Allan Armitage Shares His Favorite Spring Trials Finds From Green Fuse Botanicals, Suntory And Ball Horticultural Co.

Dr. Allan Armitage talks about his favorite finds among the many new introductions he saw at Green Fuse Botanicals, Suntory and Ball Horticultural Co.’s 2015 California Spring Trials sites. He saw a couple of not-so-new plants that he loves, too.

Green Fuse Botanicals

The stand-out display was the series of compatible perennials that Green Fuse put together. If all things work out, they can be:

  1. Planted at the same time from a liner
  2. Flower at the same time
  3. Be compatible in vigor and height

This allows the grower and the consumer to have perennials that work together in a single container, something we have not had before. Without a doubt, this will make it easier for the grower to put together and for the retailer to sell.  There are four combinations at this time with more to come.

There are many series of salvia out there. The Grandstand series consists of three colors of vegetative salvias. They appear to be strong, vigorous, well-branched and available right now. I like the vigor. Combined with the obvious stem strength, this will allow them to be shipped and displayed without flopping over. We saw a couple of additional pre-release colors that knocked my socks off.

Simply because something is not new this year does not mean we should forget about it. I have always been enamored with the Shadow King series of Rex begonia hybrids. And seeing them again just reinforces my enjoyment of them. Also, one of the finest series of veronicas, the Vernique series, is still outstanding, with Dark Blue being the best.



It was nice to see some breeding on old-fashioned bidens. Suntory brought out the BeeDance series, consisting of Painted Red and Red Stripe.  I liked them both, but my eye kept going back to Painted Red.  Suntory also showed how bidens can be used in combination planters. I loved the one with ‘Tapien Blue’ verbenas and white trailing Suntory Flowers lobelia. Bidens is underused, and this will help expand the market.

Vincas have been around for years, but Suntory has a new series called Soiree. Two introductions jumped out at me. I was taken with the small-flowered Ka-wa-ii with pink flowers, and the larger double white. The series has the potential to separate itself from other vincas on the market.

EuroAmerican Propagators

Vegetables are showing up in more and more places. I can’t wait to try ‘Basil Blooms,’ which has a wonderful basil fragrance and taste with exquisite flowers, and my favorite, an upright, variegated form called ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ from EuroAmerican Propagators.

Ball Horticultural Co.

Where do you start when you visit Ball Horticultural Co.?  From PanAmerican Seed to Darwin, from Selecta to Ball Ingenuity, it is wonderfully overwhelming. The plants that stood out for me were the new Jolt dianthus from PanAmerican Seed, particularly the Cherry, which almost glows in the dark. It will be a terrific landscape plant.

The new scabiosa Flutter series from Darwin Perennials looks very good. The Dark Blue was stronger than the Pink, but both have great potential. These are a little shorter than Butterfly Blue, but if they flower as long, this will be an excellent introduction.

Kieft’s Bandera Spanish lavender was an excellent innovation with many flowers, nice color and a compact habit. Bees love it!

I have always liked the celosia Intenz series. Two new colors, Dark Purple and Lipstick, have been added by Ball Ingenuity, which make it an even stronger series. Intenz is different from other celosias, and has taken some time to find a good market share, but with three colors, it should now take off.

I also saw some excellent drought- and heat-tolerant plants from Ball Ornamentals, designed for the California landscape, such as Grevillea and Leucospermum. They may be landscape standards if this drought goes on much longer.

Other plants that caught my eye include the vegetable program from PanAmerican Seed. The ‘Sugar Rush’ cherry tomato was truly sweet, and the vegetables from Burpee, especially the ‘Peppermint Stick’ celery and the ‘Masterpiece’ pea — both were fun and outstanding. Vegetable breeding is in good hands.

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