The Trial Gardens at the University of Georgia recently announced the 12 2022 Classic City Award winners from 400 entries this year.
Each year, Trial Gardens staff plant and evaluate ornamental plant varieties sent to them by breeders around the world.
This year, the Trial Gardens team planted trial subjects between April 15 and May 15. Over the summer, the team monitored, maintained and judged the plants from 22 companies on a variety of factors that make them desirable to gardeners.
Trial Gardens Director John Ruter explained that plant breeding companies send plants they have developed to test their growth and performance in the Georgia heat and humidity, as UGA offers a prime location for these conditions. This testing can be especially necessary when the company is from a vastly different locale.
“A lot of these companies are in different climates and need to test their plants somewhere warmer and more humid, and we’re a good place for that,” Ruter said.
In addition to the general humidity and heat associated with Georgia summers, another challenge this year was the lack of rain relative to past years.
“It was a pretty dry summer,” said Ruter. “We didn’t get any drenching rains, but the heat was also a little more manageable this year.”
Sandra Begani, manager of the Trial Gardens, noted that she evaluates the plants for uniformity, disease resistance, good leaf color and minimal or no leaf dropping. These are good signs of predictability and ease of growth, which are valuable indicators of a marketable plant.
“If all the plants look really similar, that’s a sign of predictability,” she said. “And that means it will probably be easier to predict how it will behave for consumers.”
During the trial period, Begani and garden staff record the performance indicators for each plant, which are then published bi-weekly for breeders to view. Breeders can use this information to determine if the plant will be marketable in the Southeast, if the plants are better suited for markets in a different type of climate, or if there are certain properties of the plant they should improve.