Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Plants, Research and Trials

Longwood GardensBen Cecil, our Operations Manager, and I attended the 3 Brand Grower Meeting in September. The meeting was hosted at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania with tour stops at Terrain Garden Center and Conard-Pyle trial garden and new plant development labs.   

Longwood Gardens is amazing.  This should be on every plant enthusiast's bucket list.

The 3 Brand Meeting is for growers involved with the following brands:  Bailey's First Editions and The Endless Summer Collection of Hydrangeas, Star Roses and Conard-Pyle, and Plant Development Services, Inc. (Encore Azalea, The Southern Living Collection, Sunset Western Garden Collection).

This meeting proved to be a key opportunity for us to learn about the brands, marketing efforts, new plants, production practices, etc. and also to network with others growers and learn through information sharing.   
Rose Liners
Rose liners at Conard-Pyle
At Conard-Pyle we were able to view their extensive trial fields.  It was great to see varieties from multiple plant development companies across the trade planted side by side in the no-spray environment. We also visited Conard-Pyle's new plant development lab where they are using embryo rescue techniques and outsourcing gamma radiation (isolating, scrambling and crossing the genetics) to develop new and better varieties....this was way over my head but fun to learn about no less. 
With so many new plants coming on the market, it is becoming more and more difficult to decide what to grow and maybe more importantly, what not to grow.   We all know that sometimes the new variety on the market is the next best thing and sometimes it is better to stick with the tried and true varieties.  There are a lot of plants that we have been growing for the past 23 years that are winners.  A new plant must bring something more to the table than a current variety in order to make a change in production (either replace an existing variety or add a new variety to the product line up).  Some new varieties have improved disease resistance, better performance at the nursery, more drought tolerance, reblooming or other appealing aesthetic characteristics that meet a need or solve a problem that is not solved with the current plant palette.

breeder talk
Breeder showing Chocolate Fountains Albizia
Seeing the trials, going to the meetings and trialing the plants for ourselves at Loma Vista will enable us to best determine the winners and select the best varieties for our production and customers.  Right now we have approximately 45 varieties in our trial program at Loma Vista.  If you have varieties you'd like to see Loma Vista grow, please shoot me an email or give me a call., 913-915-0773 mobile.

Example pictures of Conard-Pyle's trial garden are shown below. Selections they are trialing are placed next to the nearest or most similar product on the market so they can compare the plants side-by-side under the same conditions. 

Moody Blues and Royal Candles VeronicaMoody Blues and Royal Candles Veronica - Moody Blues has more flower power.


Einstein and Hummingbird Clethra
Einstein and Hummingbird Clethra - Einstein has longer flowers but Hummingbird has much nicer foliage.
Rainbow Sensation and Ruby Fusion Weigela
Rainbow Sensation and Ruby Fusion Weigela - Rainbow Sensation is outperforming the new trial plant, Ruby Fusion.

More images of the Longwood Botanical Gardens:
Northwind Panicum

Northwind Panicum - an example of a newer variety that provides a solution that other plants we grew did not. 

Caryopteris in the trial garden

Caryopteris in the trial garden in a mass planting as a groundcover. 
Container Garden

Container garden featuring caryopteris, one of my new favorites.
By Lyndsi Oestmann, Vice President, Loma Vista Nursery 

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