The D.S. Cole Growers field trials are a combination of true trialing variety by variety, the use of in-ground planting to see true garden performance, and vignettes with design elements to show how the new varieties can be used. Since D.S. Cole Growers’ open house takes place at the beginning or August and not all flowers are their peak at that time, some of the descriptions in this article make use of information collected throughout the growing season.
Here’s what Owner Doug Cole had to say about the trials this year:
Begonias are now available for use in both sun and shade. An old variety that is now available in production quantities is a cane-type or angel-wing type by the name of Begonia maculata. It is upright growing with shiny green leaves having silver spots. Besides the fact that it is sold mainly for its foliage and its accent quality in planters, it is very interesting to learn that it loves shade so much that it grows best in the shadiest part of the greenhouse you can find.
I’conia Portofino Begonias are getting rave reviews for the heavily double flowers they produce. The growth habit of the entire series is consistent. They can be used in hangers to make a mounded appearance. Since they don’t truly hang, they are a multipurpose series that are good in 6-inch pots and larger containers, also. We were most impressed with the varieties ‘I’conia Hot Coral’ and ‘I’conia Citrix.’
Begonia ‘Fragrant Falls Peach’ is probably our favorite find this year from Beekenkamp. Unfortunately, the supply is very tight, but if you can get some they are exquisite. They truly have a fragrant scent. The habit is compact yet perfect for a hanger due to the pendulous blooms. The leaves are dark green and always shiny.
Bidens ‘Golden Empire’
This variety was introduced last year. It is upright, yet compact and is covered with lemon-yellow blooms. It can be used in combinations and has enough flowers to be potted by itself.
Chlorophytum (Spider Plant) has made a comeback. We thought it was time to re-introduce one of the plants that was in everyone’s homes in the 70’s. We predict the spider plant will be back in hanging baskets in the near future, and we found that it performed great in full sun in a garden bed this summer. Now this is a true combination plant for beds, hangers, and especially window boxes.
Pilea peperomoides is quite the hit. The question is for how long.
With succulents and foliage now in vogue, why not add cactus as a young plant. These were a big hit for visitors since they have not typically been available in the past as young plants.
When our visitors rated our displays, succulents received the most votes. Whether this is due to the varieties on display or the type of display is hard to measure. We do know that Echeverias are the best sellers and some of the favorites are ‘Perle Von Nurnberg,’ E. runyonii, E. parva, and ‘First Lady.’
The best performing calibrachoa in D.S. Cole Growers’ gardens all summer was ‘Minifamous Uno Double PinkTastic.’ This is a Fleurostar winner, and it was evident why. The plant was always covered in blooms and the double flowers really stood out.
The best solid color improvement for the coming year in our trials is Syngenta’s ‘Cabrio Eclipse Lilac.’ The color is vibrant and adds a new look to calibrachoa.
As to patterned flowers, the Chameleon series stand out. There are now so many choices within this group. Atomic Orange and Cherry Banana are two of our favorites. The best attribute of this series is how friendly these are to grow. They required less plant growth regulators than most calibrachoa and had the bonus of being tidy, yet they fill out 10-inch baskets with ease.
Although we did not do a full geranium trial, we did find that the combination of ‘Caliope Medium White’ and ‘Caliope Medium Dark Red’ made a great show and were very popular with customers.
All the Patio and Garvinea Gerbera did well this summer. We were impressed with the volume of flowers on the white variety ‘Patio Glacier.’ The Garvinea Series have good flower power throughout the summer, and the pattern of ‘Garvinea Sweet Fiesta’ added much interest.
Helleborus were not in flower at the time of our summer trials. We have however been working with various rich colors and patterns of crosses that can be produced consistently from tissue culture. We found that Helleborus ‘Vitoria,’ which has rich rose tones along with H. ‘Winterbells’ are just two new types to hit the market that will make the production of colored flowered Helleborus more prevalent in the market.
Lophospermum ‘Lofos Compact Rose’ is no longer new, but continues to dominate this species. We continue to see this as a very popular variety.
We are anxious to see the sales volume of Petunia ‘Crazytunia Cosmic Purple.’ Staff and visitors love the flowers of this plant. At the end of the spring season, we found that P. ‘Amore Queen of Hearts,’ P. ‘Cascadia Indian Summer,’ P. ‘Surfinia Heavenly Blue,’ P. ‘Surfinia Trailing Red,’ and P. ‘Headliner Night Sky’ were the most popular petunias.
Phlox ‘Phloxstar Red’ has had great reviews from California Spring Trials and throughout the summer. The rich red color truly stands out.
Salvia Skyscraper Series from Selecta is available in three colors. These plants grow more than 2 feet tall and are covered with either pink, orange, or dark-purple blooms throughout the summer.
Supercal Premium Series was a big hit. This new group of Supercals from Sakata Ornamentals stand out due to the way the colors of the new varieties can be combined in large pots. They can also be a perfect fit to go along with fall plantings. Compared with first generation Supercals, these exhibit more controlled growth with a semi-mounding habit.
We thought Thunbergia ‘Sunny Susy Rose Sensation’ would be the top selling Thunbergia this year. Instead the traditional bright yellow of T. ‘Lemon’ was still the leader with Rose Sensation coming in second.