At the dawn of each Spring, hosts of eager gardeners will head to their local plant store, excited and filled with dreams of bountiful gardenscapes. Some have in mind exactly what they want, others, want to be inspired by the plants available. Either way, there is a good chance you’ll run into a plant known as a Proven Winner.
Proven Winners are a specialized breed of plant that has been cultivated to perform well. The process of bringing a plant from seed to garden store is long and laborious, taking upwards of 6 years in some cases.
So, what’s so special about this breed of plant, you ask?
Well, its uniqueness lies in its selection process. See plants don’t just grow from seed and then good ones are tagged as Proven Winners. No, they must be bred, selected and trialed before they can be considered a Proven Winner.
This painstaking process, is why these plants are valuable. See, they’ve been “run through the ringer” of possible outcomes since they were seeds, so the resulting plant is ready to be a star in your garden.
Now, that being said, even a Proven Winner can’t survive outside its recommended zone, nor can it survive poor care. It is important to read the labels to make sure you know how to handle a certain type of plant before you buy. Garden centers usually have someone who is knowledgeable about plant care, so don’t forget to use them as a resource as well.
Next time you visit a garden store, take a minute to really soak it in. Realize that each Proven Winner plant represents years of work to earn that distinguished title. Remember that each plant you bring home is a little piece of happiness – someone’s baby – that has finally made it to the “big leagues.”
So, let’s look at what it takes to make it to the “Proven Winner” circle?
What Makes a Plant a Proven Winner?
To be clear, there are a few characteristics that make a plant a Proven Winner including:
· larger amount of flowers
· longer-lasting flowers
· compact size
· colorful foliage
· cold/heat tolerance
That is certainly a lot of parameters! Just know it is a passion-project for the plant breeders involved. They have a passion to produce the most attractive and bountiful plants that will continue to provide your garden with beauty, year after year.
See, only the best seedlings are selected by a breeder. They grow and select, then grow and select again, until they’ve narrowed down the best. Only then do they begin the trial process. A minimum threshold of 2 years, but closer to 3 or 4 years, is the average time for a plant to be ready for consideration.
How a plant performs under various environmental surroundings is considered. Plants that are on the way to earning the Proven Winner title are grown inside temperature-controlled greenhouses, outside in pots and in the ground. They are studied to determine how they will perform under these varied environments. The focus is on the flowers.
- how well they represent that breed of plant?
- how many flowers are present?
- is the color vibrant?
- how big are the flowers?
The trials to select a Proven Winner are held at 4 different sites in the US, as well as sites in Japan and Germany. In the US, the sites are spread out to include the east coast, the Midwest, and the south. These different breeding sites are the testing ground for the how well the plant does in these different environments. Plants that do well in every environment are considered for placement in the Proven Winners line.
Let’s look a little more into the process of bringing a seed up to par.
how plants become a Proven Winners
As we mentioned earlier in this article, plants that are Proven Winners are carefully cultivated, bred, trialed and selected over a period of years before they can come to market. Even then, only the top 3% make it to the winner’s circle.
Great plants can be passed-up for selection if there is no market for them. Questions like, “is this the right color” or “how does the leaf shape vary from others in the same family” are carefully considered.
Once a plant is earmarked to be included as a Proven Winner, there is usually at least 1-1/2 years before you can actually purchase the plant at your local center.
This time is used to:
· name the plant
· record specific care and cultivating requirements
· calculate production needs
· begin production/ deliver to growers
· communicate with local growers
· grow the plant in greenhouse
· patent/trademark plant names
Usually, it takes anywhere between 2-1/2 to 4 months for a plant to grow from cutting to sellable size. Add to that the time it took for the idea to be developed, produced and make it to the sales floor and you’ve got a serious 6- to 7-year project.
Let’s break down the individual steps a plant must endure to become a Proven Winner.
The first step in the process is breeding. There are two ways this process can happen, decision-based crosses, or using seeds that come from open pollinated plants. 1. decision-based crosses – the plant breeder looks at specific characteristics of the plant and considers the positive and negative aspects. The decision will be based on how the breeder feels the positive aspects will be present, without the negative, when bred. They will then manually pollinate plants based on their decision. The goal is to continue adjusting the plant until most of the positive aspects are highlighted. once these new plants are grown, their seeds are collected and evaluated. In this type of pollination, both the female and male plants are known. 2. open pollinated seeds – this is the easier of the two processes. The breeder needs to simply collect seeds from plants grown in the wild. In this case, the plants aren’t manually and deliberately pollinated. You only really know the female in this process. Once mature, you can collect the seeds from really any plant in the garden, but if you have a lot of plants to choose from, you may just choose to collect the seeds from a plant that has self-pollenated. On the other hand, if you have a good variety of wild and varied cultivars and they share the same genus, collecting those seeds will give you have a good opportunity to see something rare and interesting.
This next step is such a defining factor, that it is difficult sometimes to choose. At this point, the seeds chosen from the breeding step have been planted and grown to their individual maturity levels. This is what makes the selection process difficult. At this point, there is real time spent with these plants and given that the breeders really treat these plants like their “babies,” choosing who doesn’t make it to the next round can prove daunting. This is the stage where certain characteristics in the plant are studied further. Characteristics considered include: - how early they flower - how well they branch - how vibrant the flower is - what the foliage color looks like When evaluating decision-based crosses, a breeder looks for whether or not the initial goal was achieved. Any or all of the characteristics sought out, could be present When evaluating the open-pollinated crosses, you may see interesting traits, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to having marketable plants. This brutal process can cut hundreds of seedlings down to less than half that number. But not to worry, the next year, there will be hundred more plants to evaluate, along with the one’s that made it through. This process could go on until you run out of room, but it is cost-prohibitive, so cuts have to be made.
At this point the best plants are selected and a Proven Winner breeder will evaluate it further. You may ask why this step is necessary, given all of the breeders’ careful work, and they do take that into account. The Proven Winner trials represent the last step in the process. It is not uncommon that Proven Winner breeders work with over 50 private breeders at a time. In addition to these, there are commonly more than 250 who may be in the next process, working on trials, or have something coming down the line. All entries to this process are evaluated against each other. Important decisions are made, so important questions like “is this plant better than the others that are already on the market and if not, why move forward,” have to be considered. Again, certain characteristics are considered like: - the color of the foliage - the habit - the branching - flower presentation - the size of the flower - how early the plant blooms - how vigorous the plant is And this evaluation isn’t a quick process either. The Proven Winners trial period usually lasts at the very least, 2 years. During this time, the health of the plant and consumer buying trends are considered. It is important that when a plant is awarded Proven Winner status, it actually does well in the market. The trial period mitigates certain negative aspects of the plants so it is easier for consumers to enjoy their beauty. Only the top 3% will make it past this stage. Florida, New Hampshire, Michigan and southern California are among the 4 country-wide locations where potential Proven Winner plants are evaluated. There are also international trials conducted in Europe and Japan as well. Not only must the plants succeed, they must succeed in ALL of these locations. In addition, they have to represent an improvement upon what it already available in the market. Once the plants have braved the humidity and heat of Japan’s and Florida’s summer, the scorching rays of the south California sunshine and shown up as beautiful spring blooms in New Hampshire and Michigan, they are ready to move ahead in the process. All throughout this process and after Proven Winners are chosen, there are continued and increasing production trials conducted. - Sample plants are sent to the production facilities to test propagation and uniformity - Plants are purposely shipped to see how they handle the shipping process - Professional action plans for growers are created - Step-by-step checklists for growing are created for consumers The majority of plants are continually bred indefinitely to make sure they are still improving and that they are still an improvement to what is already available on the market.
So now the plants have made it through a private breeder, 2 years of crosses and evaluations, followed by 2 years’ evaluation from Proven Winner breeders, then another 1-1/2 years of production and growing to end up in garden centers near you. Six years have passed and still, no profit has been made on the plants. Given its time-intensive process, it is imperative the grower takes steps to protect these plants, so they can be profitable. If growers do not protect themselves, their breeders and their product, all of the time and effort could be in vain. A common answer to this, is patenting. Plants are patented by breeders to ensure they see the benefits of their hard work. Breeders can choose to handle this on their own, or work with Proven Winners® to file a patent in their name. These patents, beginning with USPP#- or USPPAF, are like an owner tag, that enables them to be paid a royalty, or specified amount, per plant sold. Working with Proven Winner representatives to obtain a patent, allows them to help track the royalties you are owed. They work hard to control how the plants are propagated and how the breeders are paid. As mentioned before, it takes a long period of time and many dedicated people to develop new varieties of plants. For each one plant making it to the market, there are thousands that have been discarded. This is an expensive endeavor, so it makes sense to protect their returns. After all, this is why the process was endured in the first place. A royalty payment is essentially the breeder’s paycheck for their hard work. How much a royalty is, depends on economics. As with other goods and services, the higher the demand, the higher the price, and in turn, the higher the royalty. These range in price from a few cents up to a quarter, so it takes a lot of sales to equal a good return for the breeder.
Who Helps Make Plants Proven Winners?
Breeders across the globe, located in countries like US, Germany, Holland, Australia, and Japan, actively work to bring a plant to the winner’s circle.
Some are independent growers, and still others work for large companies, but none actually work for Proven Winners directly. When they feel they have a plant ready for consideration, they send the plant to Proven Winners for them to trial the plant.
It is the breeder’s job to choose a species that translates well to a private garden and then find viable “mom and dad” plants to begin the process. Seeds collected from a breeder or the wild are mixed and matched with parent plants, then pollinated and harvested.
How Can I Find Proven Winners Near Me?
Now you’ve learned about the uniqueness of this type of plant and are ready to add them to your garden plans, so where are these elusive beauties?
If you are in Florida, around the Green Cove Springs area, you are in luck!
We continually find and source some of the finest plants available and currently have a large selection of Proven Winners in stock. Our wide range of plants include succulents, tropical plants, shrubs, bushes and pretty much everything you need to make your garden envious this year.
Spring is a time for new beginnings and in your garden, it’s a time to showcase your gardening skills.
Choosing a plant earmarked as a Proven Winner is the best way to take the guesswork out of your garden project. In the case of these plants, the hard work has already been handled. You just need to pick which works for your garden, take care to read the labels and properly care for your new beauty.
At Another Bloomin’ Nursery, we know how much time you spend enjoying your garden, so we want to make sure the building of that sacred space is as simple as possible. We have done the hard part of selecting varieties we know will work for our area, and we are always available for questions.
Next time you visit, take time to enjoy all of the hard work that went into each plant and make sure you flag down one of our trained associated. We’ll be happy to fill you in on the specific care requirements for anything you may choose.
So, stop by and pick one of our Proven Winners for your garden today! You’ll be glad you did.