Spring Trials 2014: Beautiful Introductions And Smart Marketing Dominate On Day 1

Love and Wishes salvia from Sunset WesternGarden CollectionSpring Trials 2014 got off to a strong start, with warm weather supplanting the much needed rainfall during the two weeks leading up to the Trials opening. This is the second year that the Trial sites have been brought closer together by moving the Southern California stops to either Central or Northern California.

Today, the Greenhouse Grower editors visited Danziger, Golden State Bulb Growers, Benary and Pacific Plug & Liner, some of which hosted other breeders as well.

Danziger (And Headstart)

An entire wall of new introductions greeted us as we walked into the Danziger trials. The varieties were color blocked with nine of each new introduction in color-coordinated pots grouped together, making a strong impact.

Several of the new introductions are more heat tolerant than past varieties: Bacopa scopia ‘Double Indigo,’ osteospermum Ostica series and its osteospermum Osticade series. Both osteospermum series require no vernalization and can grow in higher temperatures.

Other standout introductions from Danziger include petunia ‘Salmon Ray,’ which has an unusually strong orange hue, petunia ‘Cascadia Autumn Mystery,’ which has the same breeding on last year’s best performer, ‘Indian Summer.’

Headstart had its new cyclamen on display. ‘Ageha Pink Double’ blooms have an unusual umbrella habit and ruffled petals. The ruffled petals and leaves are repeated in several other Headstart varieties, including the Hirari series. Headstart also had an experimental tissue culture variety on display, which garnered a lot of interest from attendees.

Golden State Bulb Growers

Golden State Bulb Growers wants to help growers extend the sales window for callas, and most of its calla displays were geared to show how that could be done. Summer, fall and Christmas-themed calla displays captured the mood of each season. The staff mentioned that Halloween and Day of the Dead would be especially appropriate for callas, given callas early association with funerals. The Day Of The Dead has an added bonus of appealing to the growing Latin American demographic.

Golden State Bulb also had some eye-catching introductions from breeder Brian Corrreiar. The eucomis Aloha Lilies series transforms the usual pungent, unpleasant odor of eucomis (since it relies on flies as pollinators) into a lovely, coconut-like fragrance.

The second was Correiar-bred plant was sciila ‘Caribbean Jewels Sapphire Blue.’ It’s a low-input plant with a true bulb. It also naturalizes well. Expect more colors in the coming years.

Peter Beckman, Golden State’s calla breeder, developed the brand new series, Callafornia, which is highly floriferous with a more symmetrical mounded habit. Each plant had about seven to eight blooms, which were more upright instead of nodding, emphasizing its American roots with the California series name. Callafornia series plants are easy to handle and ship.

One of Benary’s big introductions is the Success series of petunias, in which all the varieties finish within six days of each other. The red, white and blue mix, Liberty, includes a red variety that finishes within an even shorter window than its companion plants and has excellent germination rates. Success has all new genetics.

Benary had great merchandising, complete with handouts growers can give to their retail customers so they can duplicate the marketing ideas. One such idea was a how-to on creating a fun-house mirror. Benary created two mirrors as part of its new Admire viola series display, which had a mirror theme.

In the Big Begonia display area, Benary offered a frothy pink cocktail, which is created from a 1930s-era recipe. The begonia series has seen a big boost in sales as a result of the concerns with impatiens downy mildew.

In the next room over, Benary hired a graffiti artist to create the signage for its Graffiti pentas series. It also set up a board with a cart stocked with spray paint cans and paint pens so visitors could add their own graffiti art.

Pacific Plug & Liner

Sunset/Southern Living collections: Offering attractive, drought-tolerant plants is especially important for Sunset plants, which targets West Coast consumers, many of whom live in arid climates and who have been suffering through a drought this past year. A couple new introductions that fit in this category are the digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame,’ which has a solid apricot color with no pink, and two salvias, ‘Love and Wishes’ salvia and ‘Ember’s Wish.’ The salvias honor the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Southern Living emphasized a yellow-berry, fringe-leaf mahonia, ‘Soft Caress,’  that won best of show at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show. It also introduced a dashing new nadina intro, ‘Lemon Lime,’ which boasts a vibrant lemon-lime hue in its new growth leaves.

MPS: MPS continues to add growers, while some of the established growers are beginning to add another layer of certification, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), along with the more commonly used ABC system.

Pacific Plug & Liner: Some of the most talked about introductions of the day were from PP&L. Hula Berries, a white strawberry with red seeds has a distinct pineapple flavor. A popular fruit in Europe, it has taken two years for it to move out of quarantine here in the U.S. It will be in limited release in 2015 with 200,000 units produced. It requires both a male and female plant, about one male to every four females.

Also on display was the highly anticipated Echibeckia Summerina series. Only the brown variety was on display, which has yellow tips and a pronounced eye. The yellow and orange varieties were not yet on display, since they had not yet fully bloomed in the production greenhouse.

Vivero: This is a 100-acre cuttings producer located south of Mexico City that has licensed and supplied American breeders, but this is the first time it is bringing its own production to the American market. Two of its standout introductions for 2014 were a couple of geraniums: ‘GEN Hot Spot Kiss’ and ‘Pac Darko Velvet Red’

Cultivaris: The breeder had many new varieties. The standouts were:

  • ‘Bella’ mandevilla has large flowers but is a compact plant. Josh Schneider says Cultivalis will begin shipping calloused cuttings by midsummer. Schneider also says the variety does not require PGRs to attain its compact form.
  • ‘Amber Alert’ gazania is among the varieties that have been named through crowd sourcing. Schneider posted a photo of the new variety on his Facebook page and asked for suggestions. He had a strong response. Another amusing variety name is the ‘Cloud 8’ verbena. “It’s too short to be called Cloud 9.”
  • The digiplexis ‘Berry Canary’ does not require vernalization.
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