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What It Takes To Be A PROVEN WINNERS® Plant
Trialing is only part of the equation for a plant to become a PROVEN WINNERS® . Learn what the trial managers look for when searching for the best of the best.
By Betsy Kollman, Trial Manager,
What makes a plant a PROVEN WINNERS® ? The three trial managers from the partner companies in PROVEN WINNERS® have specific criteria ensuring the plants that bear the PROVEN WINNERS® logo are successful throughout the entire country.
It all starts at the breeder level, and we work with a vast network of breeders to find plants that are really unique showstoppers and also improvements on existing varieties — ours and others on the market. It can be up to a year or more from the time I select a plant from a breeder location to the time I see it in my trials. There’s a lot of time and effort that goes into it before plants even arrive in my trials. We accept plants from small hobby breeders up to and including large breeding or production facilities.
We’ll typically ask a breeder to give us their top 5-10 of each genus they breed and each color. Working with as many breeders as we do, that puts about 3,000 plants in my trials, including our production and market comparisons. Then we’ll take a look at growth habits, garden performance and liner production, disease susceptibility and narrow the field down over the course of a year or two. We don’t have a specific number of introductions to aim for every year. Typically less than 3% of what I trial is introduced after trialing and selections across all three PROVEN WINNERS® locations.
A breeder may have 500 plants — or more — and we’ll take a small percentage of them to trial. But there’s no guarantee any of those will ever get introduced. I’m currently looking at plants that won’t be sold until 2015 — the breeder won’t see returns until 2015. This is why royalties are so important to our industry. Breeders are the ones that keep us alive, and we need to support them as they support us. All of the plant royalty funds that PROVEN WINNERS® collects go back to the plant breeder to help keep the flow of new genetics coming.
What I Look For
So what makes a plant jump off the bench at me and makes it a PROVEN WINNERS® For garden performance I look at color coverage – I don’t even want to see green, I want to see a blanket of whatever that flower color is. I also look at branching; I want a nice full and robust plant. The branching of a plant helps keep it supported even during severe weather. Heat and humidity tolerance are also important. The United States has a wide range of growing climates and we trial in similar environment to make sure plants are successful across the U.S. This is on the consumer side. We also want to make sure the plant is successful for the grower as well.
It’s also vital to see how it performs in the liner tray and how well it roots and behaves as a young plant. I’m working with product line managers here at Four Star to trial new varieties right alongside plants in production to track performance. We talk about what they see, and what their concerns might be regarding the plant. Does the new Supertunia® perform the same way an existing Supertunia® does? Then I’m taking that information and applying it back into the trials for future introductions. Our product line managers are some of the best and they’ve certainly helped me understand what I can do in my selections to make their job easier down the line.
In the end, we want everyone to succeed with our plants. We do our best to cover all climates of the country and to address existing grower and consumer concerns throughout the trialing process. The effort put into the breeding, trialing, selection, and production of these plants demonstrates how we truly believe that the plants we introduce are Proven Winners.