Highlights From Costa Farms’ 2019 Winter Trial Garden Open House

Costa Farms held its annual Winter Trial Garden Open House the week of January 14, during the same time as the Tropical Plant International Expo (TPIE) in Fort Lauderdale, FL. With the gardens being just over an hour away from the TPIE tradeshow, many visitors took the opportunity to visit both events.

The garden covers nearly two acres and includes around 40 row beds with annuals and perennials, hanging basket and mixed container trials, and designed landscape trials. Costa Farms’ employees planted a majority of the plants in the row beds during Week 50 (around Dec. 9, 2018), with a handful planted in Week 52 (around December 23).

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Visitors to the gardens this year were able to assess for themselves the performance of the new Imara XDR Impatiens from Syngenta Flowers. These impatiens are the first Impatiens walleriana with a high degree of resistance to downy mildew to hit the market. The trials also included some experimental IDM-resistant I. walleriana from PanAmerican Seed.

A ‘Viking Red on Chocolate’ begonia from Sakata Ornamentals attracted some visitors attention because of its unusual color. “It’s also a 2019 All-America Selections winner,” says Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist. American Takii’s Delphinium ‘Jenny’s Pearl Blue,’ which was still in experimental stages during California Spring Trials 2018, stood out at the Costa Trials with its vivid blue color. This is a true-blue winter annual for the market. The Gerbera Giant series from Floranova is a new offering for containers that exhibits giant blooms that won’t get lost in the mix. Proven Winner’s Amazel basil, an Ocimum hybrid that is resistant to downy mildew, was also on display. Its vigorous growth habit was apparent at Costa’s trials. Fortunately, the plants are sterile, so they continue to produce leaves and shoots even after flower initiation.

There’s lots more plants to talk about, but this slideshow will give you a small look at Costa’s spring trials and what to look forward to this year and in 2020 for retail. Hancock says he encourages people to visit the garden a few times during the year to see the plants in different growth stages — spring, mid-season, and fall — to better assess their overall seasonal performance.

“The end of the trial period is always so much more interesting,” he says.