Per a press release, the Michigan State University (MSU) Trial Gardens have successfully installed all their ornamental trials this summer, despite limited staffing due to COVID-19 restrictions on campus. Almost all on-campus activities were put on hold or canceled this spring and summer. But the Gardens’ Director, Kristin Getter, successfully received an exemption from college administration to allow the Trials to continue to support the industry. This year they are evaluating over 200 ornamental varieties. The annual Plant Trial Field Day event will still be held, but in a virtual format, and will be free to attend this year (registration is still required).
The MSU Trial Gardens are also in their second year of expanded trial data collection. They now provide three reports (early-, mid-, and late- season results) with pictures, each including multiple indices scoring on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent), including: plant vigor (does the cultivar fill in its space and establish quickly?), plant uniformity (do all plants in the cultivar entry look similar?), ‘WOW’ factor (a measure of flower power for flowering plants and/or the color, uniqueness, etc for foliage plants), pest and environmental stress (scored as needed, is the cultivar resistance to problems?), and an overall score (an average of the above measurements).
The Trial Gardens are part of the larger MSU Horticulture Gardens, which include 14 acres of beautiful landscapes highlighting annuals, perennials, and woody plants. The Gardens are gateless and free (MSU parking fees may apply) and are always open to the public. However, due to COVID-19, the adjacent academic buildings may be closed, and there may be limited staff on-site. For location and parking details, go to the Gardens’ visitor webpage.