As the GPN editorial staff hit Pack Trials this year, each one of us had different questions. What would the companies have to offer? How would they display their new introductions? What wouldn’t we be seeing this year and why? How would we survive the rain and mudslides?
As we threaded our way up the coast, we were treated to a wide array of stops — we saw everything from the elaborate gardens at Proven Winners to the garden center location of Plant Haven to the actual trial at Plug Connection. In fact, one of the best things about Pack Trials is visiting all the different companies to see how they set up their stops and what kind of news they have for us when we get there.
Yes, a big part of Pack Trials is what each of the companies is actually doing, so this year we added a new article to give you a feel for each stop. We can certainly say all of the companies were very gracious in their hospitality…even if the weather wasn’t.
The marketing arm of the largest agricultural exporter in Israel, Agrexco again occupied space at Pacific Plug & Liner during Pack Trials. Five Agrexco companies were in attendance: Cohen Propagation Nurseries, Hishtil Nurseries, Jaldety Nursery, Schwartz Nursery and newcomer Biological Industries. Focusing on a wide range of plant material — from ornamental herbs to vegetative annuals to perennials and more — the companies showcased their offerings in a very simple way that focused on the plants. As propagators shipping cuttings into the United States, the companies are trying to establish their genetics as alternatives to the already-established companies.
This was a big introduction year for American Takii. The typically conservative company introduced approximately 30 new varieties and three new series this year including a great new Pink Morn spreading petunia and a number of new cut flowers. Especially exciting was Takii’s emphasis on warm-season crops. Traditionally known for its cool-season offerings, Takii is continuing to expand its offerings into the all-important summer season. Takii’s theme this year even drove home the concept of expanded breadth. Flowers That Make Cents, Sense And Scents drew attention to the fact that Takii offers plants for all uses — plants that are economical to produce (cents), have multiple uses (sense) and offer an attractive fragrance (scents).
Even with almost 70 new varieties, this was a slow introduction year for Ball FloraPlant. We may have gotten used to seeing triple-digit numbers every year, but the “limited” introductions were not the only change at FloraPlant. Instead of focusing exclusively on varieties, the company devoted more than three-fourths of its space to vignettes and themed displays this year. Programs covered everything from the standard emphasis on climate preference to crops selected to be low maintenance or good gift plants. In addition to working on its core crops such as angelonia, calibrachoa and geraniums, FloraPlant added a number of new perennials and a surprising range of unpatented component plants.
Bodger is a great stop where you can still see actual variety comparisons grown in packs, but this old-school Pack Trial showed some interesting varieties. This was the first year the vegetative trial at Bodger Botanicals was open to all attendees, and the more open trial site really showcased the differences between each division. On the seed side, Bodger played to its strengths with a new impatiens series and several new mixes. On the vegetative side, the company continued to offer a range of genetics from different breeders. This year the company focused on filling out existing series, with the salvia Stampede series the only completely new series addition.
This was definitely the year of bacopa at Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm. The focus was evident in everything from bacopa-shaped key chains to two huge bacopa displays. Seven new sutera-type Copias were shown including ‘Copia Gulliver Lilac’, which has what looks like the largest blue flowers on the market. Danziger also expanded its coverage in the jamesbrittenia-type bacopa, with five new colors in the Britney series. Among the 100-plus new introductions this year were two torenia varieties we will be highlighting next month for their unique yellow color. Other notable introductions included a new calibrachoa series, Noa; a new lobelia series, Anabel; and a new bicolor verbena sub-series, Donalena Twinkle.
Under the tag line “Ecke Means Business,” Ecke Ranch opened the doors at its own facility for the first time in three years, but this was not a regular Pack Trial stop. Several weeks before Pack Trials, Ecke announced it would not be hosting a Pack Trial. Instead, the company invited customers to make appointments to discuss Ecke’s offerings, and the “Pack Trial that wasn’t a trial” was a big success. The company presented a clear, strong positioning message, showcasing a number of marketing programs and the possibilities with its genetics. And while Ecke showed a full range of new plant introductions, the focus was definitely on programs for grower success, with more ideas than any other stop.
Benary’s Pack Trial site looked even better this year, the second at its new location. The plants looked great, and Benary devoted substantial space to theme gardens on everything from butterflies to shade, showcasing the products’ many uses. With 40 new varieties, this was a very good introduction year for Benary, especially in more mainstream crops such as begonias, pentas and pansies. There were, however, a number of new specialty and perennial introductions, and Benary continues to add to the Fastrax first-year flowering perennial program with eight new introductions.
Exhibited at Pack Trials by broker H.F. Michell’s at the Speedling facility, Farmen’s exhibit was much larger this year than in years past, with the display occupying seven benches. This year, we even saw a fairly extensive POP display on the company’s big push item, two new petunia series named after a famous Italian racecar driver. This Italian breeder of bedding crops is probably best known for its ruffled pansies but showed a range of standard bedding crops this year. Perhaps by having a consistent trial location and adding a POP program, Farmen can establish a bigger presence for itself in the United States.
In a big year for introductions, Fides North America showed approximately 50 new varieties including a new hybrid nemesia series and several new osteo varieties. Fides now has the location all to itself since parent company Kirin sold Twyford and transferred all color genetics to the Fides brand. All of this culminated in a great Pack Trial that emphasized the ever-expanding breadth of Fides’ offerings. And despite a few new kalanchoe and carnation introductions, Fides definitely focused on spring annuals this year, continuing the move toward crops with wider customer appeal.
Co-located at Goldsmith Seeds, Fischer benefited from having more space this year. Instead of being buried among a sea of benches, the company’s display occupied the entire back of the greenhouse, breaking with tradition and showing new varieties in one “in-ground” bed. Several of the introductions in the new variety island were truly innovative, but the most the impressive part of the show was “Fischer Solutions.” The theme of this year’s trial, Fischer Solutions highlighted various Fischer programs designed to help growers succeed. The program covers everything from marketing disease-resistant crops to creating a new shipping packages.
Co-located with Oglevee, English-breeder Floranova showed a large offering of new varieties for a company that is still trying to establish a strong presence in the U.S. market. Its 37 introductions included standard seed crops such as salvia and petunia but focused on vinca for the second year in a row with an entirely new series introduction. Aside from the new varieties, Floranova’s exhibit showcased its new logo and new tag line: creative plant breeding. There was also much discussion about last year’s purchase of Floranova by Jeff Colgrave and how this will affect operations.
This was the German company’s second year participating in Pack Trials and co-locating with the H.F. Michell’s companies at Speedling. GGG showed a sampling of its own breeding work mixed with some impressive offerings from companies such as Westhoff and Suntory. In total, more than 350 varieties were on display, with several notable new introductions such as the new upright snap series Dazzling Lips and a double bacopa we will be covering next month. GGG is fairly new to the American market and offers many of the standard spring annuals.
Golden State Bulb Growers is always a very nice stop. Though you really only see one crop — callas — the greenhouse is full of them and the coordinators always include demonstrations of common culture problems. The tone is always educational, with this year’s push on the use of multiple tubers per pot and the use of plant growth regulators. Golden State never overwhelms with introductions, this year offering only two, but if you are a pot or cut calla grower, the visit is well worth the stop because of the personalized help you receive.
At the company that started the very first Pack Trials, the new trends in displays could not have been more obvious. With only two companies located at Goldsmith’s facility, Fischer being the other, there was much more space for really showcasing the varieties and their uses, and Goldsmith took advantage. Not only was the trial easier to maneuver and less cramped, but there were also impressive vignettes highlighting Goldsmith’s new programs to help growers increase sales and have better success with Goldsmith crops. In the way of introductions, Goldsmith focused on filling out existing lines this year with no new series introductions.