Many new plants and varieties are introduced into the market every year. Little information is generally available about the landscape performance of these plants. To take the guesswork out of their landscape performance in the Tennessee region, the Univ. of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) Gardens were established. Started in 1983 as an All-America Selections (AAS) Test Garden, on less than a quarter of an acre, the UTIA Gardens have grown to 5 acres and now include plant introductions from 25 commercial seed and plant companies. An average of 550 summer and winter annuals are evaluated annually in addition to an assortment of bulbs, perennials, herbs, groundcovers, ornamental grasses, aquatics, trees, and shrubs. Because of the volume of plants, evaluation criteria are in conjunction with industry requests and are not always replicated. In addition to university support, the gardens receive revenues from the sponsoring commercial seed and plant companies, the Tennessee green industry trade associations, a “Friends of the Gardens” support group, and gifts. As a result of the herbaceous plant evaluation program, the UTIA Gardens have grown to be a significant resource for the university, community, and green industry. A variety of university departments use the gardens in their teaching; community groups, including schools, tour and use the gardens; and open houses and field days assist commercial growers and landscapers in remaining current on new plant introductions and their performance.
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