Field observation, years of experience, and a passion for plants—all blend together in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Evaluation Program. For 28 years, this program has been dedicated to the scientific study of perennials, annuals, vines, shrubs and trees.
The Garden’s Plant Evaluation Program, managed by Richard Hawke, is one of the largest and most diverse in the nation. It is also one of the few programs in the United States that formally evaluates perennials. The Plant Evaluation Program received the Award for Program Excellence from the American Public Garden Association in 2008.
The goal of the program is to determine, through scientific evaluation, which plants are superior for gardens in the Upper Midwest. Plants are rated on ornamental qualities, cultural adaptability, winter hardiness, and disease and pest resistance. It is the intent of the program to study and recommend plants that are readily available in area nurseries. Study results are published and reported to both the professional industry and the gardening public.
The evaluation studies are conducted over a long-term period:
Two gardens at the Chicago Botanic Garden serve as the program’s home. The Bernice E. Lavin Plant Evaluation Garden is a 2.5-acre site with uniform growing conditions, which include full sun and exposure to wind in all directions. The William Pullman Plant Evaluation Garden, which is the site of the Garden’s original test garden, is a landscaped garden for evaluating perennials, vines, shrubs, and small trees suitable for partially shaded conditions.
Information on top-performing genera that have been previously evaluated in the program is available in Plant Evaluation Notes, available for download below or for order through the Plant Evaluation program. For a list of plants currently under evaluation in the program, click here.
The latest issue of Plant Evaluation Notes reports on asters. Click here to download the evaluation of these perennials.
Plant Evaluation Notes are available in PDF format for the following plants/topics below, or subscribe to our podcast to receive updates when they are available.