The Gardens at Athens were started in 1982, when Allan Armitage and Michael Dirr, along with a number of students, plowed some ground and built a wobbly lathe area. Today, we evaluate plants or seeds from almost all the plant breeding companies in the world, along with material from perennial plant nurseries, individual growers and gardeners, as well as material from Dr. John Ruter’s breeding program.
The Gardens at UGA serves research and teaching functions and is an important resource for breeders, retailers, growers, landscapers, and consumers. Our open houses provide opportunities for gardeners, breeders and growers to view the trials. We enjoy visits by plant breeders and representatives of many of the major international horticultural firms who want first-hand data to produce better cultivars for the expanding southern market.
The Gardens are open year-round and are located between Snelling Dining Hall and the Pharmacy building on the UGA campus. The garden is open to the public and professionals alike and detailed information on the plants we trial is available to all by visiting Garden Trials.
The trials are planted in April and May and consist of major and minor bedding classes, tropicals, vines, plantings of specialty annuals, over 150 free-standing containers, ~180 rose cultivars, numerous hanging baskets and three large perennial beds.
How Plants are Evaluated
Annuals Every two weeks, every cultivar is evaluated by Meg Green (Trial Garden Supervisor) for “horticultural” performance. This allows us to follow the performance of each cultivar through “good times and bad.” The data are combined into a single performance rating, based on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being exceptional, 1 being almost dead. The ratings are then used to generate a graph of performance over time, and are updated at every evaluation date. This allows a real time viewing of performance and more importantly, an in-depth understanding of how a plant performed from spring to fall. Most cultivars will be accompanied by a photo. These graphs can be found under annuals.
The Best of the Bunch
For annuals, we also select the best cultivars for each genus and list them under ‘Best of the Best‘. For both annuals and perennials, we also choose the recipients for the Classic City Award; the very best plants in the garden over the entire season, well worth a place in any landscape.
During the evaluations, there is also a weekly list of Plants of Distinction (10 plants that are good that week). This allows growers and landscapers to easily identify plants that perform well during given times of the year.
UGA Department of Horticulture professor John Ruter took over as Director of the Trial Gardens from garden co-founder Allan Armitage on July 1, 2013. For more complete information, the Trial Gardens have an excellent web site.