Pack Trials is the first opportunity to see all the new variety releases for the upcoming growing season. In California, everything looks good; we know that. It is hard to know how a new variety will perform when grown in a different environment or under less than optimal growing conditions. The true test comes when they are trialed at greenhouses and in trial gardens around the country.
The varieties listed here were first seen at Pack Trials this year, and they performed well in the University of Florida Trial Garden this past spring. Additionally, they were selected because they meet two other important criteria: First, each is production friendly for large growers who need varieties that are vigorous enough to fill a container for quick bench turns yet compact enough to be grown at close spacing with few growth regulators and shipped on racks with minimal breakage. Second, these new introductions are attractive and will grab consumers’ attention.
Varieties in the University of Florida trials are started from rooted cuttings or 288 plugs and grown in 3½-inch Ellepots for 3-4 weeks. Due to space constraints, plants are grown pot tight. The field trials this year were planted the first week of April.
‘MiniFamous Compact Watermelon’ (Selecta First Class). Calibrachoa is a very difficult crop to grow, and many cultivars currently available have a very vigorous habit with the majority of the flowers at the end of the stems. However, calibrachoas are extremely popular at retail, and many growers are required to supply them. Selecta First Class’s MiniFamous Compact series is a part of the HD (high density) program and offers a tighter, more compact plant habit than the MiniFamous series.
Six new colors were added this year, including ‘MiniFamous Compact Watermelon’, for a total of 12 colors in the series. Plants did not tangle when grown pot tight in the greenhouse, and this series appears to have great potential for small containers as well as hanging baskets. The use of some growth regulators will help keep growth in check, especially for southern growers during the warm growing season, and will increase longevity at retail.
‘Lancelot Velvet Mocha’ (Proven Winners). Not everything has to be compact for it to be a good fit for large growers. This medium-vigor coleus will fill a 1-gal. pot or hanging basket quickly but will not stretch too much if kept on the bench for an extra week. It has a quick crop time and will fit well in a gallon program.
As its name implies, ‘Lancelot Velvet Mocha’ provides a unique look in coleus with its long, narrow, chocolate-colored leaves. This variety has come out of the coleus breeding program at the University of Florida and was selected for excellent heat and humidity tolerance and non flowering in the landscape.
‘Supra Red’ (Hem Genetics). This year, ‘Supra Red’ joins its counterpart ‘Supra Purple’, a 2006 All-America Selections award winner. Both are frilly flowered dianthus with gray-green foliage coloration. It is a great dianthus during production, as we saw first hand when some extra flats for our landscape were left pot tight on the bench for an extra two weeks. The plants in the middle of the tray stretched a little compared to the ones on the edges, but they still were good quality, saleable plants. This series appears to be well suited for 4-inch to 1-gal. production. These plants have excellent garden performance and will work well for both landscapers and home gardeners.
‘Magadi Blue White Eye’ (Selecta First Class). Lobelia is a touchy crop for those in the Deep South. There is a very short window of time in which it will perform before it succumbs to the heat and humidity. However, breeders are working on improved heat tolerance. Last year, the Magadi series from Selecta performed very well for us in the trial garden.
This year, three new cultivars have been added to the series: Purple, Light Blue and Blue White Eye. ‘Magadi Blue White Eye’ is an upright cultivar that has maintained its form in the garden even after a heavy rainstorm. It will perform nicely in a gallon program, and plants won’t become tangled when grown pot tight or on the retail shelf.
‘Potunia Pink’ (Dümmen USA). The new Potunia series from Dümmen is a naturally semi-compact vegetative petunia series that is grower friendly. In the garden, we typically have to trim the petunias every couple of weeks in order to keep them from growing into and taking over an adjacent plot. However, the Potunia entries are one of the few petunias that we have not had to trim.
They have great potential for use in a gallon or hanging basket program. The series has four colors, and we are trialing Pink and Neon this year. Pink is a little more uniform than Neon, and the flower color is a soft pink, yet it is bright enough to catch the eye (It should be a favorite of female consumers).
Surdiva Series (Suntory Collection). One of the new introductions from the Suntory Collection this year is a compact series of scaevola called Surdiva. Three colors are available: Blue, Light Blue and White. Blue and Light Blue are more compact than White, but all three have a tighter plant habit than most of the scaevola currently available. All have excellent branching and can be grown with much less growth regulation than other scaevola.
They still do not provide complete flower coverage right at the crown, but the bald spot in the center of the plant is much less noticeable with the compact habit. Scaevola is an excellent plant for heat and humidity, and it needs to be grown warm for best crop performance and the shortest crop time.
Cora Series (Goldsmith Seeds). There is now a Phytophthora-resistant vinca available from seed! Currently, the Cora series has six colors plus a mix, and all plants have an upright growth habit. This series will be a nice complement to the Nirvana series already on the market but won’t be a complete substitute because Nirvana still offers a wider range of colors and plant habits.
We received a heavy rainstorm in the garden in mid-May, and within two days, some of the other vinca in the trial began showing symptoms of aerial Phytophthora. However, the Nirvana and Cora vinca are still disease free and thriving.
‘Solcito’ (PanAmerican Seed). This new zinnia is not a typical large-flowered zinnia. It is a small, yellow-flowered zinnia with a brown center similar to a black-eyed Susan. It is well branched and flowers profusely over the entire plant canopy. The mounding plant habit may not be very conducive for 4-inch production, but it is well suited for gallon and hanging basket production. A light application of growth regulators will help keep the plants from getting overgrown and bring the flowers into a tight mass of color while also providing an extended shelf life.