Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
The growing conditions of each region are different. A cacti or succulent that thrives in the Northwest might perish in the sunny South. For that reason, local and regional trial gardens are a valuable asset for cacti and succulent lovers. At these sites gardeners can see the new varieties and compare them to old ones.
There are many trial gardens around the country. These often feature new varieties of annual and perennial succulents. The purpose of trial gardens is to test the new plants alongside the existing varieties, usually side by side. This takes place at various locations around the country so that the trial judges can see how the plants perform.
The plants are rated by the trial judges on a regular basis throughout the growing season. While some trial gardens are located at public gardens, others are part of a nursery or other commercial establishment. But, most are open to the public at some point during the gardening season.
The C. Raker and Sons Trial Gardens in Litchfield, Michigan is an example. Located on the wholesale nursery grounds, this is open during the Michigan Garden Plant Tour each year, usually in July and August. For the 2010 season, the trial garden featured nearly 2500 varieties. It included 37 All-America Selections trial plantings.
Many nurseries have demonstration or display gardens using plants that they sell and recommend. From these exhibits you can see hardy cacti and succulents in use within landscape settings. These are well worth a visit.
One of the best ways to learn about the best kinds of garden plants is to visit an All-America Selections (AAS) trial or display garden. Do make it a point to visit the AAS trialing location and display garden nearest your location. All in all, there are around 36 trial grounds, some of which include a display garden.
There are about five AAS trial grounds in Canada as well. There are also 150 AAS display gardens all over the country. While smaller states might have only one such garden, it is common to have at least two in most states. The display garden in some cases is at a commercial location, such as a nursery. Though I havenít been there in a couple years, I found the trial gardens at the Park Seed headquarters in Greenwood, South Carolina were well worth a visit. Others are located at botanical gardens or universities.