Hot debate at International Trials Conference
12 July 2011
Plant trials, hardiness, breeders’ rights and nomenclature have been hotly debated this week at the International Trials Conference 2011 hosted by the RHS.
Over three days more than 100 people from 22 countries - a mix of growers, breeders, members of academia and scientist - came together at RHS Garden Wisley for this inaugural event to discuss and share their knowledge.
Fergus Garrett, Head Gardener at Great Dixter, said plant trials did both the public and gardeners a great service by pushing and highlighting superior species and cultivars. ‘Although the RHS system is not fool proof, it goes a long way to finding the best plants,' he said.
Other speakers including those from the USA, Finland and Pakistan, described their own methods of trialling and testing plants for characteristics such as drought tolerance and ability to perform in hostile growing environments. Questions arising from their presentations ranged from ‘should trials be sprayed with pesticides and fungicides’, ‘should trials be irrigated’ and ‘would themed trials such as low maintenance be more effective’?
Other key issues centre around hardiness ratings and whether a future system should centre on robustness rather than low temperature tolerance, global trade and whether international property rights were meeting the needs of breeders, and how DNA techniques were influencing plant classification and naming.
Neil Bragg, Chair of the Horticultural Development Company, updated the audience on progress finding good alternative substrates to add to peat growing media. The ultimate challenge he said, was the same as when the first John Innes composts were created in the 1950s – to find a media with consistency of quality. And Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries in Oregon, described the steps in his career which has made Heuchera a garden favourite and led to his nursery celebrating its 700th new plant introduction this year.
‘This has been a very successful event,’ said Jim Gardiner, RHS Director of Horticulture. ‘It has been an incredible platform for networking and sharing techniques and made us take a good look at plant trialling and the reasons why we do it.’
The next International Trials Conference will take place in USA in two year's time at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania.