According to Wikipedia, a trial garden is “a garden grown specifically for the purpose of testing and evaluating plants…” Applewood Seed Company’s trial garden is that and so much more! Research carried out in our test gardens includes quality control for individual flower seeds and flower seed mixes, testing new species and mixes, working out production protocols for new species, and evaluating pollinator flower preferences. Employee education is an added component of Applewood’s trial gardens. Our sales staff makes use of the gardens to familiarize themselves with flower species and mixes, and the entire staff enjoys roaming the gardens for their beauty.
Flower seeds, both species and varieties, are grown out to insure that they are true-to-type and to record plant characteristics such as height, color, bloom time, peak bloom period, uniformity, and ease of culture. If a new flower looks like a good candidate for seed production, we place it in our production trials to determine the seed yield and work out methods of seed harvesting and cleaning. Our flower seed mixes are tested over several years in order to check the balance of annuals to perennials and to insure that the proportion of each single species is appropriate for the mix.
Variety improvement is also an important component of our trials and helps to maintain the integrity of our flower varieties. Because open pollinated flower varieties can begin to produce off-types after several to many generations, Applewood Seed Company initiated a variety improvement program. This is done through the use of isolation cages where off-types are removed promptly and hand pollination is carried out since pollinators cannot access the flowers. Physical traits such as color, height, mix balance, and petal shape are selected in order to maintain the variety traits. This program helps preserve old flower seed varieties so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.
Our trial gardens are also an essential component to our continuing research on pollinators. Applewood’s research staff has been monitoring pollinator flower preferences for over a decade. Flowers are studied to determine which pollinators visit them throughout their peak bloom time, and results are utilized in the formulation of our pollinator seed mixtures.