In the past few years, I've noticed the perennial category growing in popularity among consumers. And after visiting with all the breeder companies at the 2012 California Spring Trials, it's obvious they're taking notice as well.
The focus on perennial varieties was apparent at many of the trial stops. Some companies that typically focused on annuals are now adding perennials to their lineup. And many of the other breeders are expanding on their already existing perennial collections. Breeders are getting really creative with their perennial offerings, too. New colors, new shapes, better performance. There is so much to choose from, and consumers are going to eat these up! Here are some highlights from the Spring Trials:
Green Fuse Botanicals introduced its new perennial program, First Light Perennials. Each variety in the collection is first-year flowering and requires little or no vernalization. So they can be grown similar to an annual, reducing crop time and saving on energy! Below is gaillardia 'Lunar Harvest Moon'.
Proven Winners continues to add to its perennial collection. This year, they introduced a new series of dianthus: Fruit Punch. Great for cutting, these fragrant double blossoms are produced on strong stems. Four colors are currently offered; below is 'Fruit Punch Coconut Punch'.
The Sombrero series of echinacea from Darwin Perennials debuted last year with bright, rich colors on well-branched and floriferous plants. New for 2013 is 'Sombrero Lemon Yellow', a sunny color for great retail appeal. It can be produced as a first-year flowering or overwintered perennial.
Florist Holland has added quite a few new varieties to its Garvinea perennial gerbera series. These rich, lush versatile plants are well-suited for gardens, patio containers and borders. This year, Florist had some new spider types on display: 'Garvinea Catherine' (white flowers) and some experimentals.
One feature at the Plant Haven stop that I always look forward to is their "sneak peeks." At the end of our tour each year, they'll share with us some new, experimental varieties that are still in the works. The one that caught my attention was this lovely leucanthemum 'Real Glory'. I look forward to seeing if it makes the cut as an official introduction next year!
Taking coreopsis breeding to the next level, Danziger introduced 'Solanna Golden Sphere'. This variety has truly stable, double, ball-shaped blooms. With its rich color, it can be used in perennial beds, borders and combinations. At 14 inches tall, this dwarf coreopsis requires no PGRs.
What do you think of these new perennial introductions? Have you been noticing any other trends at the retail or consumer level? Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org  and let me know your thoughts.
Also, don't forget to check out our Spring Trials edition of Hort TV , where Tim Hodson and I share some of the highlights from our week-long journey up the California coast.