansy
and viola trial report). These trials are a great first step, but they're not
all we could do. If you visit one of the trials, you get great information on
the varieties and how they compare. If you don't visit the trials...
At the risk of stepping on someone's toes, much of the
information released from the trials is skewed toward the positive by
highlighting just those varieties that performed well; the rest is often not
related. We've tried to address this lack of complete information with our
annual bedding plant trial reports (see the December issue), which includes charts
and 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 an
industry? Woody ornamentals do. New introductions are trialed at both
universities and arboretums/botanic gardens to get input from more sources and
to eliminate biases. I know of several good grower trials that are already in
place and would encourage everyone to visit as many trials as you can -- at
least until we can get another trialing system worked out.
That's right. Based on feedback from many of you, GPN has
launched a weekly e-newsletter. To be published 48 weeks out of the year (we
figure 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 GPN
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This is a totally new concept for horticulture that will
fully explore the news that affects, or will affect, all of us, plus give you
references to learn more on your own. Included will be second-day looks at some
of the recent developments in our industry and how they played out after the initial
announcement and tips from industry professionals on operating your business.
Our first issue should have already reached subscribers by
the time you read this, but it's never too late to subscribe. Simply go to our
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A quick Thank you
I want to quickly thank the companies that were nice enough
to show me around their facilities on my recent trip: Ecke Ranch and
EuroAmerican Propagators. I didn't mention before, but I was in California for
the Euro open house, which I'll share in more detail with you in next month's