Blog

May 12, 2020
Culture Trials in West Grove: A Look Back and A Look Forward
Sarah Greenwood  Perennial Plant Trials Coordinator

As spring marches ahead and this year’s trials begin to unfurl (oblivious to current global events), I pause in the relative calm before the spring storm. Here in Pennsylvania our first three culture trial groups are already potted and growing green with anticipation of the sea of blooms yet to arrive. As I wait for buds to form, I can’t help but think back to the culture trials of the past and let them color my excitement for the future.

The Darwin Perennials culture trials started as a way to help our grower customers continue to grow their success. With the introduction of a wide range of crops that broke through the vernalization barrier to allow for first-year flowering, there was a great opportunity to reevaluate how perennials could be grown. We knew the success that comes from overwintering perennials, but we wanted to explore the possibility of scheduling fresh crops throughout the season. Over the years this trialing approach has proven quite successful for many of our products, and has provided the data that allowed us to build some of the Darwin Perennials scheduling tools as a complimentary resource for our grower customers.

In a normal year, this scheduling tool can be used in conjunction with traditionally overwintered crops to allow growers to seamlessly spread out their planting along their individualized sales curve. This way they can minimize winter shrink and spring carry-over, while reliably hitting key retail dates with fresh product. This year, as we all find ourselves in uncertain waters that vary widely by region, many growers are looking for ways to hold material already on hand—and we’re here to help. For others, this scheduling tool may prove useful as they look towards planning fresh crops as restrictions are lifted.

Now enough of the serious talk—let’s bask in the beauty of three of my favorite plants from last season!

Lavandula Primavera
This is an impressive Spanish lavender with a lot to love. Although this variety was just a code last season, we knew its potential and put it into one of our culture trial groups. Right off the bat this attractive lavender didn’t disappoint, with its large royal purple flags and the typical soothing lavender aroma. As the summer heat set in and the crop matured, we realized we had something special as Primavera continued to thrive and set new flower buds. This season we are building off last year’s findings and running it through five planting groups with expected finish dates ranging from spring to fall—and I cannot wait for all that lavender goodness! After this season, you can expect Primavera to be added to the scheduling tool to help you successfully schedule this crop all season long.

Nepeta Whispurr series
This Nepeta series, made up of a blue and pink color duo, deserves to be a staple in the landscape. Don’t let their well-proportioned container habit fool you, these robust garden plants scale up in the ground for a truly impressive color show. With blooms 8 to 10 inches long they are not shy about making their presence known. In fact, these are one of those “drive-by” plants that you easily notice from a distance when in full bloom.

Much like Primavera, we are running these through the full scope of this year’s culture trials in anticipation of their scheduling tool debut. In another exciting development, last year we completely renovated our in-ground comparison bed, and I’m quite excited to see how these two have settled into their new home.

Helianthus Autumn Gold
Move over mums and make a little room for this stunning fall bloomer. While not a new introduction, this variety deserves a little more time in the spotlight. Rich golden yellow blooms cover the plant and strike the right chord for the changing of the seasons. The rich sunshine hues of summer days meld seamlessly with the orange and russet colors of the fall harvest season. A welcome addition to fall patio décor and a dazzling showstopper in the garden, this variety is easily a winner.

Click here for the full look back at last season’s trial highlights and be sure to stay tuned for more sneak-peeks as this season unfolds.

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