Plant evaluation is the study, monitoring and assessment of specific plant species and/or cultivars for desirability in general garden use based upon ornamental attributes, adaptation to our environmental conditions, and resistance to stress. Plant evaluation relies heavily on the collection of information based upon pre-selected parameters over multiple years as well as analysis and interpretation of the information by our skilled staff.
Many new plant selections have flooded the market in recent years, in some cases, making choices difficult due to the confusing array of forms for which there is little or no information on performance or adaptability in our region. At Mt. Cuba Center, our staff carefully selects plants that are becoming more widely used in our region for multi-year evaluation. We seek to determine objectively whether these plants can perform consistently enough to be recommended for general garden use.
Additionally, many plants propagated at Mt. Cuba Center have not been widely cultivated or their identity is not clearly established. Therefore, little or no information is available about their adaptability for garden use. Our staff use their knowledge and gardening skills to assess the conditions under which these plants can be grown and document the details which can be shared with the gardening public.
Mt. Cuba Center is committed to broadening gardeners’ understanding of native plants and how they can contribute to the quality and enhancement of gardens. Our plant evaluation program seeks to raise awareness about the diversity of plants to industry and the gardening public while recommending ways that plants can be integrated aesthetically into the landscape. In 2006, Mt. Cuba Center completed a three-year evaluation of eastern North American asters highlighting their diversity and garden use.
Our second evaluation project focuses on species and cultivars of the genus Echinacea, coneflower. After three years of trials (2007 to 2009) our new coneflower research report was released in January, 2010.
Our unique approach of promoting plants integrates the best of science and garden design. By understanding the characteristics of plants in their natural habitats and assessing their characteristics for adaptability in our gardens, Mt. Cuba Center’s Plant Evaluation Program offers a realistic and reliable understanding of how plants may perform in general garden use.