3D A Double Winner

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LOBULARIA ‘Snow Princess’ earned two Medal of Excellence awards in 2009. Petunia ‘Black Velvet’ did the same last year. Now, the 3D double osteospermums from Selecta First Class join the exclusive club of varieties to earn two awards in Greenhouse Grower’s Medal of Excellence program.

“The awards mean 3D is a great example of innovation and pursuing a dream,” says Stefan Reiner, Selecta’s general manager. “Osteospermum has always been a single-flowering plant, and our breeders thought about what we could do to make the plant more interesting, create a new market for it and get the young generation interested in the product.”

The 3Ds were actually finalists for all three Medal of Excellence awards, earning the Industry’s Choice and Editor’s Choice awards at the Evening of Excellence reception July 11 at the OFA Short Course in Columbus, Ohio. Benary’s ‘Arizona Apricot’ gaillardia held off the 3Ds and Suntory’s Sunvillea bougainvilleas in online voting at GreenhouseGrower.com to claim the Reader’s Choice award.

The Industry’s Choice award was determined by an industry panel that this year included growers C. Raker & Sons, Mast Young Plants, Welby Gardens and Metrolina Greenhouses, as well as McHutchison’s Vaughn Fletcher, Walmart’s Michelle Radecki and the University of Georgia’s Allan Armitage.

While the Industry’s Choice field included three varieties, five varieties were up for the Editor’s Choice award given annually by Greenhouse Grower Editor Delilah Onofrey. Up for the award along with the 3Ds were Candy Drops phygelius from Skagit Gardens; echinaceas from Darwin Perennials; Sunvillea bougainvilleas; and Lady Slippers streptocarpus from Green Fuse Botanicals. To Onofrey, the 3Ds were clearly the most significant introduction at this year’s California Spring Trials.

“With osteos being so popular, we expect them to be embraced by growers, retailers and consumers alike,” she says. “The colors are really trendy, too, in shades of purple, pink and even silver. When I was at the European Flower Trials, I saw two more distinctive colors that will be added to the series next year. I hope to see the 3Ds positioned as a unique, premium item instead of just being mixed in with all the other osteos and annuals. There is opportunity for growers to get good margins.”

Benary’s ‘Arizona Apricot’ gaillardia was the other big Medal of Excellence winner, following ‘Black Velvet’ (2010), the Caliente and Calliope geranium series expansion (2009) and ‘Tiger Eye Gold’ rudbeckia as recent Reader’s Choice winners.

‘Arizona Apricot’ is a 2010 All-America Selections winner that joins the Arizona series. It fills in fast, flowers its first year and is a tough-as-nails perennial that thrives under a variety of conditions. It flowers as early and uniformly as ‘Arizona Sun’ and continues blooming well into the fall with masses of apricot flowers.

“What makes ‘Arizona Apricot’ so special is it is a cloning of the Arizona series,” says Jean Bessette, Benary’s North American sales manager. “This is the third color. With the award for Apricot, it gives a nice rounded assortment for the industry and the retailers.”

The Reader’s Choice award had a new twist this year. For the first time, breeders were given the opportunity to enter their new introductions. Entries were divided into three categories: annuals, perennials and the catch-all best-of-the-rest category, which encompasses vegetables, tropicals, woody ornamentals and blooming potted plants. Twenty-eight entries were received in all, and a portion of all entries are benefiting the Jack Williams scholarship fund.

Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.

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