Dr. Allan Armitage: 6 Picks From Ball Horticultural Co. And Green Fuse Botanicals During 2016 California Spring Trials

Editor’s Note: In Day 1 of our coverage of California Spring Trials 2016, Dr. Allan Armitage, Contributing Editor for Greenhouse Grower, talks about the plants that caught his eye. See images of his six picks in the slideshow.

Petunia ‘Night Sky’ (Selecta)


Am I really starting off with a petunia? It is not that they are not all beautiful, there are just so many of them, Having looked at new plants for many years, it is difficult for any petunia to impress me. ‘Night Sky’ did just that. To gush about how the dozens of glittering white spots glitter on the blue petals does not do it justice. Suffice it to say it was different, it was fun, and people were talking about it. I certainly am.

Begonia MegaWatt Series (PanAmerican Seed)

Begonias are one of the building blocks of annual spring sales. “Full-size” wax begonias, personified by the Dragon Wing series, the Big, and the Whopper series have become major landscape favorites. The MegaWatt series fits with this trend and provides another excellent choice. They sport handsome large flowers and big shiny foliage in a number of color combinations. We will soon see these in the ground, in containers, and in baskets across the country.

Gerbera Revolution Series (Kieft Seed)

I have become more enamored with gift plants in recent years. Perhaps it is because I enjoy taking flowers or gift plants to friends when I visit. The Revolution series of gift-sized gerberas really caught my eye — half a dozen dazzling daisies on compact plants will brighten up any home and earn the bearer smiles and thank-yous from the host. While they are not marketed as outdoor plants, there is no reason they will not flower again in the deck or patio container. ‘Revolution Bicolor’ is new for 2017; others in the series were introduced last year.

Lupine Showcase Series (Green Fuse Botanicals)

Normally I stay away from plants with major headaches for the grower and the user. As beautiful as lupines can be, they have also been a nightmare to move through the production and distribution channels, to say nothing of the disappointed gardeners in their wake. But wait until you see the new Staircase series from Green Fuse Botanicals. Not just gorgeous flowers, but four to six axillary flower stems are formed and eager to expand. The compact habit and the classical beauty will result in this group walking off the bench. This is a breeding breakthrough for this genus.

Coreopsis Uptick Gold & Bronze (Darwin Perennials)

I was stopped in my tracks by this new series from Darwin Perennials, but was really impressed with Gold & Bronze. Large handsome flowers, an easy-to-maintain habit in the landscape, and bright colors should attract eyeballs and sales. All coreopsis are great pollinator plants, and this series helps continue the trend to be pollinator friendly.

Take 2 Tomato Combos (Burpee)

People need anticipation. We need to make patio gardening something more than one more tomato or pepper in a pot. I loved what Burpee has done — they have selected a cherry-type and slicing tomato with similar habits and fruiting times and combined them in a single pot. Like flower combinations, these tomato combos satisfy the need for veggies on the deck and the need for fresh veggies in our salads and on our burgers. Their research has taken the guesswork out of what varieties work well together — I foresee big time and instant success.