Flower Variety Trials

Horticulture trial gardens have a long history at Penn State. The first flower trial was opened in 1933 at University Park to test seed-grown bedding plants.

In 1994 the flower trial at SEAREC in Landisville, Pennsylvania, was started to evaluate vegetative and container-grown annuals for their outdoor performance and tolerance to pest problems in the hot, humid summer climate of southeastern Pennsylvania. Data are applicable to the millions of consumers and thousands of commercial growers in the Mid-Atlantic region. In 2008 more than 1,330 varieties were entered from breeders in Europe, Central America, the United States, Israel, Africa, and China, as well as from Pennsylvania growers.

A total of 4,200 commercial greenhouse growers, plant breeders, garden center operators, landscapers, and salespeople visited the Penn State Trials and participated in last year's educational programs. Results are presented at 17 commercial greenhouse and landscape meetings in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New England, and New York with about 2,800 attendees. Results are published in Pennsylvania floral industry newsletters, on Penn State Web sites, and in national magazines reaching an additional 30,000 growers. We have consistently found that 90 percent of commercial growers surveyed use the trials as one of their primary information sources regarding variety selection. Almost all those interviewed (99 percent) say the Penn State Trials are equally important for selecting new varieties and that they have a positive impact on their company sales.

Consumers are invited to an open house and allowed to walk through trials, with about 850 participating. More than 500 consumers attend the Summer Garden Experience, which came into existence by combining a successful variety trial program, educational seminars, garden demonstrations, farm research tours, Master Gardener volunteers, and outstanding support from the SEAREC staff. This has become a yearly event held on the last Saturday of July. Attendance averages 500-600 individuals. This public event has allowed Penn State Cooperative Extension to reach new and diverse audiences, including adults, youth, minorities, and disabled individuals.

About the Researcher:

Dr. Alyssa Collins is Scientist-in-Charge of the SE Ag Research & Extension Center and Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology.  She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University as well as an M.S. in Plant Pathology from NC State University and a Ph.D. in Plant and Soil Sciences from the University of Delaware.  Her research and extension efforts focus on the prevention and management of field crop diseases and she is currently serving as the Interim Director of the Penn State Flower Variety Trials.

Contact Information:
Phone:  717-653-4728