Flower trials provide gardening answers

CSU’s Annual Flower Trial Garden is one of the top tourist attractions in Fort Collins, Colo., at 1401 Remington Street.

csu-flower-trials-blogI was in Fort Collins on Friday attending the “Knowledge Stimulus Package” program presented by CSU and the Green Industries of Colorado.

During the full day of classes I learned about organic lawn care, what might be bugging veggie gardens and small fruits for the Front Range. I also had the chance to tour the perennial and annual trial gardens and I’ll share much of what I learned in future posts.

CSU’s Annual Flower Trial Garden has 1200 different varieties of annuals undergoing testing there. The flower trial program helps plant and seed companies evaluate how well their new plants will perform in the landscape.

Colorado is an ideal test site because of its high light intensity, low humidity and dry climate. Companies are interested in seeing how their plants perform in the Rocky Mountain region as compared to other areas of the country like California or Florida.

In addition to evaluating how well plants grow in the garden beds, companies are interested in how their new plants will perform in containers.

At the end of the season, “Best of Winners” are selected in each category and the 2008 winners are available in Metro area garden centers this season; 2009 winners will show up in 2010.

Winners from the 2008 testing season include annuals like ‘Calliope’, (the Best of Show and Best Zonal Geranium), the multicolor annual grass Pennisetum ‘Fireworks’ (Best New Variety), and Ptilotus ‘Joey’ (Best Novelty) because of its appealing flowers that look like fuzzy arrowheads.

This year the trial garden experienced some extra trials in the form of 3 devastating hailstorms. Although the most recent storm was in early June, most of the flowers had bounced back in about a month. The plants that came back most quickly were the Verbenas, but the geraniums looked great, too.

This is good information for gardeners along the Front Range who want to plant an almost “hail-proof” annual.

If you’re already looking ahead to next year’s garden, I hope you’ll stop by the flower trial garden between now and mid-September to see what’s in store for 2010.


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