It's hard to believe that four days of California Spring Trals have already flown by. The weather so far this week has been just about perfect — the sun is shining brightly on the breeders’ new varieties. As we continued our trek south from northern California on Monday, our first stop was at American Takii in Salinas.
At Takii, the 2014 AAS Winner, 'African Sunset', really stood out. It is the first orange-hued petunia from seed. While more compact when compared with other orange petunias, this variety has a mounding habit and will reach a height of 7 to 10 inches.
Another hot new introduction from Takii is Capsicum Conga. Due to the dark purple foliage developed at maturity, it can be sold two weeks early (15-17 weeks from sow). Conga's fruit starts purple and finishes red. Yellow Red is pictured here.
After visiting Takii we traveled across town to the greenhouses at Sakata.
Sakata’s new series of viola, ColorMax, has huge flowers that can really tolerate the weather. It is free-flowering and provides gardeners with more color per square foot. ColorMax is available in 10 colors and one mix. Clear Orange is pictured.
Another new, appealing intro we saw at Sakata was ‘Appeal Pink’ campanula. It features a hardy blush of pink flower with sturdy stems. It has a naturally compact habit that does not require any PGRs.
We then loaded up the van for the two-hour drive to the Edna Valley Winery in San Luis Obispo to see the newest varieties from Dümmen (Red Fox).
The new Yolo lobularia series looks like a winner. It features a compact habit, strong foliage and flowers that last all summer long. These early performers come in three colors: White, French Vanilla (pictured) and Purple Halo.
Peppy 'Sunset' is a new addition to the Peppy petunia series. Sunset's beachy-pink star pattern, good branching and semi-upright habit lend this variety to perform well in containers and in the landscape.
On Tuesday morning, we began our day at Floranova in Lompoc. The star of the greenhouse there was the new Bossa Nova seed-raised garden begonia. It is covered with brilliant blooms from late spring until frost. It looks great in hanging baskets and large containers. The new series has four colors — Rose (pictured), Red, White and Orange.
Another attention grabber at Floranova was the new Espresso Frappe petunia series. The plant habit is naturally dwarf and resistant to stretching and it is loaded with frilly flowers. Frappe will be available in two colors — Rose (shown here) and Ruby.
We then headed down the road to Windmill Nursery in Buellton. This is the first year for this location and it was time well spent.
The team at Skagit Garden showed us that they are ready for the baseball season. Skagit’s rookie of the year that looks like it will be a heavy hitter for many seasons to come is Erysimum ‘Honeyberry’. It has clusters of gorgeous magenta flowers, variegated foliage and a shrubby, upright habit. PlantHaven is introducing this young upstart.
At the Westhoff display at Windmill Nursery, we had a chance to see the new Candy Bouquet calibrachoa. It is a stand-alone introduction that is an excellent garden performer. With bright magenta accents, its intriguing yellow star changes its pattern throughout each flower.
This week PAC is introducing the new Angelos Bicolor angelonia. Compact, well-branched and upright, Angelos is a continuous bloomer and easy to work into container combinations. Its large flowers are dense and its stems are sturdy, making this plant a strong performer in rain or heat.
Beekenkamp’s new begonia, ‘Glory Lemon’ begonia, is a colorful standout throughout the summer in ornamental pots and in the landscape. Glory plants are outdoor performers that last throughout the summer.
Terra Nova’s Ken Brown introduced us to the new coleus ‘Cuckoo’. It has really unique foliage made up of a deep red color and bright-green gold-lime border. Be on the lookout for this one.
There are two days remaining in the 2014 edition of California Spring Trials. Don't forget, you can take a scroll through our photo gallery  on www.CaliforniaSpringTrials.com  where you can see a lot more of the new varieties that we have seen in the first four days of the trials.
— Tim