One trial highlight was the broad range of interesting celosia cultivars, one of the most popular of the field cut flowers. Celosia (Celosia argentea) cultivars are available in three groups: cristata has convoluted, brain-like flower heads; plumosa has large, feathery plumes; and spicata has small, slender spikes. The cristata and plumosa groups are similar in production and use, while the spicata group is sufficiently different that it is often treated separately (see Variety Spotlight on celosia culture, page 105).
Crested celosias. In the cristata group, a striking cultivar was ‘Super Crest’ from Gloeckner. This vigorous cultivar had very large, crested heads and was the talk of the ASCFG Conference in Austin. The stems can be cut early for regular-size heads or can be harvested later for large heads of up to 10 inches across.
‘Temple Belles’ and ‘Kurume New Scarlet’ were also crested types and both received high marks from respondents for easy production, uniform growth and great colors. Each series has many other colors that have been previously released.
The Chief series should also be considered, as it is one of the most commonly produced crested celosias in North America and is the Á ASCFG Dried Cut Flower of the Year 2001. Chief is vigorous, uniform and reliable.
Crested celosia can also be grown in the greenhouse, and one of the best series for winter production is the Bombay series from Kieft. Bombay is available in a wide range of colors and produces large, flat heads that have excellent postharvest life and ship well. Bombay is quite uniform in the greenhouse but has produced mixed results in the field in North America. For summer greenhouse production, Chief celosia performs quite well, especially in hot climates when few other plants do well in the greenhouse.
Wheat-type celosias. In the spicata group, Cramer’s ‘Hi-Z’ did very well. This tall, vigorous plant has red stems and long, wheat-type flower spikes. Other wheat celosias that have been trialed successfully in the past include ‘Pink Tassles’, ‘Purple Tassles’, ‘Flamingo Purple’ and ‘Flamingo Feather’ (pink to white).
Two unusual wheat celosias in the trial were ‘Enterprise Wine Red’ and ‘Startrek Rose Pink’. Additional colors in each series include ‘Enterprise Dark Pink’ and Startrek ‘Lilac’. Both of the Enterprise and Startrek series have smaller, more compact flower heads and are shorter than other wheat celosias. These series can be considered somewhat intermediate between wheat celosia and crested or plume celosia.
Plume celosias. The 2000 trials did not include plume celosias, but one of the most uniform and reliable series has been ‘Sparkler’. The small- to medium-size heads are carried on uniform plants. The ‘Rocket’ series is listed by Kieft for greenhouse production.
In other highlights, annual asters (callistephus) were popular, with several cultivars in the trial. One of the highest-rated series was ‘Serenade’ from Sakata, which was noted for its rich colors and uniform growth. Benary’s ‘Giant Princess Market Growers Mix’ had a great color range and large flowers – perhaps too large, according to a couple of the respondents. Pan American’s ‘Meteor Rose’ was a nice addition to that vigorous series.
As a group, asters are quite susceptible to aster yellows, a devastating disease spread by leafhoppers. Aster yellows prevents many growers from growing this crop. If not susceptible to this disease, asters would be a more popular field cut due to their long, strong stems, wonderful colors and excellent postharvest life.
Other ASCFG winners
Ageratum. ‘Blue Bouquet’ added to the limited selection of tall cut ageratum. Similar to the popular ‘Tall Blue Horizon’, Blue Bouquet was tall and free-flowering. Two respondents noted that Blue Bouquet was a little later to flower than Blue Horizon and may compliment the latter series.
Lisianthus. Each year the number of lisianthus (eustoma) cultivars increases. This North American native plant is one of my favorites and certainly one of the most beautiful flowers when grown well. Both PanAmerican and Sakata included lisianthus in the trial and one of the top performers was ‘Avila Ivory’, which was noted for its color and uniformity. Lisianthus are often not the easiest crop to produce, but successful growers value them greatly.
Dianthus. One new series of dianthus caught my attention. I watched over the summer as Dianthus ‘Melody’ flowered prolifically through all types of weather, with either white, pink or blush pink flowers. It was so productive that some respondents had a hard time keeping it harvested. The flowers were fragrant, and the petals were distinctively frilled. The problem (and there is always a problem) is that it is too short. For those participants that were able to grow taller plants, it was certainly a winner; unfortunately, it was not useable for some growers.
Ornamental Pepper. I also enjoyed watching the pepper (capsicum) cultivars grow and mature. The well-named ‘Spice Drops Yellow Drops’ had round yellow fruit (some plants had elongated fruit also), while ‘Spice Drops Scarlet Candles’, ‘Friesdorfer Orange’ and ‘Scarlet’ had elongated red or orange fruit. In late summer, the peppers were rich with color as the fruit matured. This crop is not for everyone as the plants often take a long time to mature.
Helenium. In the perennial trials, several cultivars were standouts. Of the three helenium in the trial, H. kanaria scored the highest, with a multitude of bright yellow, daisy-type flowers and good postharvest life. H. x ‘Moerheim Beauty’ also did well for several respondents; it has coppery red flowers.
Pycanthemum. For dried flower growers, one cultivar to try is Pycanthemum muticum ‘Mountain Mint’ (although some respondents also used it as a fresh cut). This versatile, vigorous plant has wonderful fragrant foliage. Stems were short for some respondents this year, but it may grow taller next year.
Kniphofia. For those growers who produce kniphofia, ‘Flamenco’ is a winner. This vigorous plant is highly productive, with long stems. Unfortunately, the unusual bright orange-yellow flowers are not always readily marketed.
Eupatorium. Eupatorium maculatum ‘Carin’ has large sprays of small, silvery buds that open up into pink flowers. The stems are long, strong and reddish. The similarity of Carin to the native eupatorium species limits sales in some areas, but the ease and vigor of this plant are exceptional.
Further information is available from the Association of Specialty Cut Flowers, M.P.O. box 268, Oberlin, OH 44074; phone (440) 774-2887; fax (440) 774-2435; www.ascfg.org