Taking on trends at California Spring Trials 2023
Cut Flowers Continue
The cut flowers trend has been ongoing since its first bump during the pandemic. More traditional varieties are now being promoted as additions to cut flower programs, giving multiple sale options with one plant.
Specifically breeding for cut flower production, Syngenta Flowers currently has 13 dahlia varieties, two zinnias, an all-season sunflower and 20 just-added pot mums. All of these options were selected for performance, reliability and profitability. The bright-colored zinnias come in Rose and Yellow Flame with long stems and double flowers. The ‘Sunfinity Yellow Dark Center’ sunflower continuously reblooms for up to 12 weeks and has a vase life of seven to 20 days. The cut mums assortment increases fall offerings in cut flowers with a range of colors including Bronze, Mango, Purple, White, Orange and Butterscotch.
Pacific Plug & Liner debuted Sugar Shake, a new variety in the echibeckia Summerina Glow series, that is showing great potential for a cut flower program due to its long stems and long-lasting blooms. The fully double flowers almost look like zinnias, have a peach color base, and in bright light will produce tones of light pink and cherry. Sugar Shake is a larger echibeckia that can grow up to 24 inches.
BloomStudios Cut Flowers, a PanAmerican Seed company, launched new colors available from two dianthus series. ‘Amazon Lavender Magic’ blooms with white flowers that transition to lavender when grown in direct sunlight and has a stem length of up to 36 inches. ‘Sweet Cherry’ provides another shade of red to cut flowers, with long-lasting blooms.
Two new series of cut flowers are available from Sakata this year. The aster Azumi XL series produces extra-large flowers on stems that can reach an impressive 36 to 40 inches tall. It comes in four colors: Blue, Red, Rose and White. The series was bred for better growth habit to more easily achieve the desired plant height and has fusarium tolerance.
The new lisianthus Solo series is a great option for growers, retailers and consumers alike. The strong petals hold up well during transport, it has a vase life of 21 days, and it’s the first pollen-free series in the world. The four colors of the series — Blue, Pink, Pure White and Violet — are great for spring to summer sales and have a stem length of 24 to 36 inches.
The new mixed container program from Benary, Mix It Up, makes combos easy for grower-retailers. Each mix has been trialed for up to three years to ensure plants grow well together and will maintain the attractive design for consumers. There are many choices for early, peak and late season mixes. Retail is easy with names such as Bee Happy! (angelonia, bidens and verbena), Country Cottage (bidens, helichrysum and ptilotus) and Let’s Do Malibu (begonia, coleus and lysimachia).
Dümmen Orange’s Confetti Garden annual mixed combinations include plants rooted together in the same plug or combined as unrooted cuttings for even planting. Plants are shipped together in one liner and include varieties of calibrachoa, petunia, and verbena. There is a design for every season for hanging baskets and containers.
The company’s Garden Party multi-genus mixes offer a combination of annuals, perennials, and potted plants that use plants from the Pollinator’s Paradise and Better Together collections for popular consumer-trending designs. Each mix consists of four components that are rooted and shipped separately, then put together for the final product.
Selected for trending color combos and trialed for optimal growth performance, the Ball FloraPlant MixMasters combos have similar requirements. New combos that consist of three varieties are: All That Glimmers with three double impatiens Glimmer colors, Just My Luck with three lantana Shamrock varieties and Serendipity with three calibrachoa Cabaret colors.
Smaller Plants, Sooner Fruits
Dwarf varieties are becoming more popular with gardeners who have less space to grow and opt for patio containers. The Tiny Temptations series from Prudac Americas provides sweet and productive bush-type tomatoes that mature in 70 to 85 days. With three fruit colors to choose from — Red, Yellow and Orange — these tiny tomatoes have a Brix of 10 to 12% and grow well on the porch from summer to fall. ‘Tiny Temptations Orange’ won a Fleuroselect Gold Medal award for its productivity and flavor.
Making home gardening easier for consumers, Sakata Home Grown is offering a bell pepper that is widely adapted, early to fruit and easy to grow. Pepper ‘Arica’ has high yield potential with a heavy first flush of peppers, then the ability to continue setting fruit after. It’s a compact plant with good vigor, and resistance to tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) and phytophthora. ‘Arica’ matures in 70 to 75 days and can be harvested for green and red peppers.
New to the Kitchen Mini series from PanAmerican Seed, Quick Snack mini potted cucumber is bred to grow indoors or on a balcony. It will set fruit without a pollinator and is ready to pick when cucumbers are 2 to 2.5 inches long. Quick Snack will reach a height of 20 to 24 inches and hits maturity at 38 to 45 days from direct seed.
The new succulents program at Syngenta Flowers is the perfect fit for its sustainability efforts because these plants thrive in heat and drought conditions. The program offers six succulent collections and four stand-alone choices. A succulent-covered roof gazebo and large frame filled with plants were great choices in highlighting the multitude of applications for consumers.
The FanciFillers program at Westhoff is geared toward reinventing the idea of plants that make great fillers in mixed combinations — the plant that ties it all together. Lotty Dotty is a series of vegetative hypoestes chosen for its high contrasting colors and late flowering. More vigorous than the original seed-types, they grow in an upright habit, eventually forming a mounding plant up to 12 inches in height. Pink, Red, Rose and White are available for the 2023-24 season; a great prospect for spring combos and part-shade containers during the summer months.
The recently launched program Floresta by Danziger is providing more than 150 varieties of houseplants with consistent availability and tested, clean stock. All plants are produced indoors in a clean environment, using high-quality source material to ensure uniform and quality genetics are being supplied.
A popular consumer buy continues to be pollinator-friendly plants. Honeybee populations and other native pollinators have been on the decline in the past decade, which puts our food supply at risk. Insects are responsible for pollinating more than one third of the food we eat and 80% of all plants, according to the USDA. Furthermore, there are over 100 fruit, nut and vegetable crops grown in the U.S. alone that depend on pollination, making pollinator conservation efforts important to everyone. Breeders are on par with the need for more pollinator plants in home gardens and have a lot of attractive new varieties to share.
The new generation of bidens from Danziger is well-branched and requires little to no PGRs, maintaining its theme of “In Tune with Nature” this year. ‘Blazing Star’ produces masses of bicolor blossoms in deep orange outlined in bright yellow. It’s an early-flowering variety that thrives in landscapes, containers and combinations.
Fondly called “sunset in a basket,” bidens ‘Brazen Glowing Sky’ is a great option from Syngenta Flowers for combinations with its mounding, upright habit. It has a long season from early spring through summer with great heat tolerance. The flowers are fragrant and show off a unique pattern, providing great retail appeal for consumers.
Every lavender plant we looked at during the trip was covered with bees; no doubt the No. 1 pollinator pick for us!
Available from Pacific Plug and Liner (PP&L), ‘Plum Power’ was eye-catching with its fresh lilac blooms that turn to plum with age. This compact variety will only reach 10 to 12 inches tall and is bred for better disease resistance. A great option for full sun in Zones 7 to 9.
Beekenkamp is adding lavender to its offerings and will have five varieties available for 2024 including ‘Aromance Silver Blue’. This lavender has an upright habit, is winter hardy and is more resistant to botrytis. The long flowering period provides tons of blue/purple flowers that stand out against silver foliage.
Fragrant nemesia varieties were another popular pollinator choice this year at CAST. The sweet scent was unmistakable as you approached the displays, and the bicolor choices available for 2024 make it an easy pick.
The Escential series from Westhoff (in collaboration with PlantHaven), is bringing five new varieties and two improvements to growers in 2024. All bred to have a strong tolerance to heat, these nemesia can be enjoyed from early spring through fall. The compact rounded habit is ideal for 4-inch pots, and early season containers and baskets. The large, bicolor flowers are available in new Cherryberry, Elderberry Cream, Snowberry, Sunberry, Zazzleberry, and improved Blueberry Custard and Pinkberry.
Kientzler is introducing an upright, bushy nemesia with large flowers in a more uncommon color display. The orange bicolor flowers on ‘Nessie up Mirabelle’ do not have the white lower petals like most other varieties and are selected to fill larger containers. Mirabelle grows best in full sun, doesn’t require PGRs, and prefers 4- to 6-inch and gallon containers.
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