Armitage: Hort Couture, Westhoff Infuse Style, Craze Into Genetics

Florist Holland's Garvinea series gerberas have many smaller flowers and incredibly vibrant colors.

Day 3 and life is still good, at the California Spring Trials. We are in beautiful Santa Barbara, so it is difficult to complain about my lot in life. Our day started out with seven stops in the GroLink facility in Oxnard. We walked in the door and knew we were to be overwhelmed!

Florist Holland

We started out with Florist, and I was stunned by the number and the colors of the gerbera daisies – wonderful colors – and a diversity of flower sizes. I have long enjoyed the Garvinea series, with smaller flowers and incredibly vibrant colors. Although bearing smaller blossoms, plants flower for a long period of time. I have worked with these in Georgia, and many have been excellent in their performance.

But to be truly blown away is to wander through the Patio series of gerberas, with their mammoth flower size, dozens of different colors and handsomely displayed plants. These may look very nice in a protected patio area or in containers that are somewhat shielded from the worst of the weather. Florist is doing a fabulous job with its gerberas. I was most impressed.


We went across the aisle to see the people at PlantHaven, a wonderfully innovative company that represents breeders. PlantHaven showed off a new black-leafed colocasia called ‘Hawaiian Punch,’ which might be as good or even better than ‘Diamond Head’. It is certainly shorter.

The Penhow Little diascias at PlantHaven were also quite spectacular. They have mounded habits, are full of flowers and have an assortment of salmon, coral and reds – you could not take your eyes off them. Diascias do very well in areas of cool summers, and I think this new group of plants is one growers might want to look at.

PlantHaven always has some interesting plants, but one of the most eye-catching was the black-leafed Mystic Wonder dahlia. These are vigorous plants with deeply cut leaves and handsome red flowers. What really caught the eye, however, was most some of the darkest purple, essentially black, foliage I have seen in some time.

Hort Couture

Moving over to Hort Couture, I knew I was in for a treat when I was immediately assailed by Gerry Raker and Jim Monroe. Both of these men have more energy than 10 other people combined. They are using that energy to build the Hort Couture brand.

I am probably as fashion-challenged as anyone, yet even I was impressed with Hort Couture’s stylish runway and beautiful becapped models. Hort Couture has a story; it is one on how young people are buying plants now and in the future. People are talking about Hort Couture because of the way they approach their merchandising and marketing.

But marketing will only go so far. To be successful, there must be good plants behind the marketing plan. Under The Sea coleus are a good example of well executed marketing, and these are always fun to look at – especially when you take a leaf off and check out the wily crustaceans.

The variegated petunia, ‘Glamoflauge Grape,’ caught my eye and if the variegation holds up in hot summers, I expect to see much of this plant in the future. ‘Blue Zebra’ primrose was fun to look at – an example of what Hort Couture is all about: making the buying and the use of plants fun at every level. Good job, Hort Couture


From Hort Couture, we marched over to Westhoff– we needed no more than a glance to see that these German breeders are quickly figuring out how to be successful in the American market. Their beautiful new calibrachoa, ‘Peach Cobbler,’ was visible across the greenhouse. If the colors hold up in the landscape, Westhoff absolutely has a winner.

I don’t know how many more petunias I can stand, but Westhoff’s Perfectunia series stopped me again, with its very large flowers and handsome colors. But for sheer joy in looking at petunias, I had a blast with Westhoff’s Crazytunia program. These provided colors and hues that you just don’t normally see in petunias. ‘Cherry Cheesecake’ and a few beautiful experimentals absolutely made me chuckle, and I know others would enjoy buying flowers even more. Who said Germans have no sense of humor?

Westhoff has been well known for its lobelia breeding, and it presented a number of good forms and colors. The most potentially outstanding was ‘Hot Night Blue.’

GreenFuse Botanicals

Visiting my friends at GreenFuse is always an adventure. This year was no exception with a couple of additions to their Blanket petunia line, a line of which they should be very proud. .

I really like the Gumdrops double begonias that GreenFuse has stayed with. The market for double begonias has not been terribly strong in the past, but they believe in them and so do I. As a shade-tolerant plant, these should have good market traction this year.

GreenFuse also showed off a number of interesting other annuals, including some new additions to its bacopa line (‘Betty Pink’) and interesting scaevola (‘Scampi White’ and Blue).

It was interesting to see GreenFuse moving more strongly into perennials. I love GreenFuse’s gauras, ‘Bantam Pink’ and ‘Bantam White,’ and I believe some of their salvias hold great potential in the perennial salvia market. Green Fuse has been strong in the agastache breeding, and it has not disappointed this year as well.

Athena Brazil

I’ve always loved what Athena Brazil does with “off-the-trodden-path” plants for the greenhouse industry. They always have something exciting, such as alternanthera ‘Little Ruby’ and different clerodendrums, as well as other plants that are potentially money makers – but they simply are not petunias. This year, I was pleased to see Athena is offering a collection of vines – annual vines for the greenhouse grower that I know the retailer will do well with. This is a step on the wild side to be sure, but I will be supporting them all the way down the line. We need people who will take chances, and Athena does not shy away from such challenges.


Then off to GroLink where I was thoroughly educated about hardy mums. They have been doing this for many, many years and have programs in place that even someone like myself could be successful with. Six- and seven-week response groups, small and large flowers, and all plants providing color and mounding habits for containers or the landscape.

One tends to overlook hardy mums when petunias, calibrachoas and pansies fill the air. But mums are a strong, stable group of plants with which GroLink is doing an excellent job.

Skagit Gardens

The visit to Skagit was a great opportunity to see how the breeding of the Gold series of helleborus are being positioned. Skagit showed how some of the new generation of helleborus can be used for Christmas sales and to bring traffic into garden centers much earlier than normal. They showcased many beautiful cultivars in the helleborus program, my favorite being ‘Pink Frost,’ hands down!

It was also enlightening to see how Skagit grouped its perennials for early spring, mid and late summer offerings. For example, Skagit showed off primulas and wallflowers for early spring while scabiosa and coreopsis are positioned for summer sales. I was most impressed with coreopsis ‘Big Bang Mercury Rising,’ whose dark flowers and compact habit caught my eye. Skagit’s new Centaurea looks promising and I still enjoy seeing gaillardias like ‘Moxie’ and ‘Frenzy.’ 


Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Horticulture Priorities

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadlines Approaching

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 25, 2015

13 New Shrubs You’ll Find At The 2015 California …

Woody ornamentals serve as the foundation of many great landscapes, but beyond their traditional uses, shrubs also add color, structure, texture and interest to small gardens and even containers. Check out this slideshow to see some of the newest introductions you’ll get to see at this year’s California Spring Trials.

Read More

March 23, 2015

Update To Armitage’s Greatest Perennials & Annuals …

A new update to the Greatest Perennials & Annuals app narrows the gap between consumers and grower-retailers, while providing more of Armitage’s top picks and growing advice for success with plants.

Read More
2014 Poinsettia Season Report

March 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Seas…

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish. Greenhouse Grower’s 2014 Poinsettia Survey received 143 responses from growers around the country. Here, you can download the complete results of the survey, by filling out the form.

Read More
Hydrangea 'Endless Summer BloomStruck' from Bailey Nurseries

March 17, 2015

Michael Dirr Slated To Address Attendees At Hydrangeas …

Dr. Michael Dirr to deliver the keynote address at Hydrangeas 2015 conference, hosted by the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society in partnership with Endless Summer Hydrangeas. The conference will take place at the historic Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, Mass.

Read More

March 17, 2015

16 New Blooming Potted Plants You’ll See At The 2…

Blooming potted plants are perfect gift items, and they put the finishing touch on any style of home decor. So when new varieties come on the market, growers and retailers alike take note of plants they know are going to make consumers happy. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new blooming potted plants making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Salvia 'Ember's Wish'

March 11, 2015

Annual Salvias – Not Just Red Bedding Plants Anym…

Salvias are popular — and they need not all be the same. Here are a few you know well, and perhaps a few you do not. All are easy to grow and may be found through a broker or grower.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

March 11, 2015

Memoirs Of A Plantsman: Q & A With Allan Armitage

In light of the upcoming release of Dr. Allan Armitage's memoir, "It’s Not Just About the Hat — The Unlikely Journey of a Plantsman," Greenhouse Grower caught up with him for an in-depth Q & A about his newest work and what he’s planning next.

Read More

March 10, 2015

How To Determine When To Buy Herbaceous Perennials In V…

Exposing herbaceous perennials to cold temperatures, also known as vernalization, can yield a range of effects, especially on flowering. Beth Engle of SHS Griffin covers whether vernalized liners or unvernalized plants make the best sense for your sales windows.

Read More

March 4, 2015

California Spring Trials Preview: 32 New Perennials For…

Perennials are hot and if this preview of the 2015 California Spring Trials is any indication, there are going to be some great new perennial introductions for 2016. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out the slideshow to see some of the new perennials making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years …

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More
Heuch Pink Fizz_featured

March 2, 2015

Intergeneric Crosses Are A New Perennial Trend

Intergeneric crosses, oddities some botanists say are an impossibility, have made serious inroads in the perennial world.

Read More
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The G…

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More

February 18, 2015

California Spring Trials Sneak Peek: New Annuals For 20…

If you're like us and you can't wait until the 2015 California Spring Trials to see some of the new genetics that will be hitting the market in 2016, never fear. We contacted the breeders who will be displaying their new varieties in California in April, and they gave us a sneak peek. Check out our slideshow to see some of the new annuals making their debut to the trade this spring.

Read More
Athena Brazil Salvia 'Brazilian Purple'

February 18, 2015

ForemostCo And Athena Brazil Unite To Supply Unrooted P…

ForemostCo, Inc. and Athena Brazil have forged a working relationship to support each other in the unrooted perennial cuttings market for North America. The partnership, geared toward accommodating increasing demand for unrooted perennial cuttings in North America, adds diversity to a recently consolidated market.

Read More

February 17, 2015

Poinsettias Had Their Best Year In Many In 2014

Poinsettia growers report a strong year in 2014, thanks to a few conditions. Growers were encouraged by high plant quality, enthusiastic shoppers and a stronger, less saturated market for poinsettias throughout the selling season. Seasonal cold at just the right time put consumers in a festive mood to buy early and often, and with no big snowstorms to hold up shipments and a reduction of supply available in the market, the season was strong from start to finish.

Read More
Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo'

February 17, 2015

Geranium Hybrid ‘Biokovo’ Dubbed 2015 Peren…

Geranium xcantabrigiense ‘Biokovo,' a naturally occurring hybrid of G. dalmaticum and G. macrorrhizum, is the Perennial Plant Association's top pick for 2015 Perennial of the Year. Learn why this tough, landscape geranium took home the prize.

Read More
Costa Farms' Season Premier 2015

February 4, 2015

Costa Farms’ 2015 Season Premier Reveals Newest V…

The annual Season Premier at Costa Farms in Miami, Fla., is the industry's very first peek at new varieties for debut the following year, even before the California Spring Trials, heralded widely as the jumping off point for new varieties. This year's event revealed breeders' best and brightest new varieties for 2016, shown in field trials, landscape trials and containers at Costa Farms tropical trial gardens. Plant breeders presented their new varieties to buyers and members of Lowe’s grower panel. Growers, brokers and other allied industry members, including Home Depot growers and buyers, were also able to peruse the grounds to see how the new varieties fared in the winter trials. Later this season, the hot and humid conditions at Costa’s summer trials will help identify the true performers.

Read More

January 28, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces Additional 2015 Winne…

All-America Selections has announced more 2015 AAS Winners, bringing the grand total of introductions for the 2015 gardening year to 25. The seven winners join the 12 announced last November and six announced last July. This year, AAS has had the most winners in one year since 1939.

Read More