Representing eight breeding companies, Ball Horticultural Co. is the anchor of the southern half of California Spring Trials. It was our last stop on day one, and overwhelmed us with options and opportunities. Ball doesn’t do anything small, and California Spring Trials is proof.
In perennials, Kieft Seed with seed-propagated items and Darwin Perennials with vegetative introductions offered something for everyone. Kieft’s new lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose,’ a new color in the series, is a stunning new add for containers and the landscape. Bred for its architecture and leaf color, it has great branching. The Rapido campanula and Bandera lavender series are said to be “gateway to gardening” plants, as they’re more “gifty” and will attract a different clientele. Bandera is not very hardy, so it’s great in pots and to take indoors, but the bees were all over it outside. This seed solution to lavender production issues offers a no-pinch, well-branched option.
Darwin showed off its pretty new Flutter scabiosa series, with colors Butterfly Blue and Rose Pink. Cuttings will be available this fall. Rhodanthemum could be a perennial version of osteospermum in pots, available in white and pink colors, but it looks like artemesia in the landscape with its silver foliage. A new interspecific campanula, ‘Iridescent Bells,’ is sterile, and with its height and vigor, it could be great in the landscape. Eggplant-colored blooms open to an off-white. Digitalis ‘Foxlight Ruby Glow’ gets two new sisters in Rose Ivory and Plum Gold.
Darwin is attempting to market lavender as a lifestyle plant, with its ‘Luxurious’ Spanish lavender. A very compact plant, this can be placed on the table outdoors, where gardeners can have a relaxed conversation.
Ball Ornamentals’ new Starlet Beauty series is a nice, new climbing rose series for growers to produce. Plants grow fast and provide a high-margin item to sell. On the drought-tolerant side, Ball Ornamentals is promoting grevillea and other varieties to solve solutions for color in the barren landscape in western states.
Ball Ornamentals has received a lot of attention over last year’s introduction, hydrangea ‘LA Dreamin.’ The brand’s new website provides a store locator to go after the decorator demographic, and is providing POP to stores to promote ‘LA Dreamin’ in high-end garden centers like Petitti’s in Cleveland.
At PanAmerican Seed, the focus is on providing landscape solutions for growers, adding Glamour to its first seed euphorbia series, Glitz. While Glitz is positioned for pots and combos, Glamour is for the landscape, and it’s as tough as Tidal Wave petunias. Valiant vinca is a brand-new series in the landscape, with an emphasis on consistent vigor and disease resistance. The Hot Pak marigold series has seven colors, and is so strong and level, you can practically dance on it.
Jolt is a new, two-color interspecific dianthus series in Pink and Cherry that truly boasts “shocking” color, and has crazy stem strength. It’s sterile and flowers constantly, with new buds always forming.
Wave introduces two new Yellow varieties, ‘Shock Wave Yellow,’ an early flowering variety and ‘Easy Wave Yellow,’ in a market that needs reliable yellow petunias. ‘Tidal Wave Red’ is a big new color this year, as well.
In veggies, the program is non-stop, with awesome new offerings in Simply Salad pelleted seed varieties like Kale Storm, a timely introduction for foodies everywhere. New cherry tomatoes include the delicious Sugar Rush and Chocolate Sprinkles, and there are new Heirloom Marriages this year — Marzeira and Cherokee Carbon.
Speaking of veggies, Burpee has a much larger patio program rolling out for 2016, promoting small space varieties not only to younger generations but also to baby boomers. And in fact, there is one tomato variety coming out called ‘Baby Boomer.’ Other notables include ‘Bush Steak’ tomatoes, ‘Masterpiece’ pea, which can be used for four functions, including microgreens, and celery ‘Peppermint Stick,’ which is a great option for making cocktails.
Selecta is attempting to take petunia breeding by storm with its new Night Sky petunias, an easy-to-grow variety with a crazy new pattern — dark blue background with white spots. Held off for introduction in 2017, this series is expected to have new colors with the same pattern coming shortly. Other cool intros include the ‘4D’ osteospermums and the sweet ‘Pink Kiss’ carnations.
At Ball Ingenuity, the new Intenz celosia colors will add to the series, and new offerings in mandevilla over the next year should help with growing demand. Ball FloraPlant focused on MixMasters combos, and promoting series that are more easily produced, as well as large-flowered varieties like ‘Archangel’ angelonia and ‘Black & Bloom’ salvia. Its new coleus ‘Campfire’ is another amazing variety that looked fabulous in the landscape at the Costa trials.
Finally, Ch. Morel, who displayed at Ball, focused on showing growers and retailers how to reinvent cyclamen by using a variety of different size crops in new ways, from hanging baskets to miniature varieties to cut flowers.