The Bluegrass Lane Perennial Test Plots, located off Warren Road and adjacent to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course, are the brainchild of Dr. William B. Miller, professor of flower bulb and greenhouse crop physiology. They serve as an outdoor laboratory for Dr. Miller's herbaceous perennials class (Hort 300) as well as a lab for the general study of plants. It also has been used as a focal point for department field days and Cornell Cooperative Extension in-service training.

There are approximately 750 cultivars planted in the 15,000 sq. ft. garden. Some plant material was supplied by growers and wholesale companies, but most of the plants were started from seed at Cornell from suppliers such as Jelitto and Novartis. A number of the plants are unusual and not commonly available commercially. Plantings began in 2000 and have continued yearly. Each cultivar has a tag stating the scientific name, year of planting, and source of plant material. The Bluegrass Lane staff maintain the deer fence surrounding the plots and manage the lawn and scheduled plot irrigation. No pesticides are used. Plants are grown in full sun regardless of light requirements. There is no special treatment of plants. Plots are weeded, mulched, dead-headed, and cut back by student employees and by those participating in lab classes as time and resources allow. Plants that do not survive are replaced with new varieties. Starting in June 2002, plants were checked weekly by graduate student Allison Mayer, and the following information recorded: date of flowering, height at flowering, general health and performance, winter hardiness, and presence of pests such as Japanese beetles. Plants also were photographed with a digital camera as they bloomed. By the end of the 2003 growing season, approximately 4,000 photographs had been archived.

Miller and Mayer decided to create a web site that could be used by the Hort 300 class as well as the general public and commercial growers. One hundred fifty-three cultivars currently are listed and over 900 photographs have been uploaded. Each species has a separate page. Each page has at least two and up to eleven photographs linked via hypertext captions. Miller plans to continue adding plants and photos to the site.

The database, created by Texas A&M University professor and Cornell alumnus Dan Lineberger, is searchable via scientific name, common name, and photographic indices as well as through a search page in which visitors may enter more detailed criteria such as plant names, family, flower color, plant height and growth habit, foliage texture, propagation methods, hardiness zone, season of bloom, and water and light requirements.

Linked to the Horticulture Department's general web site, the Bluegrass site will be different than the Explore Cornell flower growing guide web site (also linked to the Hort Department web site) because it focuses mostly on lesser-known or recently introduced perennial cultivars and their performance in Ithaca's Zone 5. Growers and seed companies that supplied us with materials already have expressed interest in our collected data on plant performance. This site will report some of our findings. And because many of the Bluegrass cultivars are not widely available, the site will be helpful to gardeners looking for variety and to growers interested in expanding their inventories.

Cornell Herbaceous Perennials | Cornell Horticulture