One of the best-merchandised spots on the California Spring Trials is always Pacific Plug & Liner (PP&L), where the greenhouse is stocked with beautiful plants and displays, and the people are dressed to the nines and graciously ready to help in any way. This year’s theme — Havana Nights — was carried off with all of the sultry color and flourish one might expect, and there was no inch of bench space left untouched.
PP&L has lots of news to share this year. In an effort to focus its offerings more toward perennials and specialty items, the young plant provider has reduced the number of plants it carries, says April Herring, New Product Development Manager. Some of these crops include potted hydrangea, which is getting a lot of attention. Growers wanting to produce an indoor hydrangea for their programs may find a solution in the new dormant hydrangea liner program PP&L is offering. It’s a high-light crop and is well branched, which equates to more flowers. It’s vernalized from September to December and ships January to April.
While hellebores aren’t a new crop for PP&L, the young plant grower wants to remind its customers that it’s not as hard to grow as they might think, and not to be intimidated by the early spring plant. Two programs are available from PP&L: a 72-cell for spring production, or a 32-cell to plant in fall for the following spring.
Echibeckias have more colors coming. They weren’t on display, but there’s a new brown on the way, and others are in the pipeline, Herring says. In grasses, PP&L provides a number of varieties from seed, cutting, and tissue culture, but Carex ‘Feather Falls’ is a bigger, more vigorous plant that doesn’t burn in full sun. PP&L is sending trials to growers this summer to see how it does.
The big variety launch for this year is Bubble Berry strawberry, from the same breeder as Hula Berry. It tastes like bubblegum, which should be good for attracting kids (check out #HulaBerry on Instagram). While Hula Berry, which is currently in Home Depot stores nationally, needs a pollinator plant, Bubble Berry doesn’t.
PP&L is also launching Liner-bility, a fast and easy-to-use availability tool that helps growers secure the varieties they need in advance of shipping. The tool is Excel based, and works with breeder farms all over the world to communicate availability. It displays both current and extended availability in one handy spreadsheet, updated on the hour. Current availability is what is actually planted at PP&L, while extended availability is the potential future supply of rooted liners using URC, seed, and tissue culture source availability. It already takes into consideration lead times and grow times, and shows up to 72 weeks of forecasted availability into the future, with a tab for weekly specials. Liner-bility also works with online broker programs, Herring says. Also new this year, PP&L is using brochures for its crops, instead of a catalog, so it can continuously provide necessary updates to programs.
Josh Schneider from Cultivaris always has several interesting (and funny) anecdotes to share with visitors about each new plant in the lineup, including how they were licensed, how some got their names, and what names he wishes he could use. This year’s presentation was just as colorful as ever, despite the heat and his long-sleeved shirt.
For the past several years, Schneider has partnered with Garry Grueber to deliver unique genetics to the marketplace through Cultivaris. One of the most notable varieties the group has introduced is the digiplexis Illumination series. It’s incredibly beautiful, and Cultivaris continues to work on the culture for this series, which will be offered unrooted next year. Schneider says the best variety in the series for growers is Berry Canary.
Some exciting new releases from Cultivaris are:
• Gaura ‘Lillipop Blush’ is an extremely compact gaura variety, even with no plant growth regulators used.
• Zinnia ‘Zany’ — it’s still being worked out where growers can get cuttings for this, but the variety has received a ton of attention, Schneider says.
• A Salvia x microphylla collection includes ‘Berkeley Barb,’ ‘Syracuse,’ ‘Dazzler,’ ‘Elmira,’ and more. The varieties are beautiful and super tough.
• Sedum ‘Chocolate Cherry’ has dark leaves and a gorgeous dark-pink flower, bred by Marco van Noort.
• Rehmannia ‘Tigerschand’ is typically a very tall variety in the landscape, but this offering stays compact.
• A new colocasia hybrid (still unnamed, stay tuned for a fun one!)
For its first time at spring trials, Bailey Nurseries had a lot to share with attendees. It’s rolling out marketing programs for its three largest brands. In Endless Summer Hydrangea, Bailey is encouraging folks to get outside and incorporate their outdoor living spaces into their homes with the “Experience Life In Full Bloom” campaign. It will give away three outdoor movie projectors in a sweepstakes this summer.
Anyone can grow roses, even you … yes, you. That’s what Bailey is trying to convey with its new Easy Elegance rose campaign. The product look has been refreshed with a new pot and tag, and a clear, communicative tagline that Easy Elegance is “The rose you can grow.”
Finally, the First Editions shrub brand is telling homeowners to turn their “blandscape into a landscape.” It’s putting a real-life Minneapolis couple to work with a garden designer, supplying the plants, and capturing the rigors of installing a DIY landscape on video in a series that will be promoted via blog. All of this couple’s adventures will hopefully be relatable and fun, and show audiences — especially young Gen X and Gen Y homeowners — that gardening can be really rewarding.
Southern Living And Sunset Western Gardening
Some of the most powerful media brands in the country, Southern Living and Sunset magazines reach more readers than you can even imagine. That extends to the plant collections, as well, and plants are virtually flying off the benches and hard to keep in stock at the garden center, says Josh Schneider of Cultivaris, who has licensed plants to this collection.
The brand is working on its tag program, having realized it needed more growth penetration in the market, so it’s opening up to more growers beyond those already licensed. The program is still in its infancy, but ‘Meerlo’ lavender will be the first plant the brand tries this with, so stay tuned for updates.
New plants for 2016-2017 are:
• Compact Lorapetalum ‘Purple Daydream,’ a true dwarf, Zone 8 variety
• Mahonia ‘Marvel,’ a shrub with spectacular bloom
• Lomandra ‘Platinum Beauty’ from Australia which had a soft release last year, but is fully out this year for 2017; it can take winter wet and expanded dry periods.
• For 2017, ceanothus is a California native called carmel creeper, the largest landscape shrub in California. With a vigorous variegated form, it’s early flowering, and attracts pollinators.
• Salvia ‘Little Kiss’ is an introduction from last year, but it had limited distribution, and it’s ready to go for 2016
Based in Israel, Hishtil Nurseries always has a number of exciting and different varieties. Here are some of the highlights.
• The new experimental herb Hesperozygis satureja ‘Fragrant Beauty’ is great for cooking.
• The experimental Pentastic series is comparable to penstemon, in two colors, and hardy to Zone 8. Hishtil will most likely be adding it as an intro in 2017. There is high demand for this plant because it doesn’t need cold or vernalization, and only one cutting fills a quart-size pot. It has a high flower count, and no PGRs are needed. It’s presented by Concept plants.
• Salt plant/Salicornia europaea is not a new intro, but a fun plant called salt marsh herb. It has salty-tasting leaves, and cuttings were taken from a beach in France. Consumers add to salads for a kick of flavor.
• Zaluzianskya ‘Star Balsam’ has scented flowers that close red and open white.
• Rungia klossii (Mushroom Plant) smells and tastes of mushrooms, and it’s high in vitamins and iron. This is part of the Culinary Couture Collection from Hort Couture.
Cohen Propagation Nurseries
One of the largest independent cuttings producers in the world, Cohen Propagation Nurseries is located in Israel, but works with many breeders to supply cuttings to the U.S. and world market. It also helps introduce new breeding to the market. Several new offerings are coming out this year, including:
• New colors in the bacopa (sutera) Secrets series are Bombay Blue Sky, XL Dark Pink, XXL White Improved
• In the bidens Bee line is Giant Yellow
• There are six new colors in the calibrachoa Caloha Classic series and one new in Caloha Double
• Three colors are new in the petunia Happy Series: Yellow Orange Stripes is receiving lots of interest; and Fire Red is new for license holders only
Another production nursery from Israel, Jaldety has some exciting new plants, including:
• Pelargonium ‘Pinki Pinks’
• Sedum mix – Mahogany Red
• Experimental Salvia ‘Blue Butterfly’
• Four colors added to the delosperma Wheels of Wonder series.