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.
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 new offerings, Brilliant Blue and Snow White, were stand outs among the five colors on display.
The big news from Westhoff is ‘Lilac Falls,’ an interspecific cross between lamium and stachys. This plant was shown during the 2014 Trials, but was not yet available at that time. It is now, and has potential to be a strong performer in the U.S. ‘Lilac Falls’ does best in outdoor production.
Like Westhoff, Beekenkamp is a well-established company with a storied history in Europe. The Netherlands-based breeder also had several U.S. introductions that had been sold in Europe for at least a year, giving an extra layer of vetting to its lineup.
Beekenkamp is renowned for its begonia breeding, and it had a lovely introduction, the Evi series. There are two varieties in the series, ‘Evi Pink’ and ‘Evi Bright Pink.’ Evidently, the series is the namesake of an owner’s granddaughter, indicating that the series has exceptional genetics designed for long-term success.
We also saw a daylight-neutral celosia series, Kelos Fire. The parent genetics, Kelos, are daylight sensitive, making Kelos Fire a distinct improvement for ease of production. There are seven colors for the series.
The Bella fuchsia series, another daylight-neutral introduction, are compact and can work well for packs and 4-inch production. We saw eight varieties on display, and the names are designed for consumer appeal: ‘Evita,’ ‘Sophia,’ ‘Sarah,’ ‘Nora’ and so on.
Plug Connection had the best social-media story of the Trials, with its ‘Ketchup ‘n’ Fries.’ It’s a tomato plant grafted onto a potato. The pitch is that consumers can enjoy tomatoes all summer, and when first frost hits, it’s time to harvest the potatoes.
We also saw its new Pixie Grapes, which is part of the HGTV Home Plant Collection lineup. The pinot grapes are primarily for winemaking, and a 4-inch to 6-inch plant should mature to produce a half cask of wine per year.