FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

about the Plant Trials at Dallas Arboretum

What makes the Dallas Arboretum Trial Garden different from other trial sites in the country.

The Dallas Arboretum Trial Garden is open to the public year-round.  Most trial grounds are run by private seed and plant breeding companies or universities, and don’t allow access to the general public.  This is one of the few trial grounds that can be easily accessed by homeowners, horticulturists, landscapers, and commercial growers alike. The Dallas Arboretum also does not charge the breeders to trial their product, allowing us to be non-biased trial site.

What is All-America Selections?

All-America Selections is a nationally recognized plant promotion program.   We are now an official All-America Selections Trial Ground.  We participate in their nation-wide plant testing system.  

What kinds of plants are found in the Trial Garden?

We evaluate hundreds of new varieties each year. They include annual bedding plants, herbaceous perennials, vegetables, bulbs, roses, and woody shrubs. Both sun and shade plants are evaluated. Larger shrubs and trees are evaluated at the Texas A&M, Dallas research station.

Are plants changed due to seasonal changes as in the rest of the Arboretum's gardens?

Yes, there are three to four seasonal plantings that occur in the Trial Garden. However, this is not for display purposes, but to test plant varieties that are appropriate to each season. This means that the Trial Garden is full of interesting plants year-round.

Do you use any special pesticides in the Trial Garden?

Absolutely not.  We do not use any insecticides or fungicides to control pests or disease in the Trial Garden.  Because we are looking for plant varieties that are tolerant or resistant to both pests and disease, we leave all the plants untreated.

Is there any special irrigation procedure used in the Trial Garden?

No, plants receive overhead sprinkler water only as needed. Once the seasonal rain subsides, the beds are usually watered twice per week; sometimes three times per week during hot summer months.  The sprinkler system is no different than that of a homeowner. 

Are there any special fertilizers treatment of the plants?

The goal is to find plant varieties that will flourish under low maintenance conditions. We apply a standard granular high Nitrogen fertilizer at the initial time of planting. We then use a high nitrogen liquid fertilizer every other week. Color needs to be fed to continue to bloom heavily.

Are there any special amendments added to the soils?

We amend the soil with compost, pecan mulch and expanded shale.  This is what we recommend to home gardeners with heavy black clay soil. 

What determines why particular plants are placed in the Trial Garden?

Most of the varieties that are evaluated in the Trial Garden are brand new to the horticulture trade. Seed and plant breeding companies send us these new varieties to test in our climate, and many others, before making the variety available on the commercial market. Some of the varieties are already available on the market, but have not been tested in our area before. Finally, some of the varieties are just interesting plants that we find in catalogs, nurseries, or other sources.

Why do we test plants in the first place?

Here in North Central Texas, we have an extreme climate that can make gardening a challenge. It takes tough plants to not only survive, but also flourish and add beauty to our landscapes. Most new plant varieties are developed and tested in regions of the country with climates very different from ours, such as the Northern Midwest or California. The only way for us to determine the usefulness of these new varieties in our climate is to evaluate them over several years. Information generated from this research can help consumers make more informed choices about the plants they use in their home landscapes.

What is the main purpose of the Trial Garden?

The main focus of the garden is to grow and test many different plants in the drastic climate of the Metroplex and North Central Texas. In addition, the Trial Garden enables us to research and develop new plant selections for use in displays at the Dallas Arboretum and provide evaluation information to educational institutions, commercial plant producers, and home gardeners.