Happy Anniversary! The ASCFG is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. In 1988 Allan Armitage and Judy Laushman came up with the brilliant idea to start an association for specialty cut flower growers. Since then, the ASCFG has blossomed into a robust organization that supports growers and the cut flower industry.
This past year was also the 25th anniversary of the National Cut Flower Trials. Relatively soon after the ASCFG was started, Allan and Judy acted on another notion: help growers decide what to grow by asking them to evaluate new cut flower varieties themselves. In 1992 they set up the first program with 17 Trialers, and 25 cultivars from Ball, Gloeckner, Kieft, Sakata, and Takii. The ASCFG Cut Flower Trials have been operating for 25 years as of 2017. Since 1993, the ASCFG trials have tested 950 seeded cultivars. We expanded the program to include perennials, woodies, and a variety of greenhouse/high tunnel crops as well. Our members have evaluated 156 perennials, 35 woodies, 23 lilies, and a number of calla, cut chrysanthemum, and lisianthus cultivars.
After 25 years of compiling and transcribing data and Trialers’ comments to produce the Trial Reports, I have noticed a few things. First, Trialers are a lot chattier than they used to be, and much more expressive. Exclamation points and ALL CAPITAL LETTERS are common now. Contributors have become more eloquent, descriptive, and personal. Thank goodness. Reading hundreds of comments can be a bit daunting, but the verbal flair of our Trialers makes this a pleasure.
I thank my students and staff (Ingram McCall, in particular) for growing, harvesting, and collecting data on each and every one of the 1200+ cultivars tested. Every year they are excited to learn what is coming, but by August (or July in some years) they are ready for a well-targeted hail storm to remove the obnoxiously prolific gomphrena or the smelly marigolds.
This year’s Seed Trial Report continues the rich tradition of our Trialers expressing a diversity of opinions. As in the past, this year almost no cultivars were universally loved or hated. As I condensed the comments, I would often run into situations where one Trialer absolutely loved the plant and the next couldn’t get it to the compost pile fast enough. Why the differences? Market, climate, weather, soil types, and more. At times the vagaries of customers appear to be the only reason why a cultivar will work for one grower and not the other. I firmly believe cut flower production is one of the trickiest businesses on the planet: it marries the uncertainty of agriculture with the whimsy of consumer and fashion trends.
So, after 25 years, I want to thank the hundreds of growers who, over the years, put in the effort to plant, tend, and collect data on the plants. Thank you also to the seed companies—their support of our industry through the development of new flowers has been critical to our success. The quality of the cultivars has improved greatly over the years due to the time and efforts of many talented breeders.
Thank you to Judy, Linda Twining, and my staff (in the past), who helped organize the Trials and either sent the plant materials out directly or made sure the companies were able to do it. When I used to distribute the hundreds of packets of seeds the breeders had sent me, there were many days of sorting seed packets or flats of plants and compiling “orders” for each of the Trialers, as well as numerous emails (or phone calls in the old days) trying to track down the last plant materials.
And to our readers, thank you for allowing me a few moments to philosophize. Please enjoy this year’s Trial Reports. I hope you find your next moneymaker in the words on these pages.