Legendary Varieties

Legendary Varieties

What does it take for a new plant or variety to become legendary? To revolutionize the industry? While this objective in itself may be the ultimate quest for breeders, the entire industry benefits when new markets are created and consumers receive greater satisfaction from superior products.

In our January issue, we rated the significance of technological innovations in greenhouse production as part of Greenhouse Grower’s 25th anniversary celebration. Last month, we asked readers at large and varieties experts to identify varieties they would consider legendary in five key crop categories: seed annuals, vegetative annuals, perennials, foliage plants, blooming potted plants and fresh cut flowers. We asked them to nominate varieties that:

- Became the industry standard
–Created new markets
–Revolutionized a genus
–Revolutionized commercial production
–Became a household name with consumers

We received the most input on seed annuals and a wide range of perennials and plan to pursue even more information on this topic. We definitely need more input on the potted plant side, both blooming and foliage.

Just in poinsettias, Ecke Ranch has introduced three legendary series of poinsettias:

Freedom–This series combined the lasting benefits from Hegg genetics and the bract color display of a V-14 to create a new look in poinsettias. Dark foliage and early flowering are additional traits. Freedom also is able to be grown in all geographic areas, which didn’t used to be the case with poinsettia varieties.

Prestige–This series improves Freedom to fit modern distribution systems. This cultivar reduced shrink by eliminating branch breakage, a key to profitability for growers and retailers. It also requires less growth regulators.

Winter Rose–The result of a 30-year vision by its breeder, Winter Rose defined the market potential for a novelty poinsettia with its curly, rose-shaped flowers. 

Fresh Cut Flowers

We asked floral industry leaders Charles Kremp of Kremp Florist near Philadelphia and Red Kennicott of Kennicott Brothers Co., a floral wholesaler in Chicago, what varieties they would consider legendary.

“One variety that comes to mind is the ‘Mamie Eisenhower’ carnation,” Kremp says. “This was the first one I remember that was a bicolor. It was referred to by simply ‘Mamies.’ In roses, it was ‘American Beauty.’ Baccara roses came along as ones that would last for weeks with high tight petal count, but were not a name requested by the consumer as the other two.”

Kennicott adds that just as ‘Stargazer’ lily revolutionized the use of oriental lilies, ‘Enchantment’ did the same for Asiatic lilies.

“Picardy gladiolas were once a variety that was well recognized by consumers,” Kennicott says. “‘Bristol Fairy’ was the first of the hybrid gypsophila that are still used today. Other rose varieties include ‘Talisman’ and ‘Better Times,’ but ‘American Beauty’ is the most recognized rose variety, even though most people who are alive today have never seen it.”

More recently, ‘Million Stars’ gypsophila was a star introduction by Danziger for its branching habit. 

Annuals

We received the most consensus on seed annuals. Breakthrough varieties identified by Nona Wolfram-Koivula, executive director of All-America Selections (AAS) include:

Petunia ‘Wave Purple’ from Kirin/PanAmerican Seed–This 1995 AAS winner was the first groundcover petunia with consistent flowering. Wave became an industry standard, revolutionized the genus petunia and became a household name with consumers.

Cleome ‘Sparkler Blush’ from Goldsmith Seeds–This 2002 AAS winner is the first dwarf cleome and first hybrid. Only 3 feet tall, it fits in smaller gardens or containers. It became the industry standard for hybrids and dwarf plants and created new markets for this old-fashioned flower.

Profusion zinnias from Sakata Seed–Available in Cherry, Orange and White, the Profusions took home AAS Gold Medals in 1999 and 2001. These plants are early to bloom, offer excellent garden performance and became the industry standard for disease tolerance. Normally a summer crop, these zinnias can be produced for spring flowering.

Lou Newman, the director of container sales at Florikan, nominated a pair of old standbys that have stood the test of time. “Cocktail begonias are decades old and still the standard,” he says. “Consumers ask for them by name and know the colors. Majestic Giant pansies made pansies the fall crop in the South.”

Another nomination was Super Elfin impatiens from PanAmerican Seed. The original Elfin series was bred by Claude Hope in the 1960s, and it was the first commercially available bedding-type impatiens on the market. The Super Elfins continue that legacy with modern genetics.

In the category of vegetative annuals, PanAmerican’s Drew Effron highlighted P.A.C. Elsner’s variety, ‘Kim,’ as one of the most signficant zonal geraniums.

“While working at Oglevee, I came to the conclusion that P.A.C. Kim has been the best selling zonal geranium in history,” Effron says. “Right from introduction, because it was red, ‘Kim’ became the No. 1 variety sold by Oglevee every year. I recall the number being more than two million annually. It was also available to Oglevee’s secondary propagator network, which included at least 200 growers. ‘Kim’ was also the No. 1 variety propagated by the secondary network. This was the case for about the 20-year duration of the patent.”

While geraniums were the dominant queens of the potted plant bedding business, in the 1990s we saw revolutionary new genuses in vegetative annuals.

Japanese breeder Suntory created new markets with the vigorous growing Surfinia petunias, Temari and Tapien verbenas and Million Bells calibrachoas. Ball FloraPlant created industry-leading series with AngelMist angelonias and Fiesta double impatiens. Phenomenally successful varieties from Proven Winners include Symphony osteospermums and euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost.’

Sweet potato vine ‘Margarita’ blazed the trail for more aggressive vegetative annuals with its striking, chartreuse foliage. The more compact Sweet Caroline sweet potato vines from Bodger Botanicals have been ideal for containers and come in a variety of designer colors.

Ecke Ranch also brought a wide range of Australian plants to market through a partnership with Outback Plants. The argyranthemums have been the most popular, with ‘Comet Pink’ redefining the look and the standard of the genus while expanding the market. 

Perennials

We continue to see a great deal of breeding interest in many genuses and the breeders do tend to be specialists in specific genuses.

In the shrub rose category, the most revolutionary introduction has been the Knock Out roses from Conard-Pyle Co. and Novalis. The roses thrive in humid climates without spraying and offer continuous blooms without deadheading. They are a landscaper’s dream. The latest addition is ‘Pink Double Knock Out,’ which offers the layers of petals consumers love in roses.

We’re seeing a lot of interest in gaillardias, with ‘Fanfare’ from PlantHaven being the market leader with its showy tubular florets. A newer introduction is ‘Oranges and Lemons,’ which is similar but without the red coloring. Novalis is excited about its new Commotion gaillardias with a higher petal count per bloom and red and burgundy tones.

In seed varieties, Wolfram-Koivula says coreopsis ‘Early Sunrise’ was a significant introduction in 1989 as the first grown from seed without any nonflowering plants the first year. This variety set the standard for growers to produce perennials as annuals.

Heuchera has been another strong genus for innovation. Charles Oliver of The Primrose Path in Pennsylvania says ‘Montrose Ruby’ was the first hybrid between the purple-leaved and silver-patterned wild species and the starting point for all the modern hybrids. Terra Nova then took heucheras to the next level with designer colors like ‘Amber Waves’ with ruffled amber and gold foliage.

In the genus tiarella, Oliver mentions ‘Elizabeth Oliver,’ the first hybrid between the eastern wild forms with maroon foliage and the western wild forms with fancily cut leaves. “All the new hybrids that combine cut leaves with colorful patterning are derived from this cross made in the early 1990s,” he says. Terra Nova’s tiarella ‘Stoplight’ features bright yellow leaves with large red blotches.

Frances Hopkins, founder of Stepables has also created a market for creeping perennials. The best seller is isotoma ‘Blue Star Creeper,’ a consumer favorite with its hundreds of light blue flowers that can be walked on. Other top-selling Stepables are ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’ and sagina ‘Scotch Moss.’

Did we miss your favorite legendary variety? Drop me a line at donofrey@meistermedia.com.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

April 20, 2015

Three Michigan State University On-Demand Webinars Offer Effective Strategies For Insect And Disease Control On Vegetables

The first rule of effective insect and disease control for vegetables is to take action to prevent problems before they occur. But in order to do that, you need to have an effective pest and disease management strategy in place that incorporates best practices to ensure a successful outcome. Michigan State University offers three pest and disease management on-demand webinars that will get you started and keep you on the right track.

Read More
Celosia dragon's breath_Sakata

April 20, 2015

Sakata’s Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ Steals The Show In Salinas

Since January, when I first saw celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ in the landscape at Costa Farms’ Season Premier, I knew it looked like a great plant that would garner some serious attention. And sure enough, up and down the trials road, people were talking about Sakata’s hot new introduction. Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ is a seed-propagated, plume-type celosia that is said to actually perform better with less fertilizer and water. If it’s fed too much, its dark leaves lose their reddish-purple coloring and turn green, and by restricting water, it tends to bloom more. It tends to be a more vigorous plant than other plume-type celosias, and its large blooms are quite attractive. Sakata also introduced a new series of African Marigolds. Proud Mari comes in Orange, Yellow and Gold, and has huge, fist-sized flowers that bloom vigorously. New colors in SuperCal petunias are L.A. Yellow and Pink, and they are fabulous additions […]

Read More

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plants To Give Back

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 20, 2015

Three Michigan State University On-Demand Webinars Offe…

The first rule of effective insect and disease control for vegetables is to take action to prevent problems before they occur. But in order to do that, you need to have an effective pest and disease management strategy in place that incorporates best practices to ensure a successful outcome. Michigan State University offers three pest and disease management on-demand webinars that will get you started and keep you on the right track.

Read More
Celosia dragon's breath_Sakata

April 20, 2015

Sakata’s Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ Steals The Show In S…

Since January, when I first saw celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ in the landscape at Costa Farms’ Season Premier, I knew it looked like a great plant that would garner some serious attention. And sure enough, up and down the trials road, people were talking about Sakata’s hot new introduction. Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ is a seed-propagated, plume-type celosia that is said to actually perform better with less fertilizer and water. If it’s fed too much, its dark leaves lose their reddish-purple coloring and turn green, and by restricting water, it tends to bloom more. It tends to be a more vigorous plant than other plume-type celosias, and its large blooms are quite attractive. Sakata also introduced a new series of African Marigolds. Proud Mari comes in Orange, Yellow and Gold, and has huge, fist-sized flowers that bloom vigorously. New colors in SuperCal petunias are L.A. Yellow and Pink, and they are fabulous additions […]

Read More

April 17, 2015

Sakata Seed Uses California Spring Trials Display Plant…

Sakata Seed America is putting its post-CAST (California Spring Trials) plants and flowers to good use to support events in local California communities of Salinas and Morgan Hill. The plants, along with donations through Sakata's Charitable Giving Program, will support three fun-filled community events that promote healthy lifestyles and support the agricultural industry.

Read More
PW_CAST15

April 17, 2015

Allan Armitage’s Favorite Plants From Proven Winn…

Between visiting California Spring Trial giants like Proven Winners, Syngenta and Danziger, Allan Armitage saw a lot of great plants in one day. Despite the size of the challenge, Dr. Armitage finds a few favorites he thinks you should try.

Read More
Gazania hybrid 'Amber Ice' (Cultivaris)

April 17, 2015

The 80/20 Theory Approach To Inventory Selection Is Put…

Tim Runte of Calloway Gardens is a member of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Here, he shares how he determines which plants shown at this year's California Spring Trials will make the cut at his retail stores.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Trends At California Spring Trials: AmericanHort’…

Michael Geary, CEO and president of AmericanHort, hit the road during California Spring Trials, and noted trends he saw at many of the stops. Here's one that he says we'll need to consider carefully.

Read More

April 17, 2015

Golden State Bulb At Spring Trials Has Great Appeal For…

While Golden State Bulb is a smaller stop at California Spring Trials, it’s always a treat. You not only get to see less common plants like calla lilies and eucomis, you also get to meet the passionate breeders who developed the plants you’re seeing. For plant geeks, this is a fun stop. First up, the Aloha Lily series of pineapple lily or eucomis was introduced last year, and a new variety, the dark red Kona, joined the lineup. The team at Golden State would like to see this sweet-scented series treated much like orchids by consumers. Like orchids, Aloha Lily does well in low light and has blooms that last two to three months. Now that homeowners have grown accustomed to having orchids, it just may be time to test which other long-flowering plant they would be willing to embrace. Golden State would like to see consumers approach callas in a […]

Read More
PW_calibrachoa_holy moly1

April 17, 2015

Proven Winners Shows Off Its Newest Plant Rock Stars At…

With its wide assortment of plants, great presenters and an amazing location atop a hill at a spa/resort, Proven Winners is a can’t-miss stop during California Spring Trials. The Greenhouse Grower team first visited with Proven Winners’ nursery partner, Spring Meadow, where we got to see the new shrub introductions. Shrubs Proven Winners has two new hydrangea series. The Let’s Dance series is third generation breeding and boasts strong reblooming and a compact habit. The new mountain hydrangea, ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff,’ is another rebloomer and grows to 1.5- to 2-feet tall. Its leaves take on a purple hue when they encounter cool night temperatures. The attractive new Gem Box ilex, an ink berry holly, is suggested as a boxwood replacement for those areas being hit with boxwood blight. It grows to 2- to 4-feet tall and takes full to part sun, but cannot take full shade the way boxwoods can. Spring Meado Nursery  is […]

Read More
Asian-Vegetables-Lettue-Trio-American-Takii

April 16, 2015

American Takii’s Asian Vegetable Line Is Designed…

Unlike many of the other breeders displaying at Spring Trials, American Takii didn’t have many new introductions. But it did have a new program that has prompted many visitors to post to social media — its Asian vegetables. Takii, which is well known for its vegetable breeding, is in the process of vetting the eight to 12 vegetables it will include in the program, and it should have its list fully complete by fall 2015. It is selecting plants that will be easy to use in Asian cooking and will help it stand out from the many vegetable programs in the ornamental market. The Takii marketing team designed bright-red Chinese food takeout containers to act as plant sleeves and a small booklet with five recipes. Honey Chicken With Pak Choy looked especially tasty. Take a look at how the program looks and let us know what you think.       HilverdaKooij is a […]

Read More
HGTV HOME Plant Collection_pre-made succulent container

April 16, 2015

HGTV Incorporates Plants Into Lifestyles And Helps Cons…

When we visited Dummen’s site at Edna Valley Vineyard, the HGTV HOME Plant Collection display was teeming with excited visitors checking out the new varieties, designer mixes and concepts.

Read More
Westhoff_Crazytunia_Swiss Dancer

April 16, 2015

Allan Armitage Finds Some Surprising Intros At Floricul…

Allan Armitage visited three breeders at Spring Trials’ newest location, Floricultura. He found several plants that made Floricultura’s debut a must-stop site in 2015. Westhoff At Westhoff, plant breeding is alive and well, with many things to embrace. The petunia program is vibrant and creative, and I am particularly confident that the Crazytunia program will continue to grow. Crazytunias should fly off the shelves because of their unique colors. Westhoff also brings more standard fare to the table. The Epic series of bacopas have large flowers and should be of particular interest. ‘Epic White’ is particularly nice. And the lobelia in the Hot series has been excellent. ‘Snow White’ adds a good white to the mix. The Hot series does tolerate heat better than most lobelias and now it has a reasonable number of colors. The plant that caught my interest the most this year was ‘Lilac Cascade.’ According to Westhoff, this […]

Read More
westhoff_lilac falls

April 16, 2015

The New Floricultura Stop Showcased A New Interspecific…

Floricultura is a new stop for Spring Trials that hosted Westhoff, Beekenkamp and Plug Connections. It is a welcome addition to the California tour, offering a backdrop of an impressive high-tech greenhouse with orchid production underway within a few feet of the Trial displays. Westhoff The first breeder the Greenhouse Grower team toured, Westhoff, is a relative newcomer to CAST. This German company brings its storied European history of breeding plants (it’s a more-than-100-year-old company) to the U.S. Here in the U.S., Westhoff is best known for its Crazytunia series of petunias, with its vivid and sometimes unexpected colors. It introduced eight new varieties in the series, with ‘Limy’ and ‘Cherry Cheesecake’ getting some pointed attention from attendees. The Hot series of lobelia captured a lot of attention. These lobelias are tested in Florida, Texas, California, Michigan and Colorado, and offer more toughness than we are used to seeing from this genus. The […]

Read More

April 16, 2015

Golden State Bulbs And Sakata: Allan Armitage Highlight…

Dr. Allan Armitage was excited to see both new and improved breeding, as well as have the chance to meet breeders and talk shop at Sakata Seed and Golden State Bulb. Sakata Seed At Sakata, we wandered through traditional crops like zinnias, New Guinea impatiens, calibrachoa and petunias. However, I have always been impressed with the SuperCal program, and this year’s introduction of vibrant colors of Light Yellow and Pink really caught my eye. The flowers of Light Yellow are significantly larger than other colors in the series. I believe the SuperCals are poised for major additional sales. Everybody was talking about ‘Dragon’s Breath’ celosia, and I wanted to see what the hype was all about. It is surely hype-worthy. The plants I observed were large with obvious vigor, and the foliage was coppery with huge, bright, rose-red flowers. Apparently this is a plant that benefits from minimal inputs, such as […]

Read More
CAST15_Suntory_Soiree1

April 15, 2015

McHutchison’s Vaughn Fletcher Reviews New Offerin…

Vaughn Fletcher with McHutchison Horticultural Distributors is part of Greenhouse Grower's Medal Of Excellence For Industry's Choice Panel. Fletcher recounted some of the standout varieties he saw while visiting Suntory Flowers and Westhoff during California Spring Trials.

Read More
Basil_Persian-AAS2015_620x329

April 15, 2015

All-America Selections Launches New Perennial Trial

All-America Selections (AAS) in partnership with Perennial Plant Association (PPA) will launch an herbaceous perennial trial, with entries due this July. It will follow many of the basics of the recently launched AAS Vegetative Ornamental trial. Entries accepted will be herbaceous perennials propagated from seed, cutting, tissue culture or bare root.

Read More
PAC Elsner_Pelargonium 'Bermuda Pink'

April 15, 2015

Kientzler Makes First Independent Display At Spring Tri…

The Spring Trials exhibit at Windmill Nursery in Buellton is a fairly new location as of 2014, and it continues to evolve, with a number of new suppliers presenting their wares. Kientzler, Terra Nova Nurseries and PAC-Elsner presented new varieties while McConkey, Pelemix and Dramm promoted their products.

Read More
Hort Couture_Asclepias Monarch's Promise

April 15, 2015

Hort Couture Boosts Butterflies With ‘MonarchR…

The new milkweed 'Monarch's Promise' aims to improve butterflies' forage options, and it's already working. Plus, chck out the action from GroLink's 11 displaying companies.

Read More
Zucchini 'Brice' (Syngenta Vegetables)

April 14, 2015

18 New Vegetables For Easy Growing And Healthy Eating

Current breeding efforts have focused on vegetable varieties that cater to small space and urban gardening trends and offer consumers good performance with minimal efforts. As a result, new, easy care vegetable introductions packed with flavor and loaded with fruits have swept onto the market. Here are 16 of the newest vegetables already on the market or hitting the market in 2016.

Read More