Proven Winners’ New Superbells, Syngenta’s Improving Kwik Kombos And More

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The Kwik Kombo Plumtastic Mix includes Lobelia 'Techno Heat Violet,' Petunia 'Whispers Lavender Eye' and Verbena 'Lanai Deep Purple'

Allan Armitage, who is traveling with the Greenhouse Grower team, sees plants through different eyes than most other visitors at Trials. Each day he’ll tell us what catches his attention and why. It may be a plant with great promise for consumers, or it may be a program that makes life easier for growers. Keep up to date with what’s happening this week in California with Dr. A. Today he shares his favorites from Proven Winners and Syngenta Flowers.

Proven Winners:
I can’t wait to see the landscape performance of Lobularia ‘White Knight,’ a new introduction from Proven Winners. ‘Snow Princess’ “made” the alyssum market what it is today, but many growers and retailers found that it was too aggressive to put in a mixed container.  The color is good, the habit appears much improved, and if it plays better with others, we have a winner. There’s only so much space for new alyssum cultivars, so I think ‘White Knight’ is something we’ll be looking closely at.
Regarding new introductions of calibrachoas, I think Calibrachoa ‘Lemon Slice’ was one of the finest new calibrachoas I’ve seen in many years. That’s saying something, since I look at 75 of them every year.

‘Lemon Slice’ is part of the Superbells series, and Proven Winners’ newest entry, ‘Pomegranate Punch,’ seems to be very closely aligned with the other Punches in the series. Consumers, landscapers and people in retail stores seem to like bicolor flowers more and more. ‘Pomegranate Punch’ provides that look.  I am a bit of skeptic as to the need for one more calibrachoa, but there’s no doubt about it — ‘Pomegranate Punch’ is beautiful.

Another plant worth noting from Proven Winners is a perennial catmint — Nepeta Cat’s Meow.’ I believe nepeta could be a big genus for breeders, as there are many different forms already available, yet lots of room for expansion.  While I haven’t seen the landscape performance of ‘Cat’s Meow’, I am pleased to see Proven Winners making a serious push to get a better nepeta in their program.  The habit is compact, the flowers are upright, and the plants are “cute.”

I believe as a filler plant with important woody plants like roses, the possibilities nepeta offers have no limit, and this one also offers great possibilities in mixed containers. My goodness, if we can sell bacopa, we can certainly sell nepeta. With Proven Winners’ genetics and market expertise, I have every confidence this is going to be on grower benches very soon.

Syngenta
Syngenta has an absolutely spectacular winner with the new Pentas Starcluster series. What really impressed me was the vigor of the plant (there is nothing “dwarf” about this one), the size of the flower and the stem strength. Given the fact that they were grown in a warm greenhouse, I’m truly impressed with the strength of the stems. I think the industry is ready for a more robust pentas and this one appears to be able to spit out heat and humidity — I am in love!

The Kwik Combos certainly caught my eye. I’ve been looking at combinations for many years, and while they were very nice, they had not been on top of my list for great landscape performance. However, in my trials and all my travels last summer, I was really impressed with the Kwiks’ performance relative to combinations from other companies.

With what I saw today — three new combinations to complement a much improved series of Kwiks — I believe growers, retailers and consumers definitely should not be ignoring this group of combination plantings. The company is putting money, time and expertise behind this product, and they have it nailed! Take a good look at the new combos; you will be pleased.

The third innovation at Syngenta that very much impressed me was not a single plant, but a program to reduce crop time of some important plants. It will also help ensure that some of Syngenta’s best plants remain in production.

The program, called Cutting Time, is based on excellent science and innovative production techniques. It uses callused cuttings to be sure that some difficult-to-propagate crops such as ‘Nirvana’ vinca and ‘Scentopia’ heliotrope not only remain in production, but can be produced far more quickly and with better results by the grower. Syngenta chose nine different crops to place in this program, and I believe it to be an important breakthrough in production. We all need great crops, and we all want to save time on the bench — this program is a potential no-brainer — take a close look.

Allan Armitage (allan@greenhouse grower.com) is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

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