Annual Trials Program at the Cincinnati Zoo

CINCINNATI, OH (June 6, 2014) –One of the most spectacular programs at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is its Horticulture Team’s Annual Trials Program. This unique effort is a collaboration between the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Master Gardeners, the Cincinnati Flower Growers Association, (and a multitude of annuals breeders, producers, marketers, and growers), to produce, grow, and rate annuals for both best growth and appearance in the Cincinnati region. This information is important for both the green industry and local gardeners/homeowners so they can select the best plants to grow in the region.

Perilla Gages ShadowEach spring over 25,000 annuals are planted in the Zoo’s beds and containers. Beginning with the arrival of plugs (very young plants) in March, the annuals are carefully grown and maintained in facilities at the Zoo and elsewhere until the weather and soil conditions are right to transplant into the Zoo’s gardens, usually around the first week of May. Throughout the season, the annuals are carefully maintained and are periodically evaluated for performance and aesthetics. Plants are clearly labeled, so visitors can choose their own favorites, take photos, and make notes.

“Many people don’t realize when they are walking through the Zoo’s garden in the summer that our Annual Trials Program is one of the largest and most respected in the Midwest,” said Steve Foltz, Director of Horticulture at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. “It is quite a commitment, one that our small staff has pursued now for over a decade. And one that visitors who appreciate the Garden truly benefit from. The whole point is to use our position, expertise, and experience to help the community get the most satisfaction and beauty possible from their gardens.”

At the end of the season, the Horticulture Department compiles a report, which is distributed to all invested parties of the Annuals Trials program. As an incredible resource to local gardeners, each year, the top ten annuals are presented as the Zoo’s Best Annuals and a comprehensive list is created. Ten years of these lists and the Hall of Fame List, which represents the very best of the best, can be found on the Zoo’s website.

As Cincinnati’s premier botanical garden, the gardens of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden continue to thrive each year thanks to the generous support of the community including private donors, companies and foundations. By providing a gift to support the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, donors are helping the Zoo’s nationally-recognized Horticulture team plant the Ohio Valley’s largest display of tulips, the Midwest’s premier annuals trials program, and thousands of perennials, grasses, trees, and shrubs. In addition, the Zoo Horticulture team is well known for their work in conservation and sustainability, including the EcOhio wetland restoration and the Native Plant Program, which works closely with the Zoo’s Linder Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) on propagating and re-introducing endangered plants.

Gifts to the garden also support ongoing efforts to better educate the public about the wonders of their natural world including conservation methods, sustainable landscaping, and environmental stewardship. To learn more about supporting the Horticulture program at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, please visit cincinnatizoo.org/horticulture or contact Allison Gibbs.

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