Trial Garden History

The W. D. Holley Plant Environmental Research Center (PERC), located at 630 W. Lake Street on the Colorado State University campus, has been in operation since 1971. In 1992, Dr. James E. Klett began his role as Director of PERC and became the Faculty Coordinator for the trial program. David Staats also joined the department around this time as a Horticulture Research Associate. Together Dr. Klett and David Staats orchestrate all of the activities required to produce a beautiful garden and successful trial program each year.

The Pansy Trial program was initiated in 2003 to evaluate the capability of various Pansy and Viola varieties to overwinter in the Northern Colorado climate. The trial is also considered to be a Cool-season Crop Overwintering Trial, as we have trialed other genera, such as Delphinium and Dianthus, in the past. The relatively new Perennial Trial was initiated in the fall of 2006 at the request of our advisory committee. The intention of this trial is to test only newer perennial cultivars introduced in the past three years or less.

Relocation to a New Site

Year after year, the number of participants in the trial and the number of entries in the trial grew, leading to the demand for more and more space. In 2000, the Annual Flower Trial Garden was moved from its site at PERC to the park on Remington Street that is just across from the newly remodeled CSU Center for Arts, which was the old Fort Collins High School building. The relocation of the garden to this more spacious and visible site furthered its mission by more effectively extending education, research and outreach to students, home gardeners, Master Gardeners, community members and Green Industry personnel. The 2.9 acre park features an additional 5,000 square feet of bedding plant space, resulting in 20,000 total square feet of bed space available for planting. The relocation project was completed in five phases.

  • Phase I, completed in spring 2001, included the development of sun beds and improvements to drainage and irrigation in part of the park.
  • Phase II, completed in 2002, involved the installation of a new container area that consists of almost 400 containers for growing plants in full sun conditions.
  • Phase III, completed in spring 2003, saw the installation of a new and attractive metal shade structure.
  • Phase IV, completed in 2004, led to the addition of two new sun beds and the renovation of the existing park gazebo.
  • Phase V, completed in August of 2006.