I am the new publisher and editor-in-chief of America's most trusted garden newsletter, AVANT GARDENER. Beginning with the August issue we will be as objective, fearless, and unbiased as ever in bringing you accurate news you can use, including evaluations of new varieties, new garden products, new gardening techniques, profiles of garden experts, gardens to visit and identifying misinformation published in books, magazines, newspapers, seed and nursery catalogs, advertisements and also on the internet.
We have been doing so since 1964, and now own two trial gardens for running tests on plants and products: 20-acre Cedaridge Farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (a zone 6 garden), and Cedaridge South (a zone 10 garden), on Sanibel Island, Florida. In Pennsylvania we recently conducted extensive trials on snap peas to determine the highest yielding and most flavorful, including the original 'Sugar Snap' pea developed by pea breeder, Calvin Lamborn, the heirloom 'Amish' snap pea, dwarf 'Sugar Ann,' 'Cascadia' and 'Super Snap.' You can read WHY we found that the original 'Sugar Snap' is still the best for yields and flavor. We also conducted trials on mildew resistant giant dahlia-flowered zinnias to determine which had the highest resistance.
At Cedaridge South we conducted trials on caladiums and two varieties of macadamia nuts – the original tree form and a remarkable new bush variety that bore nuts the same season we planted it.
Have you ever wondered what's the difference is between 'Striped German', 'Big Rainbow', and several other large-fruited yellow-and-red marbled tomatoes? There isn't. They are all names for the same variety and we explain why.
Can you increase fruit set on tomatoes by pollinating the flowers by hand with a camel hair's brush? NO! In spite of several books and articles claiming you can. TOMATOES ARE SELF-POLLINATING, requiring just a slight movement of the flower truss to set fruit. We tell you what really helps tomatoes set fruit and ripen them early into the bargain.
TEST GARDENS are vital to the value of AVANT GARDENER since it promises to provide accurate information on new varieties and new products. No other publisher in America runs such extensive flower and vegetable trials as we do at our two Cedaridge Farm locations. We receive plants for trial ahead of introduction and can be the first to determine whether a new variety is worth growing. For example, we have one of the largest collections of 'Barnhaven' primroses in America and can attest to their cold hardiness and drought tolerance. We also maintain one of the largest collections of garden lilies and will continue to report on those that come back reliably like the glowing orange-red oriental hybrid 'Shehezerade.'
Did you know that the Chelsea Flower Show and the Floriade Dutch Flower Show are not the biggest? They are small compared to the California Pack Trials run by a consortium of thirty plant breeders with hundreds of acres of display gardens and production fields, and hundreds more acres under glass. The trials are held every April and are open to both the horticultural trade and the public. We bring you highlights of our visit, including the fabulous new 'Green Slipper' calla lily and the amazing 'Sunbather' gazania that thinks it's a sunflower.
A portion of the California Pack Trials at Syngenta Flowers, Gilroy, California, showing flowering annuals under trial
TEST GARDEN VISITS. Cedaridge Farm North and Cedaridge South are currently not open to visitors. In the near future we plan to allow subscribers freedom to visit without charge. Stay tuned.