CAST 2017, Day 2: Dr A’s Eye Catchers

Helleborus ‘Frost Kiss Penny Pink’

Today I wanted to share some exciting programs that were on display at CAST during our second day of trial visits. There are always new plants to chat up, which I will do tomorrow, but here are a few interesting lineups to think about.

The Frost Kiss Hellebore Program

I have been following the evolution of hellebores for some time now, and I am not sure I have been as impressed with change as I have been with this genus. The introductions of vigorous hellebores with large upright flowers and handsome leaves provides far more usefulness to the grower and end user than was ever available with the common Lenten rose (H. orientalis).

Echibeckia Electra Shock
Echibeckia ‘Electra Shock’

Bart Noorrdhuis has been working on the Frost Kiss series for many years and, through Pacific Plug & Liner, has brought us a series of exceptionally handsome plants (my favorite is ‘Penny’s Pink’). Profit, value and consistency – I am impressed.

The Echibeckia Program

When I first saw this cross a couple of years ago at Pacific Plug & Liner, I dismissed it as just another flash-in-the-pan marketing program. Smoke and mirrors. Even last year I just didn’t see it ever amounting to much. Perhaps I was wrong. Many new colors have been developed and some are really cool (I particularly liked ‘Electra Shock’). If placed in the landscape in the spring, they will flower much of the season, depending on locale. They should be treated as annuals, although, I was told that if small plants are planted in the fall, they may very well overwinter, bulk up and flower next season. Thus, we might be able to think of the plant as a biennial (like the old-fashioned Digitalis).

The Southern Living and Sunset Collection

Handsome colors, maybe a bigger product than I originally thought. Here’s hoping.

The Sunset/Southern Living Program

This gets better every year, with exceptional diversity and excellent marketing and grower support. From woodies like a new ‘Coppertop’ viburnum and pineapple guava to grasses like Lomandra and to my favorite of all, a bicolor agapanthus ‘Indigo Frost’ – they are bringing the plant world to our greenhouses. The program feels good in the West (Sunset) and the East (Southern Living) so most growers should be able to find some items that take advantage of these household names. Good to see the baby start to run.

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