Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Flower Trial Evaluation—The Trial Ground’s Beauty Pageant

We grow hundreds of varieties of flowers each year at our trial grounds.

Although we are renowned for our world-class vegetables and focus on home gardeners’ food production, we also appreciate a pretty face. Beyond question, vegetables can be absolutely gorgeous (if you don’t believe me, plant some Veronica cauliflower, Red Ursa kale or Peppermint Swiss chard for starters), but flowers are the obvious show-stoppers when it comes to attention-getting good looks in the garden.

Each spring we plant hundreds of flower varieties in our trials, our current catalog offerings grow alongside lots of new and different cultivars. In this parade of color we look at our old favorites, making sure that they’re continuing to meet our high standards and search for any new up-and-coming stars. Evaluating flowers is a task that we approach much like our vegetable trials—with a very critical eye. We’re looking for outstanding varieties, which means more than just an attractive flower. To be considered a Territorial Seed Company flower selection, the variety has to prove itself as a superior performer in our low-input, organic environment. Just like the vegetables, we require a lot from our flowers: vigor, productivity, and longevity to name a few. Plants are judged on their growth rate, size, disease resistance, bloom size and color, fragrance, and texture. We’ll characterize how eager they are to flower, length of bloom season, and whether they’re fussy and require grooming: pinching, pruning, or dead-heading. Plants will earn points for durability, resistance to pest pressure, and their ability to withstand fall’s first frosts. For cutting flowers, vase life is a major consideration, and we also note the flowers’ cleanliness—if the blooms drop pollen or readily shed petals. Other characteristics of note are the flowers’ power of attraction to wildlife, particularly pollinating bees.

Competition in the flower trials is stiff with every flower vying for attention. Evaluating all these gorgeous varieties is a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!

Only the Lonely nicotiana has a faint daytime scent and releases its powerful perfume in the evening.

We can always find a practical reason to add some glamor to the garden whether it’s to attract beneficial insects for pollination, for companion planting—marigolds are the first to come to mind, to add diversity and build a healthy soil ecosystem, or just to fill in the blanks between the veggies. Anyone who has a garden knows that Mother Nature hates bare ground and will gladly plant weeds if you don’t cover the space first. Beyond that and unique to flowers is their undeniable power to make your spirit soar with just a single glance. That reason alone is more than enough for us to plant a flower, and our flower varieties have all demonstrated their worthiness to be included in the garden.

Stay tuned for some helpful hints on making the most of your flowers both in and out of the garden.

Author: Kat B.

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