Editors' Pick of the Pack Trials, part I
Three editors, seven days, 28 companies -- the best of the best in new vegetative varieties from the 2003 California Pack Trials.
Oh boy, where do we start? We spent six long days traveling
the coast of California, from south to north, for this year's Pack Trials. As
you have probably heard before, so much to see in so little time. If you were
there, you might have missed something or maybe you just need a refresher, and
if you weren't able to attend Pack Trials this year, here's your chance.
There were not as many new species or varieties introduced
this year as in previous years, with companies instead expanding on what they
already have. New colors that were needed in a series were added; many
varieties were improved; or maybe a new marketing program was introduced. If
you have a favorite series that needed another color or an earlier crop time,
it's probably now available. Since you don't need us to cover all the series
additions or additional commodity crops, we're sharing with you the Pack Trial
innovations we saw -- those items that bring something new to the market;
demonstrate definite breakthroughs in breeding; or offer anything that might
improve your business.
So, let's start. This month, we'll be covering vegetative
material, with seed material covered in the July issue of GPN.
From the same family as FloraStar Winner 'AngelMist Lavender
Improved' comes a new style of angelonia: trailing.
Ball FloraPlant's 'AngelMist Basket Purple' has soft purple
flowers that are visibly larger and more open faced than other colors in the
series. Bred for more basal branching, Basket Purple makes a full container at
any size from 4-inch to 1-gal. or 10-inch hanging basket, where unlike most
angelonias it can stand on its own as an attractive monoculture basket.
Basket Purple has a very prostrate habit and has lost much
of the strong upright appearance common to the species. The entire AngelMist
series -- Deep Plum Improved, Purple Improved, Lavender Improved, Purple Stripe,
Orchid (formerly Lavender Pink), Light Pink and White Cloud (also new this
year) -- is very heat tolerant and makes a great late-season crop, with very
pliable flower stems that favor late shipping, a short crop time of 6-7 weeks
in a 4-inch container and very high light requirements.
Any color other than white or lavender in a bacopa will most
likely catch your eye. The copper-red color of the Jamesbrittenia hybrida
'African Sunset Improved' definitely caught ours a few years ago, but the
improvement this year made us say wow. Better heat tolerance; bigger, bolder
and more flowers; and an upright then trailing compact habit are the three most
apparent improvements in this Ecke bacopa. Heat tolerance in the previous
African Sunset was good, but improvement always makes it better. You can see
the improvement in the flowers. They are more abundant, they are larger and the
color is more vibrant.
Though it's a slower-finishing crop than some bacopa, at
8-10 weeks for a 4-inch and 9-11 weeks for a 6-inch to 1-gal., the color and
improved habit and heat tolerance make up for it. You won't find a better red
bacopa anywhere else.
We all think of bacopa as being mostly trailing green
foliage with a showing of little flowers, but that visual will be changing with
the many new or improved bacopa varieties we saw on this trip. There seems to
be a trend of breeding bacopas to have larger and larger flowers. 'Copia Imp.
Great White' from Danziger is just one of these new larger-flowered bacopas,
but it stuck in our minds for more reasons than just bigger flowers. Its very
short internodes and good mounding, trailing habit added to the larger and more
numerous flowers to make Great White one of the best bacopas on the market.
The improvement from the original is its earlier timing and
more flowers, which are bigger than most at a diameter of almost 1 inch.
Additionally, its darker green foliage makes the white blooms appear even
The popularity of bidens, with its bright yellow flowers and
fine-textured foliage, is growing as it becomes a staple mixed container crop.
A compact variety that will produce a 30-inch mound of color, 'Marietta Gold
Spark' from Suntory has the potential to make bidens the next consumer
favorite. Unlike most bidens, which have a leggy, prostrate habit, Marietta
Gold Spark has a controlled, mounding habit that makes for an attractive
monoculture hanging basket.
Marietta Gold Spark is covered with flowers from late April
to mid-October, and it likes the heat. The small foliage of Spark makes the
gold flowers stand out, not getting lost behind or under the foliage.
A great crop that has yet to find a strong following,
bracteantha (strawflower) has a lot to offer consumers. These plants are hardy,
low maintenance and long lasting. They are available in nice bright colors and
add interesting texture to mixed containers. So why the hesitation? We think
daylight sensitivity has been a bit part of the problem, and that's why we're
excited about Ball FloraPlant's new introduction to the Dreamtime series:
'Dreamtime Jumbo Yellow'. Not only does Jumbo Yellow offer extremely large
flowers, it has less daylight sensitivity than most bracteanthas we have seen.
We can't say that these flowers stay open all night, but we can say, from
experience, that they will remain open in low-light situations, a big
improvement over what's currently available.
Jumbo Yellow is a clear, bright yellow with a slightly
darker yellow center. Like others in the Dreamtime series -- Rose Pink, Copper,
Antique Shades, Cream and Yellow -- Jumbo Yellow is free-flowering, has a
compact habit and maintains its shape without breaking open in the center.
Jumbo Yellow is recommended for 4- to 6-inch production, or as an 8- to 10-inch
Sunrise is a new addition to Twyford's Colorful Expressions
calibrichoa series. Co-marketed with Ball FloraPlant as 'Starlette Sunset',
Sunrise typifies the more upright habit that is the current focus of
calibrachoa breeding. Other colors in the series include White, Deep Yellow,
Rose, Cherry Rose, Lilac, Blue and Scarlet, but Sunset's combination of bright
peach to soft neon pink with varying degrees of striation seems to be the
hottest new color around.
Sunrise is not as early flowering as Blue, but it is much
earlier than Rose or Cherry Rose. It is characterized by a wide spreading
habit, with very prolific flower production that often entirely covers the
foliage. Sunset shows good weather tolerance and has been shown to stand up
very well to hot, dry conditions well into the 90s, as well as cold
temperatures down to 20° F.
Sunrise is a long-day plant, and night interruption lighting
may be necessary for late winter, early spring production. Sunset will be
offered as a lighted, 105-cell tray liner in two forms: as a
two-cutting-per-cell rooted liner and as rooted clumps directly from tissue
Goldsmith has expanded and improved its Callie calibrachoa
series for the 2003-04 season and now offers the most complete, uniform
calibrachoa series on the market. Callies are available in 12 shades, nine of
which are new this year: Pink II Improved (shown), Blue (new), Dark Blue, Ivory
II Improved (new), Lavender (new), Light Lavender (new), Purple (new), Rose,
Scarlet Red, Sunrise (new), White (new) and Yellow (new).
Callie varieties are extremely strong, with a well-branched
habit and flowers that were bred to stay open 24 hours, an innovation for
calibrachoas. The series grows 6-8 inches tall and trails at least 20 inches.
These elaborate calibrachoas are available to growers as
rooted and unrooted cuttings. Callies should be pinched at week 48, one week
after transplant, to avoid any extra growth. From transplant, a 4-inch will
finish in 8-10 weeks and a 6-, 10- or 12-inch will finish in 9-11 weeks.
The entire Prophets series from Yoder is definitely one of
our favorites, but one variety stood out from the rest this year?well didn't
really stand out since it is so compact. Ursula from the New European
Collection of Prophets has a very compact habit that lends itself well to DNN
(disbud not necessary), and is indicative of the new direction in Yoder
Ursula exhibits a more compact growth habit than traditional
mums, and when you couple together cost savings from fewer growth control
measures, either PGRs or pinching, and the reduced chance of breakage, you have
a lower input, higher margin chrysanthemum. Ursula, much like others in the
Prophets series, has a high bud count, flexible stems and excellent flowering
uniformity with early flowering dates. Ursula will hold its color without
fading longer than 'Molfetta', making it a perfect yes"> early-flowering variety.
A chrysanthemum breakthrough, Royal Van Zanten's Showmakers
Indoor-Outdoor program will be a much needed boost for the sagging mum market.
Selected for indoor, table-top use, these showy, compact plants come with
staked tags that educate consumers about their dual usage, encouraging
consumers to plant these "perennials" in the garden after flowers
Showmakers Indoor-Outdoor Chrysanthemums are suited to
production in small pots, ideally using three cuttings per 5-inch mini pan.
Varieties have been chosen for weather tolerance, shipping durability, extended
post-harvest and, most importantly, to fit the 6- to 7-week crop timing. The
new line features 28 varieties -- including grandiflora, multiflora and
multimini types -- in a full range of colors.
Disease control is always an important issue, especially
with crops like coreopsis, and Yoder's new coreopsis 'Crème
Brulée' has been bred for mildew resistance to address the problem.
From the same background as 'Moonbeam', Crème
Brulée is an obvious improvement over this industry standard and
promises to be an even better seller. Crème Brulée's flowers are
a slightly darker yellow, its flowers are noticeably larger and it has brighter
green Á foliage than Moonbeam. Crème Brulée is mid-summer
flowering, and its serrated flowers appear above and among the mounded foliage.
It can spread to three feet in one season but can still easily be grown as an
Variable Pot Dianthus
Fully exploiting the burgeoning pot dianthus market, Selecta
First Class has introduced three distinct, full series that address all markets
from flowering pot to landscape use. Between the DancingQueen, SuperTrouper and
MammaMia series, all formats from 4-inch to 1-gal. and all habits from compact
to vigorous are covered.
MammaMia has a low vigor, flowers early and is available in
three colors; Dark Red, Light Pink and White. All three varieties have semi
double flowers and good heat tolerance. MammaMia should be grown in pots
ranging from 31/2-41/2 inches.
SuperTrouper has a medium vigor, performs well in 41/2- to
5-inch pots and flowers early to second early. This bedding plant works best in
blooming pots, gardens and mixed containers. There are five new colors, all
with fully double flowers, to join the seven originals: Burgundy, early
flowering ; Dark Violet, second flowering; Salmon Pink, early flowering ;
Apricot, second flowering; and Yellow, second flowering with red stripes on
DancingQueen has a strong vigor and performs well in 6-inch
to 1-gal. containers. The series is second flowering, works well in gardens and
containers, has very good heat tolerance and is available in four colors. Dark
Red has double flowers; Lilac Rose has double flowers; Light Pink has
semi-double flowers with a scent; and Lemon has semi-double flowers.
Last year's Duranta 'Sapphire Showers' was one of the Trial
highlights. This year, Twyford has added a white to the series that is just as
spectacular. Duranta 'White Sapphire Showers' is more compact and has slightly
smaller flowers, but the impact of its hanging clusters of white flowers is
unmatched by other species. This series has a habit that is not often seen in
floriculture and will be great in mixed containers or as a monoculture basket
The nearly 1-inch, pure white, ruffled flowers are produced
in abundance in clusters at the ends of arched branches all season long.
Flowers have a mild, sweet fragrance that has been proven to attract
butterflies and hummingbirds, and occasionally, golden yellow berries are
produced on the flower clusters.
White Sapphire Showers will flower while small, making it an
ideal container plant for 6-inch and larger pots. Plantings from January
through March will finish for spring sales. Because of its good temperature
tolerance, it can be saleable through the summer months. White Sapphire Showers
is only available as a rooted cutting. Also new to the series is 'Blue Sapphire
Showers', which is a light blue color.
The new Caliente interspecific geranium series from
Goldsmith Plants blends characteristics of zonal and ivy geraniums into one
interesting plant. The benefit? Plants retain the upright, mounded habit of
zonals but add the foliage shape and durability of ivys.
The Caliente series has a mounded, well-branched habit, deep
green foliage, heat tolerance, Oedema resistance and large blooms. The flowers
stay on top of the foliage, giving extra bright color on top. Calientes work
well in containers and garden beds. New colors include Coral; Dark Red, which
has semi-double flowers; Deep Red; and Rose.
In the garden, Calientes grow to 12-18 inches high and wide.
From transplant, a 4-inch will finish in 8-12 weeks, and 6-, 10- and 12-inch
baskets will finish in 10-14 weeks. Available as unrooted, callused and rooted
'Festival Star' gypsophila is a new genus for the Proven
Winners line. It is hardy to -10° F, is a perennial and should be grown in
a 4-inch pot. Festival Star is good as a cut or dried flower and is recommended
for pot or landscape performance. As it is very compact and free flowering,
with good heat tolerance, Festival Star should open the bedding plant market to
gypsophila. The small white flowers have a hint of pink on the petals, a green center
and sit on top of densely branched foliage. The plant flushes in heat and
Festival Star does well in full to partial sun, grows 10-14
inches tall and has spacing of 12-14 inches. It needs to be placed in moist but
not wet, well-drained soil and fertilized twice a month in beds and every week
Double Mini Impatiens
A first in mini impatiens, Ball FloraPlant's 'Pixie Double
Sparkler Burgundy' is the first small-flowered impatiens to boast fully double
flowers. Just like their larger cousins, the flowers on these mini doubles look
like tiny roses, and when paired with the standard mini flower power, double
mini impatiens make a huge color statement.
As its name implies, Sparkler Burgundy is a deep burgundy
and white bicolor with nice color variation across the plant that will give the
appearance of multiple plants in a mixed container. Sparkler Burgundy has good
vigor, matching other colors available in the series: Burgundy Rose, Hot Rose
(also new), Pink Bicolor, Red, Red Bicolor, Rose Pink and Salmon Orange. It is
recommended for 4- to 6-inch production to maximize its quick crop time.
With this year's introductions, Fides is quickly making a
name for itself as a premium kalanchoe breeder. These are not the standard
4-inch, multi-flowered product that you see in every grocery store. Fides has
focused its breeding to produce premium products that should translate into
increased sales and higher margins.
The Kalanchoe blossfediana Calandiva
style="mso-spacerun: yes"> series features fully double,
rose-shaped flowers on large, full-flowered heads that last at least six weeks.
Suitable for pot sizes from 2-9 inches, a 4-inch Calandiva will finish in 11
weeks in summer and 18 weeks in winter. This short-day plant will have a
tendency to stretch, but it's well worth the effort.
More of a "traditional" kalanchoe, 'Meru' is one
of two bicolors added to the Fides line this year. The pink and cream-white
bicolor has a response time of eight weeks, works best in 4- to 6-inch
containers and has a medium growth habit. Meru is a full plant that will be
great as a border or a flowering potted plant. Fides offers more than 20
kalanchoe varieties, but as is often the case with international companies,
there are inconsistencies with habit, form and timing across the series.
Multiple companies introduced lavenders this year, including
Bodger Botanicals, with a new series and seven new varieties; so it's not
surprising that lavender would end up in our recommendations. But the
proliferation did not lead us to Bodger's Barcelona series; it was the use.
This series has been bred for mass production, finally enabling full and
cost-effective penetration at big box stores.
Featuring short petioles and smaller flower heads, the
Barcelona series forms tight, compact, ball-shaped plants that are well-suited
to 4-inch, pot-tight production. Colors include Bridal Pink, bright pink
lavender; Purple, deep, almost black purple; Rose, medium purple; and White,
pure, clear white. This series will ship well, require less rack space and
thrive in the heat and drought.
The Sunsatia nemesia series from Proven Winners is different
from any nemesia on the market. A hybrid of N. fruticans and N. strumosa,
Sunsatia has a mounding trailing habit able to withstand temperature extremes
and available in all colors of the spectrum. It's exposure is full sun to
partial shade, grows 6-10 inches tall, is spaced 10-12 inches apart and has a
hardy temperature of 20° F. Sunsatia works well in combination pots,
hanging baskets and landscapes, and plants are often covered in blooms to where
the foliage is not even visible.
Sunsatia comes in six new colors: Banana, which has a bit of
color variation across plants; Coconut has a slightly smaller flower; Cranberry
is more trailing; Lemon has the best mounding, trailing habit; Peach is more
upright and might break apart some in the center. As you can see, there is a
range of timing and habit across the colors in this series, but none of the
colors are particularly day-length sensitive. More colors are in the works for
Vigorous New Guinea
All right, a vigorous New Guinea is not anything to get
excited about. Most breeders offer full series, but what about a vigorous
bicolor? Fischer's new 'Super Sonic Sweet Cherry' offers a great pink and
magenta bicolor that retains the flower size and plant vigor of a solid color.
Bred to withstand the rigors of outdoor landscapes, Sweet
Cherry, along with the other nine new introductions and 10 existing colors in
the series, is particularly suited for 6-inch pots, 10-inch baskets and larger
containers. Super Sonics are slightly later than medium vigor New Guineas,
finishing a 10-inch basket in about 13 weeks, because of their size. Available
as rooted or unrooted cuttings.
Following the introduction of the hybrid Symphony series,
there has been a flush of osteospermum sp. to hit the market, and while we
liked the vigor and colors, we were waiting for one that would not shut down at
the peak of summer. The wait is over, but we couldn't pick just one variety
from Danziger's new Ostica series so we went with the whole series. Ostica's compact
habit, early flowering time and ability to bloom in temperatures as high as
98° F, as tested in Israel, made this series stand out from others on the
This series has been bred to hold its large, 3-inch flowers
above the dark green foliage. Since the crop is so compact, flowers sit on top
of and almost hide the foliage. Another admirable quality of the Ostica series
is the distinct eye of each of the four varieties. White has white petals and a
yellow eye; Blue Eye has white petals and a dark eye (shown); Lilac has light
purple petals and a dark pink to purple eye; and Purple has dark purple petals
and an almost-black eye.
Sturdy Double Petunia
The new Sweetheart series from Selecta First Class is a
strong, tight double petunia that should set a new industry standard for
weather and disease resistance. The flowers in the series are small to medium
sized and are sturdier and tighter than most double petunias on the Á
market. The size and shape of these flowers will mean less weather damage,
which will make the flowers less susceptible to Botrytis, a common problem with
There are four colors in the Sweetheart series Dark Violet,
Lilac, Pink and White. All have fully double flowers, a trailing habit, medium
vigor, early flowering and good heat tolerance. Sweethearts work well in mixed
baskets or planters, and they like full sun. Sweetheart is later flowering than
the Famous series but earlier than most double petunias. All of the varieties
in the series are trailing except for Lilac, which has more of a mounding
habit. As is common with European series, there is a good bit of variability
with timing and habit among the series.
Not another trailing petunia, right? Well this one isn't.
Suntory's 'Surfinia Patio Blue' has a rounded, compact, upright/trailing habit
that makes it stand out (literally) from the typical petunia. While popularity
has grown in trailing petunias, Patio Blue brings a new upright look to what is
quickly becoming a commodity crop, which is why we like it.
Patio Blue (along with Patio Yellow) joins Suntory's
Surfinia line, which contains a number of varieties such as the Surfinia
Á Baby series and the original Surfinias, but only Patios have the
unique upright habit. It can be grown under the same conditions as regular
trailing petunias but will produce a fuller, rounder basket with flowers on top
of the basket. The versatility of Patio Blue allows it to work well in potted
containers and landscaping.
Proven Winner's Intensia is a new series of vigorous,
free-flowering phlox that features 1/2- to 1-inch flowers that completely cover
the entire plant. It was bred in Japan and comes from a new genetic line. This
large flowering series has a vigorous, cascading and spreading habit that is
cold tolerant and will be a perennial in the South.
Due to the vigor of the series, Intensia is not suitable for
4-inch production but does well in hanging baskets and containers larger than 5
inches. Best in full sun to partial shade, plants grow 10-12 inches tall and
are hardy to 0° F. The three colors in the series are Lavender Glow, Lilac
Rose and Neon Purple.
There were a number of white scaevolas introduced this year,
but on most of them, the flowers were hidden under the trailing foliage. Not
Ecke's 'White Fan'. The large, bright white flowers of White Fan stand out in
the foliage, which is why it stood out to us. White is one of the hottest
colors on the market right now, and this scaevola will be a hit in mixed
White Fan is one of four scaevola -- 'Sparkling Fan',
'Purple Fan', 'Fan Dancer' and 'White Fan' -- in the Outback Fan Flower series
and is well matched with the other colors in vigor and habit. Its early crop
time (6-8 weeks for 4-inch, 10-12 weeks for 6-inch to 1-gal. and 12-14 weeks
for 10-inch) make it a desirable late-season crop that is excellent in full sun
applications. Look for in-depth culture information in the Crop Culture Report
in July 2003 GPN.
With 2004, Goldsmith Plants will replace its long-standing
Dragon trailing snapdragon with a new series: Sultan. This is not just a
substitution; it is an entirely new line of genetics and is a big advancement
in trailing snaps. Sultan varieties are early, but the unique thing about them
is that they have a mounding, trailing habit that will give more color to the
center of finish plants, be easier to handle on the bench and require no growth
Sultans were bred for spring/summer sales and work well in
4-inch pots, larger containers and hanging baskets. Plants should be pinched at
week 49, the same week as transplant, to prevent extreme stretching. From
transplant, a 4-inch will finish in 8-12 weeks, and a 6-, 10- or 12-inch will
finish in 10-14 weeks.
Ten colors make up this series: Bronze, a mixture of red and
yellow; Lavender, medium purple with a yellow center; Light Pink, which has a
bright yellow center; Light Yellow, which has a hint of white around the
flower; Purple, deep rosy purple with a bright yellow center; Red, an almost
clear red; Red & Yellow, a yellow flower with a dark red center; Rose, deep
pink; White, which is daisy-like because of its yellow center; and Yellow,
which has red veins crawling up the flower.
If you're surprised to find us talking about streptocarpus
as a new introduction, so are we. Partly because this is a very old crop and
partly because every one knows what a dog streps are, both to produce and to
look at. But Oglevee's breeders have addressed all the crop's major problems.
They have tamed the habit, shortened the petioles and, most importantly, shrunk
the leaves. Instead of being over-sized, large-leafed specimens with only a few
gangly blooms, plants in the Olympus series are attractive, well-behaved and
make great flowering potted plants.
The Olympus series is actually not new. Three colors --
Mercury, Perseus and Jason -- have been available for years, but due to
streptocarpus' bad reputation and Oglevee's limited cutting supply, the series
has not gotten much notice. This year's reintroduction, featuring six new
colors, and production improvements at Oglevee should remedy this situation.
Best in 4- to 6-inch formats, the Olympus series requires no
growth regulators and will fit well with other flowering potted crops. New
colors include Midas, pale purple; Eros, white with heavy pink veining;
Andromeda, deep purple with white outlined margins; Cassandra, pale pink with
minimum dark pink veining (shown); Echo, pale purple; and Helios, white with
purple throat. Flower size, petiole length and habit vary slightly over the
This was one of the most exciting and talked about new
introductions of this year's Pack Trials. A truly new product, Cohen's double
and semi-double verbena hybrid is a genetic breakthrough that's sure to find a
quick, strong consumer following. Varieties have been selected for some powdery
mildew resistance, but the real attraction here is the abundance of semi- and
fully double delicate flowers held over medium-green foliage.
These trailing verbena will reach heights of 12-15 inches
and are best suited to 4- to 5-inch pot or 8- to 10-inch hanging basket
production. The Corsage series includes Peach, a medium-sized, fully double
flower; Patio Dark Red, a medium-sized, semi-double variety; and Red, a
medium-sized, fully double variety. This is a patented variety and will be
available as unrooted cuttings exclusively through Cohen.
Yes, that's right. We said vegetative viola -- vegetative,
perennial viola! Although this isn't the first vegetative viola in history, we
feel it is definitely worth mentioning. Four new varieties from Hishtil --
'Butterfly', 'Lilac White Face', 'Tiger Eye' and 'Yellow Beacon' -- will now
accompany Hishtil's existing line of vegetative perennial violas, which
includes Viola hederacea, 'Colombine', 'Zoe', 'Rebecca' and 'Jacknapes'. They
will all flower year-round under mild climate conditions, which make them hardy
perennials in Zone 6. Hanging baskets, large containers or ground covers are
ideal places for this crop, as it grows quickly and trails.
Crop time for 4- to 6-inch pots is eight weeks, while
10-inch baskets require 12 weeks, with one pinch recommended to intensify natural
base branching. A temperature of 61-75° F is advised. Another unique trait
we were taken by is the temperature. These violas are less heat sensitive than
most other violas, even seed-propagated varieties, which is a big advancement
in violas, typically a cool-season crop.