Pick of the Pack Trials, Part II

July 10, 2003 - 11:53

Three editors, seven days, 28 companies -- the best of the best in new seed varieties from the 2003 California Pack Trials.

You saw the best of the best in vegetative varieties in the
June issue of GPN. Now it's time to see the best of the best in seed varieties.
The seed varieties tell a different story than vegetative as to what was
introduced. This year, there were quite a few new genetics and outstanding
crops introduced for the seed market.

The seed market has always been a cost-effective propagation
choice for growers. But with the advent of vegetatively propagated varieties,
growers have indicated an interest in other things than pure cost. Unique
genetics and premium crops take the day now, and seed breeders are now offering
lines that more than fill the bill. The seed market's advancements, showcased
in this year's Pack Trials, have brought unique traits and improvements to seed
varieties that are frequently found in vegetative varieties. Now we are graced
with unique crops such as seed hibiscus and double aquilegia. So, without
delay, check out these and other innovative seed varieties we saw as we
traveled the coast. Enjoy!

Aquilegia

Kieft Seeds has brought out a new, very exciting double
aquilegia that is a major breakthrough for the species. 'Winky Double
Red-White' has an abundance of upright facing, double flowers with long spurs
and a garden height of 12-14 inches. The petals are a bright white color with a
pinkish-red spreading up from the spurs that is punctuated by bright yellow
centers.

This hardy perennial has a sow to flower time of
approximately 10-11 months and is best in 4- to 6-inch containers. Sowing time
is June and July, and seeds should be kept at 50° F for two weeks and
73° F for three weeks. Plants should be grown in well-drained soil with
lightly fertilized compost. Optimum growing temperature for Winky varieties is
57-64° F. Other colors are Blue-White, Red-White, Purple-White, Rose-Rose
and a formula mix, all single-flowered. Double Red-White is good for landscape
and small or large containers.

Calla Lily

We all love calla lilies, but those old, vigorous varieties
make for difficult potted plant sales and have been a major hurdle in breaking
open this crop for Valentine's Day, Easter and Mother's Day sales. The HIPP
program from Golden State Bulb Company looks to change your perception about
callas.

HIPP, which stands for High Input Proprietary Product, is a
patented method for producing calla tubers that turns the most vigorous variety
into a compact 41/2-inch product with an exceptionally high bud count. Currently
available in seven colors -- 'Albo Maculata', 'Crystal Blush', Pink
(rehmannii), 'Lavender Gem', 'Garnet Glow', 'Sunshine' and 'Golden Chalice' --
HIPP tubers, which if you're wondering why they are covered here are seed
propagated, require less growth regulator and produce more plant in 4-inch and
smaller production. The smaller, more numerous flowers make this a great
impulse buy at retail.

HIPP production is similar to regular calla production in
that cool temperatures and bright light produce the best plants. The major
differences are those stemming from producing a less vigorous plant in a small
format.

Celosia

By now you've probably heard all about the Fresh Look series
from Benary. We featured it in the annual "Winner's Circle" in the
May 2003 issue of GPN. 'Fresh Look Red' won the Fleuroselect and the AAS Gold
Medal for its outstanding pack and garden performance, closely followed by
'Fresh Look Yellow', which was given the Fleuroselect Quality Mark and the AAS
Winner award. So, it's no surprise that the series was one of our favorites at
the trials. What is surprising is its garden performance in all climates. Fresh
Look is heat tolerant and very vigorous with good basal and lateral branching.
With a height of 14 inches, these winners produce an abundance of long-lived,
plume-like flowers. Fresh Look's high germination rate will reduce production
costs, and its well-branched habit increases flower presentation.

Cineraria

This was a pretty easy choice since Venezia cineraria from
S&G Flowers is the first and only F1 hybrid cineraria on the market. But
that's not the only reason we picked it; although cineraria is typically a
cool-season crop, Venezia will flower under warmer temperatures than other
cineraria. Its early flowering time -- up to 10 days earlier than other
cineraria varieties -- very compact habit and medium-sized leaves suitable for
5-inch pots made the decision for us.

Venezia varieties require no vernalization. Flower stems are
short, and the flowers sit on top of the foliage. Eight colors make up the
Venezia line: Blue, Blue with Ring, Bordeaux, Carmine with Ring, Cherry,
Lavender and Pink with Ring, plus the only pure white on the market and a
formula mix.

Cyclamen

The new Robusta cyclamen series from Goldsmith Seeds is certainly
up to par with its name. This is one of the largest cyclamen on the market. It
fills out a 6- to 71/2-inch pot to create a very nice florist cyclamen. The
large flowers accompany equally large foliage that makes the plant even more
eye-catching.

The product comes in raw seed and has a finishing time of
20-24 weeks from transplant. Robusta is ideal for middle and late season
markets, as it is two weeks later than the Sierra series, Goldsmith's standard
cyclamen. Robusta is hardy in zone 10 and likes partial to filtered sun. The
series has seven colors and a formula mix, including White, Salmon, Purple,
Fuchsia, Wine, Rose and Scarlet.

Delphinum

Delphinum's height has always meant expensive staking or
green sales, but PanAmerican Seed's new Guardian series offers growers an
economic opportunity to showcase one of the most popular perennials while it's
in color. With heavy PGR application (for the trials, Bonzi at 20 ppm applied
four times was used) Guardian varieties can be produced for 6-inch container
sales and programmed to flower at a desired finish/harvest period for an
extended marketing window. Guardian varieties (Early Blue, White, Blue,
Lavender and a mix) are great multi-use plants that are perfect for
landscape/bedding applications, commercial cutflower production and flowering
potted sales.

Guardian varieties can be treated it like an F1 hybrid
lisianthus or snapdragon and are suitable for greenhouse, tunnel or field
production. The series is approximately six weeks earlier to flower from
transplant that open pollinated varieties, with Early Blue flowering
approximately one week prior to Blue and finishing 10 percent shorter. Autumn
greenhouse production takes 13 weeks to finish; autumn field production, 16
weeks; spring greenhouse production, 11 weeks; and spring field production, 13
weeks. Plants have mild ethylene sensitivity and should be treated with an
ethylene inhibitor prior to shipment.

Dianthus

Common in vegetatively propagated dianthus, a fully double,
F1, seed propagated dianthus has until now eluded breeders, but PanAmerican
Seed's new Dynasty series offers a unique double flower in three colors:
Purple, Red and White Blush. Very well branched, with upright, strong stems,
the Dynasty series does triple duty as a bedding plant, backyard cut flower and
novelty potted plant.

Timing on the Dynasty series is similar to other PanAmerican
dianthus but can be up to one week later in warmer climates. Lightly scented
flowers appear 6-8 weeks after transplant in jumbo packs, and depending on
final usage, this series is suitable for production in everything from jumbo
packs to 1-gallon containers. Temperature requirements are 60-72º F days
and low 50s to 60º F nights, depending on stage.

Gerbera

We all know gerberas are a popular flower for both bedding
and cut flower production. So any alteration made to a gerbera could be a
money-maker. The Jaguar Junior series from S&G Flowers offers that
differentiation with its small leaves and short petioles. Perfect for 31/2- to
4-inch pots, each Jaguar Junior plant produces 4-8 11/2- to 21/2-inch flowers.
Seven colors have been introduced: Orange, Red, Salmon Shades, White, Yellow,
Dark Center Mix and Formula Mix.

The faster crop time (85-90 days to first flower) than
regular-size gerberas make this an ideal product for mass merchant sales.
Jaguar varieties will work either by themselves or in combinations.

Gerbera

Royal is a new gerbera series that is bred by Global Flowers
and is being marketed in the United States. by The Flower Fields. The series is
very early flowering and produces many flowers while maintaining a good flower
size.

The plants are medium sized with a nice dark green foliage
and a habit that allows for the development of many buds. This new series has large
colorful flowers that come in nine colors as well as a mixture including:
White, Deep Rose, Salmon Rose, Scarlet, Yellow, Golden Yellow, Light Orange,
Golden-Orange-Scarlet Shades, and White and Soft Pink Shades.

Royal is very uniform and works best in 4- to 6-inch pots.
When finishing in a larger container, skip the growth regulators and increase
fertility. The pH levels for this series are very important, gerberas favor a
lower pH (5.0-5.5) to prevent iron and manganese deficiency. Temperatures should
be maintained at 64-72° F because night temperatures that drop below
60° F will delay the plants. Additional lighting can be very beneficial to
gerberas in the beginning, but during spring and summer natural lighting will
be fine.

Gypsophilia

'Gypsy Deep Rose' blooms with rose colored, semi-double to
fully double flowers. This new variety from Dæhnfeldt has a mounding
habit that almost looks like a ball. The finely textured foliage and small
double flower work well as a border, in hanging baskets and 4-inch containers.
It is also an AAS winner.

Gypsy needs slightly fertilized peat with a pH of 5.5-6.0
for sowing and a pH of 5.5-6.5 for growing on. It should be sown directly into
packs or plug trays with 10-20 seeds or 1-2 multipellets per hole. The seeds
need light to germinate and have a germination time of four days. After
germination, lower growing temperatures to 58-60° F. Gypsy Deep Rose shows
visible buds 8-9 weeks after sowing and are ready for spring sales at 12-14
weeks after sowing. The first flowers of the plant may come out as single
flowers, but as light levels increase, the fully double flowers will appear.

Hibiscus

Finally, a seed hibiscus with good garden performance and
exceptional branching. Because it
does not need pinching to create a big, bushy plant, Pan American Seed's new
Luna series is a low cost, high-impact crop that works equally well for annual,
perennial and nursery growers. Boasting 6- to 8-inch flowers, this series is a
great late season crop.

Both colors in the Luna series, Blush and Red, prefer warm
growing conditions, with minimum average temperatures of 68º F, and will
even become chlorotic in lower temperatures. Luna varieties are drought
tolerant, perfect for 1-quart to 1-gal. production and finish in 13-14 weeks
from seed in summer and 16 weeks in spring. Luna is a long-day plant, requiring
a minimum of 14 hours of low-intensity daylight and 12 hours of high intensity
daylight to flower.

Huchera

'Ruby Bells' heuchera from Benary throws a high number of
delicate, bell-shaped flowers that are held above the foliage. But, the
clincher here is the deep red flower color, which is unique for a heuchera. The
color is deeper than most, which will make it stand out from other red
varieties in retail.

Ruby Bells can grow up to 16 inches and has more flower
stems after vernalization than other heucheras. Its natural flowering time is
May through August. End uses range from perennial beds to container complements
or as a ground cover.

Impatiens

Several companies featured novelty Impatiens auricoma at
this year's trials, but PanAmerican Seed's really made a showing with its
golden flowers that are held above dark green, glossy foliage. The impatiens
genus might not seem very sexy, but 'Jungle Gold' adds the much-desired yellow hue
to gardener's shade palettes, with its intricate, orchid-like flowers that,
unlike other Impatiens auricoma we've seen, are highly visible above the
foliage.

Jungle Gold is very vigorous and free flowering, prefers dry
conditions and works best in 41/2-, 6- or 8-inch production. Handle this plant
like a New Guinea and space before foliage reaches the sides of the pot. A few
production suggestions to keep in mind: apply PGRs at transplanting and before
flower buds appear to keep flowers above foliage; high light reduces flowering,
especially under high temperatures; and too much water results in large leaves
that hide the flowers. Transplant to flower takes 8-10 weeks, depending on
container size.

Lisianthus

'Cinderella Yellow' is a new and exciting color for a
lisianthus. Part of a new series from Goldsmith Seeds, Cinderella Yellow will
produce a full bouquet of true yellow flowers with frilly edges on long, thick
and straight stems with minimal branching low to the plant. The trailing habit
allows for easy harvest and removal of stems through the stem supports for a
nicer looking cut flower. The smaller leaves on the lower portion allow for
good airflow through beds, minimalizing disease problems during production.

Cinderella displays its blooms in a tight cluster at the
tops of the stems. The cluster is contained within a hand-spread, which is a
desirable trait for florists looking for an easy lisianthus to work with. This
variety is to be used in Group II sowing and is also suitable for early season
Group III. The usual crop time for Cinderella Yellow is 22-26 weeks. Other
colors in the series are Ivory and Pink

Lobelia

With its pure white color, Takii's new lobelia 'Aqua White'
takes a big step forward in color; this is the white lobelia you have been looking
for. Flowers are the purest white we've ever seen, without a yellow center or
other heat-triggered coloring. As the popularity of lobelia as a component
plant has been growing, the availability of a pure white should have great
potential.

Perfect for pack production, the Aqua series features a
mounding habit that makes an attractive potted plant in 4- or 6-inch
containers. Other varieties in the Aqua series -- Blue with Eye, Sky Blue,
Violet and Lavender -- bloom two weeks earlier than the standard lobelia,
though the new White is a bit later. This plant requires cool temperatures for
best flowering, and under 60-70º F days and 45-55º F nights will
flower 60-75 days after sowing. For best results, sow 4-7 seeds per cell in
plug trays and transplant as one clump.

Marigold

Looking for a sophisticated, bright red, quality marigold --
this is it. Disco Red from Bodger Seeds is not your typical marigold in terms
of appearance. It is not crested and has more of a cosmos shape to its
single-petaled flowers. Disco Red holds its color even in the brightest
sunshine. This unique color will add something new to this commodity crop that
will stand out in retail.

Marigolds are one of the easier crops to produce, and Disco Red
will fit well with standard marigold production. Garden height reaches 8-10
inches, and the bright red color is apparent on the large single flowers.

Mimulus

Mimulus Magic from Floranova has three unique new bicolors
to add to their series. 'Magic Yellow Bloch', 'Magic White Flame' and 'Magic
Yellow Flame' are all bursting with colorful patterns. Magic Yellow Blotch has
a yellow base color with a splash of red blotches all over the petals. Magic
White Flame is a white color covered with dark pink dots that take over the
petal for a nice color contrast. Magic Yellow Flame also has a yellow petal
that is covered in red dots with a little of the yellow peeking through each
one.

These bicolors are very uniform throughout the series, with
each plant carrying an abundance of flowers. The plants grow approximately 10
inches high with flowers that are 13/4-2 inches in size. There is a very short
production time in long days for Magic, with flowering 6-7 weeks after sowing.
The plants are frost resistant and can flower again in the spring. Flowering
time is spring to late summer. Magic should be sown in late winter to spring
under glass with a germination temperature of 59-68° F and growing at
41-50° F. There are 12 other colors included in the Magic series: Red,
White with Blotch, Orange, Bicolor, Ivory Bicolor, Peach, Pastel Pink Shades,
Yellow, Wine, Crimson, Ivory and Pastel Yellow Improved.

Nicotiana

This large nicotiana from Floranova is a great new addition
to the nicotiana family but with a new added surprise. 'Tinkerbell' is a very
vigorous, large hybrid, which is not common in other nicotiana varieties.
Flowers are rose with green reverse and blue pollen, making this a very unique
high-end color. In order to get darker colors, Tinkerbell needs cooler temperatures.
It has a widely branched habit and is very self-supporting. While Tinkerbell
can be produced in 4-inch pots, it is best in larger containers for mass
plantings. Tinkerbell received a Fleuroselect Quality Mark in 2003.

Tinkerbell flowers through the summer and has good disease
and weather tolerance. Approximately 1-inch flowers are supported on 36-inch
stems. This plant should be sown from winter to early spring under glass at
64-75° F. Plants should be hardened off and planted out after the danger of
frost has passed.

Pansy

This new variety from Sakata is a great eye-catching color
for the fall season, especially around Halloween. 'Ultima Apricot Shades'
features shades ranging from bronze apricot to pale salmon orange. Medium sized
flowers appear early on highly floriferous plants with a compact habit. Other
colors in the Ultima series: Lavender Shades, Scarlet and Yellow, Pink Shades,
Salmon Yellow (also new), 'Ultima Mix' and 'Ultima Silhouette Mix'.

Standard pansy production applies to both new colors. Ultima
should be fed generously and kept away from PGRs to achieve a great spring or
fall plant.

Phlox

The Ethnie series of phlox from Kieft seeds has two new
colors to add. 'Ethnie Burgundy' and 'Ethnie Dark Rose' are part of the
genetically compact series that has no need for PGRs. Burgundy has dark flowers
with small dark burgundy veins around the yellow center, while Dark Rose is a
bright pink flower on top and a bright white flower bottom. These varieties are
good for pot and pack production and have a very uniform habit. It has a short
cultivation period, making these varieties very early.

Ethnie grows to approximately 6 inches tall with a sow to
flower time of 10-12 weeks. Sowing outdoors (direct seed) should be April to
May and indoors (transplanting), February to May. At temperature of 64-71°
F should be maintained with only slight moisture and a germination time of 8-15
days. Growing needs to be done in any well-drained soil in a temperature of
57-64° F with normal to high fertilization requirements. Ethnie has a wide
color range including Scarlet, Velvet-Red, Deep Rose Salmon, Purple-Violet,
Light Blue, White, Formula Mix and Pastel Mix.

Salvia

Floranova has three new brilliant bicolor additions to its
Sizzler salvia series. 'Sizzler Burgundy Stripe', 'Sizzler Burgundy Halo' and
'Sizzler Red Strip Improved' are amazing bicolor combinations usual to salvia.
Sizzler is the earliest and offers the fullest color range of pack salvia, with
nine other colors in the series, Lilac Bicolor, White Improved, Orange, Pink,
Red, Salmon Improved, Purple, Burgundy and Lavender, plus bicolor and standard
mixes.

Sizzler's flowers are held well above the foliage, and the
plant, as a whole, is very compact and well branched for extended shelf life.
Sizzler is day length neutral and flowers from spring throughout summer until
first frost. It grows approximately 10-12 inches with a flower size of 4
inches. The Sizzler series was bred for plug and pack performance and uses
elitech quality seed for plug production.

Trachelium

There were several trachelium introductions this year, and
we wondered if this crop was making a come back. One of the most impressive
seed varieties we saw was Benary's Jemmy series. Featuring a full color range
and variability in use, this series is one for closer inspection. It can throw
long, sturdy flower stems that are ideal for specialty cut flower production,
or it can produce an impressive bedding variety with a compact habit and good
branching. This is a new trachelium series that features four colors: Antique
Rose, Deep Violet, White and Royal Purple.

Grown closely on the bench in large pots or open beds, Jemmy
produces sturdy 3- to 31/2-feet long stems for cutting. And in smaller
containers, compact pot plants about 12-16 inches can be produced. Jemmy is a
long-day plant, requiring 16 hours of light either as extended days or through
night interruption to initiate flowering. Spring and summer production turns
out the highest-quality plants, though it can be produced year round.

About The Author

Carrie Burns and Catherine Evans are associate editors and Bridget White is editorial director of GPN. They can be reach by phone at (847) 391-1004 or E-mail at bwhite@sgcmail.com.

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