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Diggers 2020 flower trials

The results of our 2020 trials brings beauty to our range. New selections join stalwarts in a celebration of annual flowers throughout the seasons.

Every year The Diggers Club trials new plants, bulbs and seeds to find the best performing garden-worthy plants to delight our members.

We are excited to share the latest selections from our 2020 flower trials – an extensive trial of annual flowers grown at our Heronswood garden. Trials are the foundation for choosing plants at The Diggers Club. How can we truly know all the exciting characteristics of plants and how they perform unless we grow and cultivate them to their floriferous glory?

The process of flower trials and selection

New selections that make it into the Diggers range go through a rigorous testing and trialling process to determine their garden-worthiness. First and foremost, they must thrive in our garden. Specific details of their characteristics, cultural and growing information are all carefully monitored and collected.

We are constantly considering the range of flowers we offer to Australian gardeners. The first step in considering our trial varieties is to determine the needs of Australian gardeners and the overarching mission of The Diggers Foundation to encourage and inspire gardeners to create beautiful and productive gardens for a sustainable future.

When creating a shortlist for trial we consider recommendations and enquiries from members, preservation of unique garden flowers, gardening in a changing climate with plants that tolerate stressful Australian conditions, gardening that encourages biodiversity and pollinators, and flowers that complement natural organic gardening. Of paramount importance is the hunt for beauty, as we firmly believe there is no excuse for ugliness in a garden.

More than ever gardeners are looking pragmatically for multipurpose and multidimensional flowers, i.e. ornamental and edible, beautiful and beneficial. We value a flower that looks beautiful outside in the garden and just as beautiful inside as a long-lasting cut flower in a vase.

Gardeners not only seek out varieties for beauty, but also to increase biodiversity, with qualities to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. A study of the many desirable attributes of a wide range of seed sources results in a shortlist and we set out to acquire the seed. 

The 2020 flower trials were overseen by our dedicated gardener, Asha, at the Heronswood garden. The ‘primary control’ for the trials was ensuring the growing conditions were consistent and no more intensive than any of the regular practices and treatments of the existing certified-organic garden. The trials were left to perform with minimal intervention, receiving the same fertilisation and irrigation as the rest of the garden.

Diggers is fortunate to work with an international network of passionate seed experts dedicated to preserving heirloom and open-pollinated varieties. When considering a new introduction of potential flower varieties, we view images and references indicating their appearance and performance. Photos often show a particular flower in a certain light, while the actual colour in an Australian garden can be markedly different.

The selection - knowing by growing

Asha (left) and Jac with new introduction Zinnia ‘Lilliput Salmon’. One of the many flower bouquets we picked from our summer trials. 

 

Trialling and the selection of new varieties is always a joyful and exciting process. In many gardeners, there is a curious plant hunter stirring inside, seeking the rare, exciting or unusual. What’s old is new, as many of the selections we trialled this year are well-established garden flowers that have fallen from favour in modern gardens. Often when growing plants for the first time you find unexpected flowers or features you haven’t seen before.

As described by Asha, the experience always provides a great deal of anticipation and fun – those flowers that perform genuinely make us happy. Gardening, whether it be trialling new varieties or growing tried and true favourites, brings joy and pleasure regardless of its purpose.

As plant lovers, it is hard to be objective on new varieties until they are trialled. We grew some varieties with high hopes, but they simply didn’t perform or were readily susceptible to pests and diseases. We are always prepared to be disappointed with flower seeds that may have shown promise, but ultimately don’t succeed as garden-worthy options.

The process of growing and observing a plant yourself is always beneficial. As gardeners, we learn more than we ever will from references and experts when we physically engage in growing and tending a plant. We observe intricacies, learn facts and gain firsthand experience of how a particular plant grows.

This year’s flower trials generated 14 exciting new varieties for our range. We hope you enjoy these beautiful new additions listed throughout the Seed Annual.

A spectrum of helichrysums have joined our flower range thanks to the 2020 trials.

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A cool-white selection of giant geranium with large incised palmate leaves up to 25cm across, topped by a huge bouquet of abundant starry white flowers with subtle pink centres from late winter to Christmas. Rarely offered (you'll never see this one in the box stores), it is an eye-catching feature in moist, sunny or part shaded areas protected ...
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