Happy first day of spring!
Here in Chicago, it feels more like the first day of summer...but I'm not complaining! I never thought I'd see the day when it's almost 30 degrees warmer in Chicago than in Southern California, especially in mid March! Hopefully, the warmth and sunshine will follow me there during the California Spring Trials. The week-long coastal event is only four days away, and the GPN squad is (almost) packed and ready to learn about all the new variety introductions and marketing initiatives going on in the industry.
I must say attending the California Spring Trials is one of my favorite parts of the job. How can I complain, while I'm road tripping the Hwy. 1 and smelling the flowers along the way? And I get to see and catch up with some of my favorite people!
I'll be Tweeting , Facebooking  and checking my e-mail all week long (aaahhh, gotta love iPhones!), so if you see something awesome and want to give me a heads up, let me know! Or if you just want to say hi, let's compare schedules so we can catch up at one of the stops.
Sakata Introduces Expanded Selection and New Catalog
The edibles category continues to grow, so it's not surprise many Spring Trials exhbitors are expanding on their vegetable and herb lines. Sakata recently announced that it's Home Grown collection now features 150 vegetable varieties in 33 crop classes covering all seasons. We were first introduced to the Home Grown line at last year's trials, and according to Heather Kibble, Sakata Home Grown manager, the feedback has been very positive since the program's soft launch last year.
"People were excited then, and I think they'll be even more excited once they see our catalog and our full program," she shared. "At Spring Trials we'll be showing vegetables in a different way than people have seen before, with new combinations and new sizes. It'll be much more enhanced."
I'm personally excited about checking out some of the more unique new varieties in the collection, such as 'Sweet Treats', a bite-sized pink cherry tomato, and 'Jalafuego' (pictured), a jalapeño pepper that is claimed to be the hottest on the market. If I'm feeling brave enough, I may just have to put that claim to the test!
Aside from great-tasting and attractive varieties, the company is also emphasizing it's dedicated staff. "What makes Sakata's vegetable program different from some of the others is we have dedicated Home Grown staff," said Alecia Troy, senior marketing manager for vegetables. "There's product development on the Home Grown side to make sure that we have varieties that are suitable for this market; we're not just bringing over commercial varieties. And we also have dedicated sales and dedicated customer service. Our customers are getting an extra level of focus."
Blooms of Bressingham at Syngenta Flowers
Blooms of Bressingham is launching a new introduction at the Syngenta trial location next week. It's a new leucanthemum called 'Freak!'. The breeder of the variety will be at the trials, too.
The new introduction will be on display in the Syngenta Horticultural Services area, so make sure to stop by and check it out! Leucanthemum 'Freak!' doesn't behanve like any other leucanthemum, so don't be fooled by its appearance. 'Freak!' doesn't require long days for flowering, making it programmable for a long sales period.
If you're attending the Spring Trials and want to learn more about this new variety, representatives from Blooms of Bressingham will be at the Syngenta location ready to answer your questions.
California Spring Trials Companion is a Click Away!
Don't forget: For those of you attending the trials, bookmark CaliforniaSpringTrials.com.  All the trial locations, contact info, maps, directions, and even dining suggestions are listed on the website for you. And for those of you not attending, we'll be updating the photos on our Flickr feed daily. So be sure to check those out during the week. i know it's not the same as being able to see and touch the plants in person, but it's the next best thing!
And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send me an e-mail anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org .