Published on 06/09/14

The Trial Gardens at UGA host 32nd annual open house

By Merritt Melancon

Over the last three decades the Trial Gardens at UGA have introduced home gardeners and landscape designers to thousands of new plant varieties. The public will have the chance to get a first look at this year’s new varieties and some tried and true Georgia favorites at the gardens’ annual public house on July 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Every year at the Trial Garden’s open house, visitors get an up close and personal look at a new class of vetted ornamentals — ranging from gorgeous flowers to hardy shrubs.

Dozens of new perennials should be in bloom during this year’s open house, in addition to a show-stopping array of roses and the garden’s 2014 rotation of annuals, said UGA horticulturist John Ruter, director of the Trial Gardens.

“The Trial Gardens at UGA are one the best kept secrets in northeast Georgia,” Ruter said. “Our annual open house is our chance to share one the most beautiful parts of the UGA campus with the community and share some of what we’ve learned over our last year gardening.”

Located on the UGA campus in Athens, Ga., between the Snelling Dining Hall and the R. C. Wilson Pharmacy Building, the gardens display hundreds of annuals and perennials from plant breeders around the world. The open house will showcase some advanced selections from Ruter’s breeding programs as well as many less-known selections.

The garden is always open to the public, but the open house gives visitors inside knowledge about this year’s most promising plant varieties. Ruter will give tours of the garden throughout the day focusing on some of the new additions to the garden.

This year marks Ruter’s first at the Trial Gardens at UGA, and he looks forward to highlighting his first crop of test plants.

“We have some petunias that have done fantastic this spring and a large selection of Madagascar periwinkles that should be in bloom for the open house,” Ruter saId.

Plant nurseries and breeding companies send hundreds of new plants each year for evaluation in the garden. They need to know if their plants can survive the hot and rainfall-variable Southeast. The companies fund the garden by paying to have their plants evaluated by an unbiased source. That money pays for the gardens' upkeep and a team of student workers who keep the garden running.

The event will be held rain or shine, and the garden staff requests a $5 donation to help offset the cost of the event and support the garden.

The Trial Gardens also serve as a teaching and research facility for the UGA Department of Horticulture and other academic departments.

Parking is available in the South Campus Parking Deck, and the gardens are located at 220 W Green St., Athens, Ga., 30602. For more information, visit or email

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