From Paul Westervelt of Saunders Brothers, Inc.
Few things rev my engine quite like new plants. Like a kid in a candy store, I excitedly review the fantastical new options, carefully considering where to spend my gardening budget (yes, sometimes with my mouth watering). New plants can also be heartbreaking when they fail to perform and you don’t have to have gardened long to have tasted that particular bitter pill. The only way to separate the best from the rest is to trial. The proof is always in the trial so to earn the Handpicked For You® trustmark, new plants are trialed rigorously.
After already meeting the breeder’s standards, new varieties are trialed again in VA, OH, NJ, CT, and Ontario. Production trials come first because it doesn’t matter how well it performs in the ground if it looks like heck in a pot. Ultimately, we have to grow and sell the plant in a pot. Then ground trials because ground plantings are the final destination for most nursery plants.
Ground trials take time partly due to each year being slightly different from the last. Temperature, rainfall, disease pressure, and their combination can vary widely from one year to the next so a thorough trial can take years if you go it alone. By trialing the same plants at the same time at each location, we get data much faster. A scorching summer in VA the same year as blistering cold in Toronto, endless rain in OH, and heavy black spot pressure in NJ equates to a much more thorough picture of how good a given plant really is.
Each grower logs trial data into a shared database monthly throughout the growing season. The combination of that data provides an overall score that helps inform which plants show promise and which do not. The most promising move to First Look, a step on the way to Handpicked For You®. Participating Handpicked For You® garden centers get first dibs on those First Look plants and an opportunity to offer feedback. Each year we send a survey to participating IGCs to ask them to thumbs up or down the First Look plants they received making them a part of the certification process. After at least a year at the First Look level to get more trial data, the founding SynRG partners take that data and the IGC feedback and vote on whether an item should be certified Handpicked For You®, spend another year at First Look, or be dropped from consideration.
A plant certified Handpicked For You® has proven itself worthy by the breeder, by participating IGCs, and by the majority of founding SynRG partners over multiple years. That’s why you can trust Handpicked For You®.