The Serious Side of Being a Plant Tester

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Yesterday the doorbell rang and these two boxes greeted me as I looked out through my glass front door. These are Proven Winners plants and they came from Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, MI. Spring Meadow called me earlier in the week to let me know they were on the way. I was like a kid waiting for Christmas morning with anticipation. This is my second shipment from Proven Winners. This selection includes some of my favorites like Limelight Hydrangea and the new OSO EASY roses. My first shipment, the end of April this year, was for new cultivars that are doing nicely right now.

Before I put a single plant in the ground, I prepared my beds. Leaf mulch, mushroom compost, fine bark chips, and Espoma Plant Tone were mixed in the beds until I had a very rich soil that easily drained. I started out with hard clay. I prefer mushroom compost in the Spring and Cow Manure in the Fall. Mushroom compost grows mushroom roots called haphae. Conditions are not right in your garden to grow the actual top mushroom or cap. The underground hyphae is a rich environment for your plant roots. It creates spaces for your bedding plants roots to grow, it traps moisture and nutrients that would normally wash away, and there are certain organisms that feed off the hyphae that benefit your plants. Cow Manure when put down under mulch will help decompose the mulch in to fine soil for Spring planting. So there you have why I do one in the Spring and the other in the Fall.

If you scroll down a ways to just a few post below, you can see the pictures of the plants ordered and shown here in these boxes. The plants today are in 5″ pots but most are fast growers and will reach mature height in the next two years if not sooner. Only a few will take several years longer.

It’s important to get them out of this box and watered. We are having hot humid days and these plants are already stressed from the long drive south from Michigan to the mid part of North Carolina. They came UPS. Only one plant didn’t make it and arrived with all the dirt shaken out of the container. It was my Spirea Pink Parasols and I’m depressed about it. The 16 other plants are alive and healthy.

I removed them from the box and watered them completely leaving them in the shade to acclimate. In the evening, my husband planted them for me. I may have to move a few after the annuals have died back and more space is revealed in the garden. Right now, it was important to get them in the ground as soon as possible.

I take this testing seriously with Proven Winners. I want to be able to tell you how a plant performs for Zone 7. If it is very difficult to take care of, then I will be honest about it. If it requires more than the standard care with which I share with my other plants, that information will be passed along to you. Some of the 09 plants being tested for Proven Winners in my garden are doing fantastic. The new Supertunia Silverberry is almost 6ft in diameter.

Today! This plant is a monster—

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No deadheading, signs of stress or diseases!

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The Supertunia Vista Silverberry bloomed right up to frost. When the frost came, it stopped blooming but didn’t die. I seriously considered keeping it till the first snow. But I didn’t want to be pulling out dead plants in freezing temps. Here is the last pic of took of a couple of weeks ago toward the end of Nov/08

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The Citrus Blend Lantana is 4ft.

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Below is an update on the Citrus Blend Lantana just before the November frost–it got huge!

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The blooms were beautiful and turned bright red as the cold same on.

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There is also a Lo and Behold Blue Chip Butterfly Bush growing slowly because I had to transplant it to a sunnier location.When I transplanted it, there was a very large root coming from it like butterfly bushes do and I had to cut into it. So right now, it’s going through transplant shock but looks fine. I will probably see it perform more next year. Here is the before from April and the now. I know it doesn’t look like much==but that is the reality of getting plants this small and waiting for them to mature. The annuals get big quickly but the perennials and shurbs take much longer.  pw-arrives-015

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Just added this on 11-24-08…the Lo and Behold grew in its transplanted spot and did beautifully.

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The Lo and Behold only grows about 3 feet total–so it’s not going to get huge like the others. It bloomed non stop and the butterflies loved it.

Also a new Lace Cap Hydrangea that blooms on new and old wood. It’s Called, Let’s Dance Starlight—My plant is currently about 3ft and looks like it might be setting blooms. It was in a spot too sunny for it and I moved it to a shady spot with filtered light. ( It did set quite a few blooms and was beautiful. The cold this week, Nov 24th, did it in for this year..but I bet it grows a lot next year.)

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Here is what mine looked like when I got it in April and then today.

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Here are the blooms that it produced toward the end of September. That is a bit late but it did go through a shock when I first planted it–then I moved it to a shadier location and it did very well–so this is a pic from toward the end of the summer–

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I like growing the test plants for Proven Winners and in the next two months will be posting pictures of the progress on these plants as they bloom more. I’ve already been able to share about the Lantana and Supertunias. Some plants didn’t make it because we had 100 degree temps for weeks. I’m still waiting to see if I can bring back to life the lobelia and begonias. ( They didn’t make it. The begonias picked up a bit as the cooler weather set in–but they never bloomed much. I think our summer was just too hot for it.)

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7 comments on “The Serious Side of Being a Plant Tester

  1. Anna, how many plants of that citrus blend lantana do you have planted in your bed? I am considering that in 2011 to go in the bed by Comtesse de Bouchard clematis, and if it spreads that much, only one or two plants will cover that area. Another idea for that area would be yellow butterfly plant(asclepias tuberosa) with orange& Lemons gaillardia. I think the last plants I mentioned would look better against that variety of clematis but maybe I could use citrus blend elsewhere in another flowerbed.

  2. In 2009, I grew the PW supertunia bubblegum pink petunia and oh, was it beautiful. This year I decided to try the Raspberry blast and it was horrible..didn’t produce like I knew of PW plants. I swear by PW plants but was sure disappointed with Raspberry blast(hope I have the name correct!) In 2011, I’ll go back to Bubblegum pink petunias if they are still available.

    • Raspberry Blast does well for me but Pretty Much Picasso did not. Bubblegum is in the Vista series which are the best performers. Silverberry is white with a pink center and goes well with pink and purple plants. They like cooler temps than we have in my area so now that it’s cooled of a bit—they are really coming out. they will even take a light frost.

  3. I have purchased two Lantana from a company called Fisher at my local nursery. They are doing terrible.

    I have two Proven Winners that are doing outstanding. Where can I order Provern Winners on-line? I’ve searched everywhere on-line and have had no luck. Also, how can others such as myself get to test plants for Proven Winner?

    I have heard you talk (post) about Provern Winner before and looked at myy tags thinking that I had purchased some myself and the only thing that I kept noticing was the wording Proven Selection. I was thinking…this must be some copy cat company.

    But today I looked again and on the bottom of the tag there it was ‘PROVEN WINNER’. No wonder I have had such a different result between the Fisher Lantana the “PW” that I purchased.
    **** I’m so proud to hear you say that your Proven Winners are doing the best for you. The reason is because of the cultivation and propagation process. It takes between 5 and 7 years to develop and test new cultivars for PW. Only the strongest plants from their testing sites are chosen to become Proven Winners or Proven Selections. All plants are grown from cuttings and not seed. Once a plant has passed all of PW’s strict standards then the process of propagating the cultivars begins.

    Proven Winners’ propagators snip the top couple of inches off the strongest plants and these are called plugs. The plugs are sent to local certified PW nurseries or growers and they continue the growing process until they are ready for resale. Some nurseries buy the plants in 5″ pots and do not grow their own stock from plugs. So by the time you get your plant, it has been tested for many years to resist disease and perform to the best of its ability, and it has been field tested at several different sites and zones including universities, parks, and personal gardens. Even with such strict standards from beginning to end—there are retail centers who let the plant dry out. If this happens–it weakens the plant and it will affect its mature growth quality. That is why it is important to watch where you buy your plants.

    You can visit their site at http://www.provenwinners.com to understand the difference between cultivars called Proven Winners and those called Proven Selections under the PW name. Basically, Proven Winners are new cultivars and Proven Selections are those plants not new to the plant world but great performers. Some Proven Selections are grown to be stronger plants—I’m assuming that is true if there is no patent originally on the plant chosen to be a Proven Selections. All of Proven Winners new cultivars are patented. You can not propagate them for resale.

    As for becoming a tester, Proven Winners found me through my first blog. I use to have another blog and there were lots of pictures of the Proven Winners planted in those gardens.( I’m working on setting up a picture show of that home and those flowers) I have also worked for a Proven Winners certified nursery. I got lucky with PW finding me but I also put a lot of time and effort into each plant. I spent all of today changing out soil in some of my begonia pots cause it was too dense and holding more water than the plant required. We’re in a drought and my water bill is huge. I do love the company and they have been really good to me. So I would say you can contact them through their site and ask–it’s a fun job but I was already a fan of theirs and was going to buy the plants anyway.

  4. That supertunia is unbelievable!!!!
    Looks like you got a big shipment of goodies!! That is like Christmas!!!!! I love getting things in the mail!!!!!*** Me too, I love getting stuff I want. I got them all planted and in the new dirt. Some have already perked up. I hope they live and grow strong.

  5. You are right. Dream job! I’ll be watching for the Supertunia Silverberry.
    Donna
    ***Thank you for stopping by. The real test is if I can keep them all alive. We are in a drought and it’s a big chore to water every day. I am just letting the back grass go dry till this winter and I can do something about it. For now, it’s the gardens that are most important.

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