For the first time in the Sawaya Garden Trials’ 21 years of existence, this year the trials will be held at their new location in Waterford, Ontario. This year’s trials will have a new point-based grading system, allowing for a more objective manner of evaluating the cultivars. Owner Mel Sawaya reports that the new location also provides them with some added benefits, such as better water availability. This year’s trials will be held on Wednesday, July 21, where more than 300 horticultural producers, breeders, buyers, wholesalers, and marketers from across North America are expected to check out 3,000 different varieties.

Mel Sawaya at the new location

New location
The Sawaya Garden Trials are held annually, with the aim of looking at the performance of the varieties. This year, the Trials will be held in Waterford, 10 minutes from their old location in Simcoe. They also built a new greenhouse, which is not just for commercial production. Sawaya explains: “We have an indoor location adjacent for the poinsettias and different kinds of research about treatments, for example. Also, we do a lot of experiments there.” Sawaya explains the reasons for their recent move: “It was a convenient option, as my daughter bought my previous farm. This new location also provided me with the opportunity to build a new greenhouse and my house, which is very convenient for me. As the name Waterford would suggest, we also have more fresh water available at the new location. As a result, we don’t have to build water silos or collect rainwater, for example. As water is the main ingredient for a greenhouse, this was an important benefit for us.”

New point-based grading system
This year’s trials will also have a new point-based grading system, allowing for a more objective manner of evaluating the cultivars. “We started with 150 cultivars and now we are up to 3000 cultivars. We used to do a top 20 or top 30, but with so many plants it will be more fair to use a point-based grading system. We will grade the varieties twice during the trials, and whichever gets the highest average will receive the number one spot. Before, it was a little subjective as I got to pick which one I liked best. So we are now introducing a more objective manner of grading the varieties, as they are graded by their performance on several criteria, such as their performance in the Canadian weather, how they take the rain, and if they get diseases. This change is important for the breeders themselves, as they need objective information about the varieties’ performance.”

Open house
This year’s open house will take place on July 21, 2021. “It depends on the COVID-19 regulations at that time whether we can allow all visitors on one day. If not, we might prolong it into a week. The trials can be challenging to arrange, especially now that we have our first one at a new location, but I think this is important information that is needed and benefits a lot of people in the industry. And when we are done with the trials, we donate all the products to charity, which always makes me feel good to be able to give back.”

For more information:
Sawaya Garden Trials
Mel Sawaya