A of Winners Rainbow at Raulston

Color Trial Manager – Bernadette Clark

The JC Raulston Arboretum conducts plant trials throughout the year, putting 500-700 plants through their paces. Lise Jenkins visited the arboretum and learned that it takes more than just a pretty face to make it into the garden centers.  Find out what makes a winning plant, which plants perform best in our area, and how to find the best new plants in the market.

 

 

Resources

  • JC Raulston Arboretum
  • Plant trial reports – what plants have performed the best

 

 

 

TRANSCRIPT 

JENKINS
I want to add some daisies to my front bed.  So I’m at the garden center and I’m staring at an entire bench of different types of daisies.  I’m late in getting them in the ground so I have to make up my mind.  But with any luck they are going to be with me for years to come, so how to chose. And where do all of these daisies come from any way?  Recently I had an opportunity to meet someone who helps decide what plants make it to market.
CLARK
My name is Bernadette Clark   I’m responsible for the annual color trials that are at the JC Raulston Arboretum.  
JENKINS
If you follow the path at the Arboretum that goes beyond the Lath House, and through a gap in the hedge you’ll be rewarded with a rainbow of color.  The Arboretum puts between 5 to 700 plants through their paces each year.  And they are part of a network of facilities that conduct plant trials across the country.  It may take years for a plant breeder to create something unique, that they think might be marketable.  But in order for a plant to be commercially viable it has to grow successfully in a range of conditions.  That’s where plant trials come in.  Bernadette explained that she will receive seeds at the end of the year and begin sowing in late January through March.  Then she plants in April and  about three weeks later begins collecting data on the plant’s performance.  
CLARK
So that third week I start taking data and every week there after.  With that I look to see what’s flowering.  So its assigned a value for flowering.  I also check the overall, the vigor, the size, the shape, the uniformity and the colors of the flowers.  The floriferencess of the plant and you assign a number with that.
JENKINS
And its not just summer annuals out there.  Bernadette explained they trial different types of plants.
CLARK
We do in ground or bed-plant trials.  And we also do container trials as well as hanging basket trials.  A few years ago we started in with perennials.  They are a little different.  They are in the ground for a two-year period.  Two complete years, and then the third year the spring flush is the terminating factor for those trials.  But all the others are in for just the season.  If its a spring / summer trial they are in from April to the end of Sept.  And our winter trials are from October through the end of March.
JENKINS
So, you’re pretty much doing them year round?
CLARK
We are doing them year round.  We have about 2-3 weeks when we have nothing in here and that’s the beginning of October because we have to turn the ground and prepped for our winter trials.  
JENKINS
Is this a good place to come for ideas?
CLARK
Absolutely.  And I tell people they need to come at least three times.  You need to come early in the season and you look to see what attracts your interest —things you think might work for you.  Then come later in the season and see what’s still alive, if its still growing the way you think for the place you want to have in your yard.  And then come at the end of the season, in the fall, so you can see if its still alive.  That way you can see if you’re going to have coverage for the plant you want for the whole season.  There’s some people who only want a certain type of plant early in the season, maybe they are having a wedding at their house or having some other event and they want the yard to look spectacular.  So their needs are a little different.  But for most homeowners you’ll want to check for the three times so you can see what looks good, and what lasts.
JENKINS
We stop in front of the daisies and I’m a little over whelmed.  I think I disappointed Bernadette when she heard me muttering about why we need so many different daisies anyhow.  Then  I shooke out of my momentary frustration and ask her which is her favorite plant this year.
CLARK
Each year its different.  You have a different problem, have different issues.  You have different things that attract your attention.  For years I would have told you I didn’t like a petunia…but there’s certain things they’ve been doing with petunia breeding work that I like now.  Even now I’ve been doing this for a long time, its the promise of what that season has to offer that keeps you going.
JENKINS
So you’ve answered my question about why we have to have all these new plants.
CLARK
Laughs
JENKINS
We keep walking and pass by a bed of green petunias edged in purple.  They look so different I’m guessing these are the ones Bernadette likes this year.
JENKINS
I’m not a big petunia fan, but I like those.
CLARK
I don’t.  Laughs.  Actually its because we are walking very slowly through the garden and we can see them, if you were going by on the highway you would see that as a muddled mess.  You need to have that in a container by a doorway.  It is a beautiful plant, but you have to make sure you show it in the right way.
JENKINS
Standing among the beds I’m reminded that these flowers are more than just a pretty face.  They have to deliver in our climate, endure our weather, hold their appearance.  They are created for very specific purposes —sized and shaped to fill a certain space, colored for drama or subtle enjoyment, scented or not.  The list goes on and on.  These plants reflect the vision the plant breeder who created them had in mind when they created them —as limitless as the human imagination.  I’ve got my eye on a couple different daisies.  Fortunately they are established cultivars they are in the trials to serve as standards against which the newer experimental varieties are compare to.  Now I’m off to see if I can find my choices in the garden center.    See what treasures you can discover at the Raulston Arboretum plant trials.  We added links to our website about the trials and their results.  Check it out at getting dirty radio show dot org.  I’m Lise Jenkins and I’m an NC State Extension Master Gardener Volunteer and I’m in Durham county.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. ( Log Out / Change )

You are commenting using your Twitter account. ( Log Out / Change )

You are commenting using your Facebook account. ( Log Out / Change )

You are commenting using your Google+ account. ( Log Out / Change )

Cancel

Connecting to %s