Planning for the California Spring Trials

February 12, 2012 -  By

The horticulture industry’s annual road trip of new varieties takes place next month.

The displays have been designed, the speakers have been booked and the new plants are being prepared for their close-ups at this year’s California Spring Trials. The spotlight will shine on 17 stops along more than 400 miles of California highway and byways from March 24-31.

Plants displayed at the trials usually are available to landscapers the next year, so this Spring Trials are a great way to see what’s on the horizon, learn culture tips and gets some great planting ideas. It’s also an opportunity to get some amazing landscape plant design ideas from the elaborate displays created by companies hosting open houses.

Nearly 40 companies will showcase the latest cultivars to growers, retailers, landscapers and gardeners who make the pilgrimage. It’s a massive undertaking and can be overwhelming to visit. There are no fees associated with visiting any of the trial locations, but appointments are often required. If you’re planning on making the trip you need to plan ahead.

Luckily, there are a number of online resources to help schedule appointments and plan your visit. The SpringTrials.org site has been updated with maps for planning a visit, and tools for collecting and critiquing plants, as well as for communicating with industry breeders and trial garden coordinators. Registered members gain access to a suite of tools to manage and update online content and information, manage trial and display gardens and their results, and interact with other plant professionals.

“Our goal is to develop a robust collection of knowledge that promotes the high-value proposition of our industry and to help educate consumers about trial gardens and the enormous effort that goes into delivering a great flowering plant,” says David Brock, who developed the site and its resources.

To make your planning more manageable, you can break the trip up by geography. Open houses can be clustered into northern, central and southern regions from Gilroy to Encinitas. OFA, an association of horticulture professionals, hosts a Spring Trials page that lists all of the participants by region, along with contact information to make appointments. Hotel rooms are normally plentiful in Gilroy, Salinas, Lompoc, Ventura/Oxnard and Vista.

With an event this large, it’s important to be organized in order to take advantage of everything it has to offer. Make sure to take lots of pictures and notes so you’ll be ready to use the information when you get back to work. It’s a great opportunity to use the calendar, camera, voice recording, social media and notes functionality of your smart phone or tablet computer. And whatever you do, wear comfortable shoes.

LM Staff

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