Spring Trials: Plants on parade

Spring Trials: Plants on parade

Lawn & Landscape's on the West Coast, bringing you coverage from the 2010 California Spring Trials.

Industry News

Lawn & Landscape is on the road this week, bringing you daily coverage from the 2010 California Spring Trials (formerly the Pack Trials).

The annual event features plant breeders marketing their introductions to the rest of the green industry. For a week, attendees travel the state visiting the trial sites to learn about the new plants coming down the pike.

Here’s what Managing Editor Chuck Bowen and David Kuack, editor of sister publication Greenhouse Management & Production, are reporting. For daily updates, click here to subscribe to Road Rally, our daily Spring Trials e-newsletter.

Friday, April 9
Friday took us to Vista, Calif., where young plant producer Plug Connection played host to Suntory Flowers, which had previously displayed at Jackson & Perkins’ facility in Somis, Calif. A new participant in this year’s trials was seed breeder Ameriseed, which exhibited its Christy and Helena marigolds. And Benary, which did not have its own trial site this year, exhibited its new Thriller pansy series and Glorious celosia series.

Plug Connection introduced two new programs: Latest Plug-Ins, which used to be the company’s New
Horizons program, includes Buzz buddleja, Kickin aster and several erysimum series. The Tropical Surge program includes a variety of plants that can be used to extend the summer selling season, including acalypha, tibouchina and baleria.

[Video: Plug Connection's Gregg Opgenorth discusses the use of succulents in the landscape.]

Suntory Flowers’ new Bouquet series features plants with a compact, mounding habit that produce long-lasting flowers that cover the entire plant. The Bouquets include the Million Bells calibrachoa, Summer Wave torenia, Surfinia petunia and Summer Splash nierembergia.

[Video: David Kuack talks with Suntory's Doug McQueen about the Bouquets.]

Saturday, April 10
Saturday marked the trials’ official start, and Ecke Ranch’s display featured trends their design center is tracking. By showcasing new ways plants can be presented, growers, garden centers and landscape contractors can better position themselves to market successfully to consumers.

[Video: Ecke Ranch's design center.]

Ecke also introduced its new Fusion geranium series with its Fusion Flame. This interspecific cross combines the best characteristics of zonal and ivy geraniums.

Ecke’s new hybrid Antirrhinum Dragon series is an open-faced snapdragon series that starts with three cultivars: Butterfly, Peachy and Rosey. Bred by Fred Yates, these fragrant flowering plants can be used in landscapes, in container combinations and as fresh cuts. Plants provide early spring season color and then continue to flower through the summer.

Costa del Sol is a new verbena series that starts with three colors: Magenta, Pink and White. Bred in Spain by Garnia Plant Breeding, these mounding plants are early flowering and mildew tolerant. Plants can be used in containers and hanging baskets.

Down the road in Bonsall, Calif., EuroAmerican Propagators hosted the rest of Proven Winners’ partners and unveiled its own new varieties.

Iberis Absolutely Amethyst is a breakthrough color. This interspecific plant produces unique amethyst flowers starting to bloom in late April to mid-May. Hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 4, this full sun plant reaches 10-12 inches tall and 10-14 inches wide.

Mecardonia Goldust is an improvement of the old Goldflake. This heat-loving plant flowers six weeks earlier producing an abundance of small yellow flowers all summer long. The compact plant reaches 3 inches tall and 12-16 inch spread and can be used in landscape and monoculture containers.

Proven Winners’ partner Four Star Greenhouse has launched the Proven Selections Tasty Treats line of herbs and vegetables, which includes combinations like spaghetti, salsa and taco. Plants will be available this year as finished containers for retailers.

[Video: Proven Winners' John Gaydos discusses two new Superbells Punch Calibrachoa introductions.]

Sunday, April 11
We continued our trek up the coast Sunday, stopping first at Fides North America in Santa Paula, Calif. Fides’ Hypnotica dahlia series expands with six new varieties, including three bicolors and three solid colors. The series’ new Lavender and Dark Night were particularly hypnotic colors.

The Inticancha alstroemeria series is a true pot alstroemeria produced from a rhizome rooted cutting. Available in seven colors, the plants have better heat tolerance and can flower throughout the summer in northern parts of the United States.

In Oxnard, Calif., Green Fuse Botanicals exhibited at its first Spring Trials since acquiring the vegetative series owned by Bodger Botanicals. New this year is the Actor Angelonia gardneri series, which includes purple, pink and white. From German breeding, this Carita-like series has plants which have an open habit with a spread of 18-24 inches. Plants are well-suited for containers, baskets and combinations.

Green Fuse has released its Begonia boliviensis series consisting of three colors: red, rose and white. The series is very free bloom producing a flatter flower on flexible stems, and is best suited for containers and baskets.
As the rains moved in, we headed for shelter at Island View Nursery, in Carpinteria, Calif., where Westhoff had relocated its trial location from Greenheart Farms. Visitors should be excited to see Suntastic, the first-ever yellow flowering scaevola. This variety is quick rooting (14-18 days) and early flowering, producing an abundance of soft yellow flowers. It has a medium vigor and does well in containers and baskets.

Also at Island View, PlantHaven literally rolled out the red carpet for its new introductions, including the Lucky Lantern abutilon series. Covered with flowers, the genetically dwarf plants include tangerine, white and yellow. A red flowered variety is also being developed.

The rains got worse as we hit our last stop, Imagination Canyon Greenhouse in Santa Barbara, Calif. Northern Innovators moved its trials’ display from Speedling in San Juan Bautista down south to Santa Barbara.  It exhibited the Florist de Kwakel line of Garvinea landscape gerbera. The 14 colors in this continuous flowering series are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 7, and trials are underway to determine if they are hardy in colder climates. Since it includes some wild species genetics, these gerberas are more resistant to pests and diseases including powdery mildew.

Stay tuned for more updates from GIE Media’s Horticulture Group. For daily updates, click here to subscribe to Road Rally, our daily Spring Trials e-newsletter.

For all videos from the 2010 Spring Trials, visit the Multimedia section of our site.