Editors’ Pick of the Pack

June 11, 2002 - 13:15

Two editors, ten days, 21 companies —the best of the best from the 2002 California Pack Trials

p class=MsoNormal>With new sites and more companies exhibiting in 2002, the
California Pack Trials keep getting bigger and bigger, and GPN has expanded its
coverage to reflect this growth. This month and next, we’ll present the
Pack Trials from several different perspectives, starting right here with some
of the varieties our editors thought were really outstanding.

In order to get good coverage, GPN’s editors took the
divide and conquer method — Brandi tackled the Northern sites and Bridget
took the South. The following recommendations reflect this division. Those
companies in the North were reviewed by Brandi, the south by Bridget. Our
thanks goes out to all the host companies for their hospitality.

Southern California Breeders

Ball FloraPlant.
With over 100 new varieties this year, you might think it would be hard to pick
a couple of plants that stood out, but everyone in my group went crazy over the
new Bacopa introductions, specifically the Jamesbrittenia Bacopa Breeze series.
Fuller than Sutera Bacopas, Jamesbrittenia Bacopas make full, attractive
stand-alone baskets. They feature good heat tolerance and a nicely mounding
habit that leaves no bare centers. Available in Indigo, Lavender, Pink and
Upright White.

The new Bacopa Breeze collection, as well as the Sutera-type
Abundas, is part of Ball’s recently introduced Fall Color Program, a new
marketing program that seeks to help growers capitalize on the popularity of
fall gardening. Ball has gathered together plants that fit our ideas of fall,
both in their color options as well as their environmental needs, and are
providing growers the marketing and cultural information to move these plants
at retail.

Benary. Maybe
it’s the bright colors or the large flowers or the sheer variety, but in
my mind, Benary’s annual Rudbeckias are the best available. Offerings
include eight Fleuroselect winners and one AAS winner (see GPN May 2002 for
full coverage). From the pale yellow florets of ‘Toto Lemon’ to the
bronze and reds bursts in ‘Autumn Colors’, it’s all here.
Benary offers five new Rudbeckias this year and one improvement: ‘Toto
Lemon’, ‘Toto Rustic’, ‘Cordoba’, ‘Prairie
Sun’, ‘Autumn Colors’ and ‘Goldilocks’ Improved.

One more quick mention from Benary is a new program they are
calling FastraX. FastraX refers to a line of perennials that are easy to
produce and flower without vernalization the first year from seed. With no
extra cost for vernalization and quicker crop times, this program should allow
more growers to make more money with perennials. Not all Benary perennials are
in the FastraX program; your sales rep can detail the offerings.

Bodger Botanicals.
Consumers go for the new and exciting; produce an odd new plant, and
they’re excited. So what makes Bodger’s new pentas line so
interesting? Because it’s the exact opposite. Amid all of the new forms
and colors, pentas are a welcome bit of nostalgia, and Bodger’s pentas
are outstanding. Available in pink (shown), rose, white (shown) and cerise, the
Lava series features large plants with sturdy stems so the extra large flowers
do not need staking, making these a perfect landscape plant. These are not your
grandmother’s pentas — they are best in 4- to 6-inch production and
should bring a premium.

EuroAmerican Propagators. Capitalizing on one of the biggest
new gardening trends in years, EuroAmerican has developed a line they call
“Black Magic and Purple Passion” — a collection of plants
with dark foliage or flowers. Varieties include Ajuga reptans
‘Mahogany’, Coleus hybrid ‘Merlot’, Colocasia esculenta
‘Black Magic’, Graptophyllum pictum ‘Black Beauty’,
Ipomoea batatas ‘Black Heart’ and Trifolium repens ‘Dark
Dancer’. Debuting with six foliage/component plants, the line is expected
to rapidly expand over the next few years, adding different textures and colors
to the palette. With colors ranging from burgundy to purple to nearly black,
this line should gain quick acceptance for the contrast it offers to standard
green component plants, as well as the way it highlights bright colors like
yellow and white.

Fischer. Known for
their geraniums and New Guineas, Fischer did not disappoint this year. Fourteen
geraniums and fifteen New Guineas were introduced, including what many believe
is the biggest introduction in New Guineas since…well, since forever.
Though circumstances didn’t allow Fischer to have a live specimen of
their breakthrough yellow New Guinea at the Pack Trials, I was fortunate enough
to see it last month and can tell you that it deserves all the hype.
‘Vision Yellow’s’ pale-yellow flowers are contrasted against
dark green leaves for a totally new look.

With all the brightly colored New Guineas and geraniums
around, it’s kind of hard to focus on something like packaging — after
all, it’s not very “sexy”—but you need to hear about
Fischer’s ener-G propagation system. Designed of heavy, 60-mil strips,
the cells feature vertical ribs to direct root growth downward and into the
plug and open bottoms for easier pruning. According to Fischer, ener-G plugs
will cut 5-7 days off crop time.

GroLink. What could
possibly be exciting about a mum? Innovation, irreverence, exploration. The
past couple of years, GroLink has been gaining U.S. marketshare with varieties
that are redefining the way we Á think about chrysanthemums. Their new
leaf types, flower shapes and colors have been a much-needed boost to the
sagging pot mum market. This year’s introductions show GroLink embracing
traits and forms that don’t fall into the “traditional” mum
category. One of the most interesting shapes at the trial featured clusters of
flowers held upright over the foliage to form a tight flower canopy. And for
you old mum growers out there, yes, these plants had been disbudded; this is
just a different look in mums. Offerings include ‘Movie Time’ and
‘Babe Time’.

Oglevee. One sure
indication that a plant is making a comeback is several breeders with new color
introductions, and this year, we saw at least three breeders with new regals.
While this certainly isn’t a new category, the new introductions will
make you totally forget the gangly, overgrown, sporadic-blooming beasts in your
past. The most notable of this year’s new regal geraniums has to be
Oglevee’s ‘Elegance Pink Chiffon’. The soft pink flowers have
darker throats and epitomize the elegance characteristic of this plant type.
Elegance Pink Chiffon has very large flowers and will grab attention at retail,
especially when presented in larger formats.

Pan American. Pan
American has put a lot of marketing muscle behind the Wave petunia, and
consumers do recognize the brand. But every grower with Waves on their bench
knows what a challenge they are to grow — very prostrate plants
immediately send out runners, and the bench becomes a tangled mess. Not
anymore. The next generation, the Easy Wave, promises ease of flowering and a
more controlled habit during production. According to PanAmerican, Easy Wave
petunias mound during production and only start the characteristic Wave spread
at retail or in the landscape. Color options include Pink, Cherry, Shell Pink
and White.

If you still need some control on the Easy Waves,
PanAmerican has another new offering this year. They have collected together a
seed culture research package that gives specific advice on PGR applications,
light exposure and daylength requirements. This is not general culture
information; it is quick, specific instructions for producing the best crop —
“Apply B9 weekly at 5,000 ppm to Easy Wave to control plant size and
promote branching.”

Paul Ecke Ranch. If
you’re looking for a single genera with a wide color range, different
flower forms and untapped market potential, you need to be looking at
Ecke’s Argyranthemums. Six new additions to the line make for a total of
nine offerings that range from white to hot pink and single to triple, and the
daisy look of these plants is a consumer favorite. Features include an upright,
mounding habit and good garden performance, and because Agyranthemums grow well
under cool conditions, they are a great season extender. New varieties include
‘Bright Carmine’, ‘Strawberry Pink’,
‘Sunlight’, ‘Blazer Rose’, ‘Sugar Cheer’
and ‘White Crystal’.

Proven Winners. Thirty-six new varieties with four new
genera made for an appealing presentation, and from my perspective, the osteos
Á stole the show. PW adds two new color offerings to their popular
Symphony series, ‘Peach Symphony’ and ‘Vanilla
Symphony’, and even before its introduction, you can tell how successful
the peach is going to be. The dark purple throat contrasted against the lighter
petals make for a catching display, and as an added bonus, petals darken nicely
with age from a creamy white to almost peach. Peach and Vanilla fit in nicely
with the rest of the series, offering heat tolerance and a mounding habit.

Selecta Klemm. Among
the great new Calibrachoa, New Guinea and geranium colors Selecta presented,
their new direction in potted carnation breeding deserves some of the
spotlight. Starting with next year’s introductions, this effort, started
several years ago, will become more standardized as like colors are introduced
in three sizes: compact, medium and vigorous. Pictured are some of the
varieties to be released next year illustrating the different habits. This
year’s pot carnation introductions include ‘Peggy’,
‘Hobbit’ and ‘Sarah’.

Twyford. If
Calibrachoas have been a hot category, then Twyford’s new introductions
are going to make the market sizzle. The new colors in the Starlette series,
‘Starlette Rose Pink’ and ‘Starlette Deep Yellow’ are
nice, solid-shaded vivid colors, and next year’s introduction
‘Starlette Terra Cotta’ might be the best Calibrachoa color on the
market. The variation from bright pink through peach to yellow will make an
irresistible basket. The best of Twyford’s Calis, though, is a new line
of minis being introduced this year with ‘Milky Way Light Blue’.
Plants have a nice, mounding habit and are covered in blooms, and to make it
nice for growers, they are very daylength neutral.

Northern California Breeders

American Takii. From
afar it was apparent that American Takii is proud of its pansy collection, as a
rainbow-shaped planting design drew the eye toward their multi-colored
selection of these traditional favorites. Your eyes may glaze over at the
mention of yet another new pansy, but Takii’s F1 Nature Series — a
collection of mini pansies —deserves recognition.

Though a preexisting series, one of three new colors really
caught my eye because I had not seen an orange pansy as strong as ‘Nature
Orange’. The Nature series features the hardiness and free-flowering
characteristics of a viola, along with earliness, a compact but vigorous habit
and constant color. The series is also good for both spring and fall flowering
in pots, packs and containers. Available in nine colors and a formula mix.

Dæhnfeldt.
When you think of Denmark-based Dæhnfeldt, you naturally think gerberas,
a category that continues to Á grow in popularity. If you’ve seen
enough of Dæhnfeldt’s marketing materials, you probably also think
of the Festival series’ signature ladybug logo. New to this series are
spider-flowered varieties, in Yellow Orange, Salmon Red Shades and a Spider
Mix. I was particularly enamored of the playful flowers in the Spider Mix,
whose hues vary from a pale pink to yellow to red. These varieties exhibit
Festival characteristics, including a 95-percent germination rate, uniform
seedlings and a tight flowering window, saving labor in hand-selecting finished
plants. This series also offers point-of-sale materials that present a selling
advantage to retail customers.

A new Dæhnfeldt gerbera feature this year is the
Festival Pro Coat seed coating, which helps avoid “double sows” and
increases sowing efficiency by making seed separation easier by hand or
automatic seeders. Pro Coat also decreases dusty conditions for the seeder and
provides good visibility — bright yellow — in the plug tray.

Golden State Bulb Growers. Comprehensive would be the best word to describe Golden State’s
calla trial. Though they only featured four new varieties, the way they had
each variety organized — existing and new — made this trial
rigorous. Each variety was represented in three tiers to indicate the target
customer — florist, garden center and big box — so you could see
differences in the tubers used.

My favorite was ‘Fire Glow’, with red-burgundy
along the outer spathe that fades into a yellow-cream toward the center. The
blooms, measuring 1 3/4-2 3/4 inches in diameter by 2 1/2-3 1/2 inches deep,
are smoothly wrapped and well rounded. Foliage is full and somewhat upright,
with arrow-shaped leaves that have variable spotting.

Fire Glow was one of four varieties that showcased Golden
State’s new High Input Potted Product (HIPP) program. HIPP offers the
most vigorous and cleanest-possible stock and allows the product to be tailored
to the pot producer’s needs. Plants are more compact; require less Bonzi;
produce an exceptionally high number of breaks with more, yet smaller, flowers;
and allow the grower to get more plant using a smaller tuber.

Goldsmith. Goldsmith
always puts on a good show, and the number of new varieties they had to offer
this year — both vegetative and seed — was nothing short of
amazing. The editor’s pick from Goldsmith was a difficult one, but I
couldn’t help returning to visit the new line of vegetative, trailing
snapdragons, the ‘Dragon’ series. The favorite color: ‘Dragon
Bronze’, with dainty, salmon-orange flowers with bronzy centers. These
varieties were bred to be earlier, offer uniformity in flowering time and
feature a mounding habit covered with blooms. They’re ideal for 4-inch
pots, larger containers and hanging baskets. All colors — Bronze, Light
Pink, Pink, Rose, Ivory, Crimson, Yellow, Magenta and White — appeared
uniform in flower coverage at the trial, although habits range from compact to
vigorous.

Kieft Seeds. Kieft
Seeds had 33 new varieties at the trials this year, including a new series of
gerbera called ‘Revolution’ and many additions to their Prime
Perennial Collection. My preference, however, was for an annual — the new
Celosia ‘Kosmo Purple Red’. A genetically dwarf, spicata-type
celosia, this long-flowering variety is perfect for 4-inch pots and packs. It
has a central spike surrounded by many smaller spikes that creates bursts of
color above deep green foliage. Purple Red does not require growth regulator or
pinching and has good shelf life, color stability and excellent transport
quality.

S&G Flowers.
Bedding plants don’t have to be an old, tired category when the color is
as vibrant as the Florever series we saw at S&G. Bred to be pollen-free,
these geraniums don’t set seed so they flower continuously, from summer
into fall. Early flowering gets plants off the bench early, and uniform
flowering time makes shipping easy. Four colors are offered, including Deep
Rose, Red, Salmon and Violet — the color that had the greatest
“wow” factor. Violet is so bright it’s practically neon and
has deep green foliage with a dark zone.

S&G also has a new Web site for placing and checking
orders at GreenDemon.net. It emails your order confirmation in approximately 10
minutes, allows you to change orders and automatically filters out items that
are no longer available.

Sakata. Who can
resist ranunculus? Sakata added a new color to their F1 Hybrid Bloomingdale
Series, Purple Shades, the 12th member of this group. This series was bred for
short, sturdy flower stems with large, full, double flowers and small foliage.
The plants are genetically dwarf and suitable for pots, patios and landscaping.
Ranunculus love cool weather and will flower before most bedding plants, which
will help save on heating costs.

Suntory. New
calibrachoa appear to be popping up everywhere, but Suntory’s new
‘Cosmos Pink’ was particularly enrapturing with its mauvy, 1-inch
flowers. With a perky, upright habit, Cosmos Pink’s form is identical to
that of the golden yellow ‘Terra Cotta’. Also new to this series
are ‘Red’, whose flowers are slightly smaller than Cosmos Pink, and
‘Trailing Red Purple’, whose trailing habit makes it perfect for
containers and hanging baskets. All varieties in the Million Bells series bloom
profusely into fall, have self-cleaning flowers and are hardy to 15° F.

Yoder Brothers.
While Yoder is known for its pot and garden chrysanthemums, this company has
many other great varieties that are gaining exposure through the Flower Fields
brand, include angelonia, bacopa, calibrachoa and nemesia, as well as my pick
— their dwarf dahlias, Dahlietta and Dahlinova. The most striking of the
10 new cultivars in this group was ‘Dahlietta Patricia’, which has
a light orange flower with red variable stripes and spots, and medium-green
foliage. The extra-large, double blooms on this plant grow up to three inches,
will continue throughout the summer and are ideal for 4- to 5-inch pots or
combination planters.

About The Author

Brandi D. Thomas is associate editor and Bridget White is editor of GPN

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