Allan Armitage’s Spring Trials Day 2 Highlights

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Meridian Purple is one of the mid-season varieties in Fides Oro's Mystic Mums Series, which offer five different series tuned for natural season flowering.

Good evening to everyone from rainy California. Day two is complete and I am still feeling like a kid in a candy store. It is so much fun! Without a doubt, the best part of the California Spring Trials continues to be seeing old friends, meeting colleagues and soaking in the enthusiasm at each stop.

Soaking aside, lots of things caught my eye today.

Fides Oro

Fides Oro must have set a record in its ability to integrate the two firms. The number of breeders represented boggles my mind, especially when I think back that the announcement of the merger was only announced a year ago. Walking through the facility was to discover new genetics at every corner.  Some plants that caught my eye were the extraordinary dahlias, the Dahlinova Hypnotica series in particular, as well as the well-ordered choices in hardy mums (Mystic), from very early to late-flowering cultivars, with excellent colors and marvelous mounding habits.

It’s obvious that the addition of the Oro team has allowed many more introductions than we would have seen otherwise. It appears to be a very good marriage.

I was also very pleased to see the addition of the Bartels perennial program to Fides Oro because I believe the history and reputation of the Bartels group will provide Fides Oro with many good perennials in the near future.

Flamingo Holland

We visited Flamingo Holland at Fides Oro. I could not help but be impressed with its efforts in developing the potted calla and potted freesia programs. The genetics looked excellent but it is not an easy task to position these crops in the American pot plant market. However, they enthusiastically believe they can, so who is to argue with such enthusiasm?

Ball Horticultural Co.

Oh my, going to the Ball extravaganza is like visiting a fine restaurant that offers every kind of food you could imagine, each with beautiful presentation and mouth-watering potential. Ball puts on a show that one can’t help but be impressed with, both in the quality of its products and the quality of its people. There was so much to see that we spent six hours there and still probably didn’t see everything.

Ball has brought in many different companies, and each adds strength to its overall offerings. With Selecta, a greatly expanded Burpee program, Darwin Perennials and the whole Ball family – from Ball Ingenuity to Ball FloraPlant – almost every kind of plant is being covered.

The Selecta breeding of calibrachoas continues to be outstanding; Ball FloraPlant’s impatiens ‘Patchwork Cosmic Orange’ caught everyone’s eye (especially mine); and the number of unusual begonias I saw ranged from beautiful to extraordinary.

I was quite impressed with Selecta’s Everlast dianthus, as well. Their uniform growth and the promise of an extended blooming season attracted the attention of many people. I can’t wait to trial them to see if the promise is fulfilled. However, I believe Selecta may have a winner.
It’s hard not to be impressed with what Burpee and Ball are doing together. Burpee Home Gardens is introducing some extraordinary new plants, such as ‘Sparks Will Fly’ begonia, and a really interesting mixed petunia in ‘Blue A Fuse.’ The grafted tomatoes are fun to look at but I like the fact they are grafting heirloom types to vigorous rootstalks. These may have legs for the independent garden centers.

PanAmerican Seed continues to impress with all of its seed items, including vegetables such as a spineless zucchini and the acrobatic ‘Topsy Tom’ tomato, with its ability to grow up a trellis or hang upside down like a Great Wallenda.  

The other “breakthrough” I believe to have great potential is Cool Wave pansy. It allows a pansy to spill out of containers, window boxes and baskets, allowing landscapers to provide such containers with a wonderful, full-bodied look. The growth habit of the Cool Wave pansies should make them unique, and not just one more pansy. Without a doubt, I am putting them in my window boxes this fall.

Ball always puts on a grand show, and we could still be there if we had enough time.

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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