Providing plants that thrive in the conditions that are present at the time they are sold is critical to the success of growers, retailers and consumers. Flower breeders continue to develop more varieties that provide consumers with additional choices for their early spring and fall gardens. The Fantasy series is a good solution for growers and retailers wanting to extend their early spring and late fall sales, as it is a fast crop that is able to withstand frosts and light freezes. Underused is an understatement; unfamiliar is a fact. While unique crops didn’t experience high demand years ago, present consumers are looking for different varieties that offer both the color and cool hardiness, and Fantasy delivers with its vast color selection now that six colors have just been added. An added bonus with this variety is its light fragrance.
The series includes nine colors: Blue, Magenta Rose, Speckled Pink, White, Yellow and, new for the 2004-05 season, Pink with Yellow Eye, Scarlet with Yellow Eye, Violet with Yellow Eye and White with Yellow Eye. A Spring Mix, as well as a new Autumn Mix, is also available.
Fantasy is very fast to flower from seed or plug, generally 7-8 weeks from sowing to flower. Sow seeds in a 288-cell plug tray. Preferred growing media is any well-draining soilless medium with a pH of 5.3-6.0. Cover lightly (if at all) and germinate at 68-70° F. Emergence will take place in 5-12 days. Plug finish time is 4-6 weeks in a 288 tray.
To relieve early hypocotyls stretch in the seed tray, use a PGR applied directly to the trays following emergence. California Coastal growing calls for a 0.5- to 1-ppm Bonzi drench directly to the trays following emergence. Of course, rates should be adjusted according to climate. This species does branch below the cotyledon. With multiple sowing trays, be careful not to mistake the branches of the seedlings for separate plants when thinning.
For finishing, transplant 25-35 days after sowing. Fantasy finishes well in large packs, 4-inch pots, multiples in 6-inch pots or gallons as well as mixed containers.
Optimum finishing temperatures are 55-65° F day and 45-55° at night. Fantasy grows to a height of 10-15 inches and literally covers itself in bright, colorful flowers in 45-65 days (depending on the time of year).
Plants will continue to bloom from early spring until summer when night temperatures exceed 62° F. Fantasy is frost tolerant, allowing temperatures as low as 25° F without damaging the flowers. For shaping and general maintenance, shear to encourage new blooms after first flush fades.
Some pests to watch out for that are common to linaria include western flower thrips, botrytis and rust.
The color palette of the Fantasy series is pretty amazing — not to mention Blue, Magenta Rose and Yellow were all awarded Fleuroselect Quality marks. At the California Pack Trials I noticed these unique, dark colors really stood out next to all of the other crops. And with the trend of cool-season gardening, such as in the fall, emerging among consumers, Fantasy offers another seasonal choice.
Fantasy was a favorite of GPN’s editorial director, Bridget White, at Pack Trials. “Linaria is a crop with a lot of potential for early spring/late fall sales,” she said. “Having a range of colors that includes spring and fall shades allows us to really capitalize on the possibilities of the crop.”
This series is a great cool-season, spring or late fall crop and can be grown throughout the winter in the South. Fantasy should be grown cool, so watch out for heat, as it cannot tolerate prolonged periods of heat and high humidity.
- Carrie Burns
Four new colors round out this cool-season series.