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UAC MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2012


URBAN AG Chasing the flags


Market research from trial gardens by Allan Armitage, University of Georgia


During the Trial Gardens at University of Georgia open houses for the industry and the public, we asked visitors to place a small flag marker in their favorite plants. Approximately 700 people shared their passions this year, and the flags provided useful information about what catches the eye in the landscape.


Tis exercise is a snapshot in time. Te annuals do not change dramatically in the intervening month, but the perennials do. Because of this, the plant lists may be different two weeks before or aſter this time period.


Tere are hundreds of plants in the garden, and asking people to choose only five is a daunting task. Many different plants had one to five flags, but only those with a significant number of flags have been included here. If a plant is on one of these lists, it may be worth taking a second look.


The Trial Gardens at the University of Georgia


Te Gardens at Athens were started in 1982, when the then young and foolish Allan Armitage and Michael Dirr, along with a number of confused students, plowed some ground and built a wobbly lathe area.


Te primary functions of the garden have always been research, teaching, and new crop introduction. Te garden is open to the public and professionals alike and detailed information on the plants we trial is available to all who are interested by visiting Garden Trials.


Te trials are planted in April and May and consist of ma- jor and minor bedding classes, tropicals, vines, plantings of specialty annuals, over 150 free-standing containers and three large perennial beds.


Te other major function of the garden is the evaluation and subsequent introduction of new crops for the green- house and landscape industries.


A protocol for the introduction of new crops has been developed which includes tolerance to heat and humid-


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ity, ease of propagation, resistance to disease and insects, greenhouse production time, and cutting efficiency. Es- sentially, this protocol allows us to cull many plants from the program, so that only the best remain. If plants “make the cut,” they are distributed nationally. In the past, many plants were simply introduced to growers who wished to produce them, including annuals and perennials. Tis method of introduction continues today, however, a new program, in which plants which show extraordinary heat and humidity tolerance appear under the nationally rec- ognized “Athens Select” logo. We have been successful in introducing many new crops in the last 10-15 years.


Allan Armitage is founder of the UGA Trial Gardens and a professor in UGA’s Dept. of Horticulture.


For more about the gardens, visit


ugatrial.hort.uga.edu


The Industry Open House Tis gathering occurred in mid-June and was at- tended by approximately 300 landscapers, retail- ers, designers, breeders and brokers.


The Public Open House Tis was held on July 14, almost a month later than the industry shindig, with about 350 people. It is interesting to note that the tastes of the consumer are somewhat different than those of the industry; in fact no calibrachoas or pelar- goniums were chosen despite the fact that they looked good. As with the Industry Open House, many more plants were flagged. Tese are only the top 10.


Originally published September 5, 2012 in Greenhouse Growermagazine. Reprinted with permission.


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