Armitage’s Favorites at Green Fuse, Fides/Oro, Suntory, Westhoff, PAC And Cultivaris

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Shadow King 'Green-Pink Tips' Rex Begonia From Green Fuse

Green Fuse

Seeing Randy Uhl and Steve Jones at Green Fuse is always a pleasure. They are good people, honest as the day is long, and have worked very hard at making Green Fuse a mainstream breeding firm. Their Rex Begonia program is second to none, and they have added additional spectacular colors to their Shadow King line. I can’t see the market not reaching out for such beauty on the deck and patio. This is a great program – head and shoulders better than any similar programs we saw, and it just keeps getting better.

Their First light program for perennials has great advantages to the grower in that their selections allow annualization (i.e. no cold necessary) for the greenhouse producer, but with plants that still perennialize in the landscape.  I believe with a little tweaking, this program will appeal to many growers.

Fides/Oro

Dahlias have always been a strength for Fides/Oro and their Hypnotica series is a huge seller. I liked what they did by separating the dark-leaf plants into a new series – the Temptation series. The bright flower colors contrast well with the dark foliage, and the series complements the green-leaf Hynoticas well. I liked the marketing concept, and although dahlias aren’t for everyone, I am impressed with the offerings from Fides/Oro

I chatted with Goos Bartels of Bartels Stek; Goos is a well-respected plantsman and a heck of a perennial breeder. We walked the length of the perennial offerings, some bred by Bartels, some from Terra Nova, and some from other breeders. The perennial offerings are outstanding; I especially was impressed with the new series of garden phlox called the Early Starts (no vernalization needed) and their Riding Hood series of penstemons. Both work well in nearly all parts of the parts of the country, and were but a small percentage of the excellent plants that Fides/Oro has obtained through bringing Goos and Bartels under their umbrella.

Suntory

After fighting tooth and nail through L.A. traffic at noon (yes, noon!), Suntory was like a cool oasis. I walked around, drinking in the plants and even though I had already seen at least 4,567 petunias, ‘Heavenly Blue’ stopped me dead in my tracks, as it had everyone all week. Its beautiful color is another reason to take a close, hard look at the Surfinia series of petunias.

Sunrosa rose is not new, but since only one other company on tour (Ball Ingenuity) showed roses for the greenhouse and landscape industry, it is well worth discussing. The market for roses keeps getting larger, and there is room for new ones, especially one this good. ‘Sunrosa Red’ is one of my favorites, maintaining clean foliage all summer, and producing flowers all season. They are a greenhouse crop, topping out at 18 inches, a height that growers can produce and ship, and retailers can maintain. In the landscape it may attain 2 feet in height. I look forward to other colors; this is a rose you should be looking at.

Westhoff

Crazytunias have been a big step in Westhoff’s breeding and I have to say, as jaded as I am, they really are fun – and crazy. Vibrant, interesting colors that can’t help but have customers smiling as they load their plant carts. The newest, ‘Terracotta’, is equally outstanding. I have no idea how anyone can sort through the petunias to come up with a sensible order, but I recommend that these be on your list.

PAC

Wow, if some of the plants PAC are introducing perform as billed, they will really have some breakthroughs. The Two-in-One Shadow series of geraniums promises to be shade tolerant, and are said to grow and flower profusely in “impatiens” shade. I am not yet a believer, but I certainly want to be, and look forward to trying some out. I recommend anyone looking for shade substitutes gives it a go. After all, we never thought impatiens could grow in full sun, and we have SunPatiens and Sun Harmony to show us how wrong we can be.

Cultivaris

The fellows at Cultivaris have been showing off the best of the best in relatively uncommon garden plants for years. This year, I can attest they have hit the jackpot with their wallflowers. Two series, Winter and Poem, have made me a believer. Excellent colors, compact growth habit and a chance to get a substantial early plant into the marketplace. They are later to flower than some of the other wallflowers we have seen, but I know these are excellent landscape plants. Their new Boliviensis begonias, Summertime Wings also look outstanding. Try them out.

Last But Not Least

In summary, it seems as if we covered over a thousand miles, saw over a thousand plants, and saw hundreds of people. The miles are a necessary evil, but we can’t complain about the scenery. The plants were so outstanding that people would be lying if they told you they remember them all and where they saw them. We come for the plants, but it is the people that truly make the trip worthwhile. Everyone is positive, and the energy is palpable. People are tired to be sure, but it is a good tired, one filled with new ideas, new acquaintances and old friends. All-in-all, people are invigorated and can’t wait to implement what they have seen. The breeding companies threw a party and everyone came, and left with more party favors than they thought possible. We have had a ball sharing our thoughts, and hope to see you down the garden path.

Allan Armitage was a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia for 30 years. He recently retired and remains an active consultant, author and lecturer.

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