Sorting Through Pack Trials

June 15, 2006 - 10:06

With so many new
i n t roductions
shown each year
at the California
Pack Trials, it can be pretty tough
to identify the few that will work
under large growers’ special conditions:
small containers, tight
spacing and fast turns.

This year, Big Grower has started
that process for you. With the
input of a few growers and industry
consultants, we’ve identified
both bedding and potted crops
bred for mass production. All
products are available through
any broker unless otherwise
noted; contact your broker or the
breeder/marketer for more
detailed culture information.

Mini Argyranthemum

If you’ve been looking for
an argyranthemum to work in
4-inch production, Proven
Winners’ new Mini Molimbas
might be what you need. Mini
Molimbas will reach approximately
the same landscape height
as regular Molimbas, but they are
half the height during production,
reaching only about 5-8
inches. Treatment like a regular
argy will create nice plants for
shipment, and the single-flower
types, which cover dead flowers
with new ones, will have better
post-harvest appeal. Because
these plants start off slow, they
require less PGRs, which will
help reduce production costs.

Gerberas Galore

Two innovative gerbera introductions
were worth noting this
year.‘Crazy Colors’ from Dutch
breeder Lekkerkerk (marketed in
the United States by Superfresh
Marketing) made the cut because it
seems to offer a more consistent
finish time, possibly even allowing
a bench run of product with supe-
rior quality. ‘Flori Midi Bicolor’
from Dutch breeder Florist de
Kwakel B.V. (marketed in the
United States by Northern
Innovators) is a mix of unusual
bicolors and unique flower forms,
which should bring a premium
price at retail. Neither series
requires special culture, but both
should offer pronounced benefits
for large growers. ‘Flori Midi
Bicolor’ is still in seed build up
and will not be available on a large
scale until fall 2007. ‘Crazy Colors’
is currently only available as a mix.

Behaved Lobelia

Lobelia has long been a consumer
favorite because of its
clear-blue colors, but production
typically requires a lot of space,
often limiting the crop to mixed
containers for high-volume growers.
But ‘Magadi Compact Blue’,
bred and marketed by Selecta
First Class, makes a perfect ball
atop a 4-inch container in approximately
6-8 weeks. Selecta includes
‘Magadi Compact Blue’ in its
High Density program (crops
selected for their performance in
pot-tight conditions) but does recommend
a PGR application under
those circumstances. This variety
does require a pinch to ensure
good branching. ‘Magadi
Compact Blue’ has some
daylength requirements, though
exact timing has not yet been figured
out. But the marketing possibilities
make working out a
production schedule worthwhile.

Strong Nemesia

Hybrid nemesia took the market
by storm a few years ago, and
now it seems everyone is introducing
a series. Fides North
America joined the crowd this
year with a series that showed
better than any ever has. The
Angelart series has seven colors,
and though none of them are
clear, they are all bright and eyecatching.
Angelart has a fairly
consistent, mounding habit.
Cherry is the most upright,
Peach is the most compact and
Almond has the best color presentation.
The big draw to this
series, aside from a plant that
does not break apart in the center,
is the large flowers that are
very fragrant. Plants are fairly
vigorous, so a few applications
of B-Nine (Chemtura Corp.) at
1,000 ppm and a pinch will keep
plants under control.

Phlox Breakouts

This was an impressive year
for the relatively new-to-the-U.S.-
market German breeder Westhoff
(marketed in the United States by
Superfresh Marketing and Cohen
Propagation Nurseries), with two
introductions that made our list.
The Powerphlox series follows in
the footsteps of Intensia (Proven
Winners) and Astoria (Jackson &
Perkins’ Suntory Collection), presenting
a hybrid of Phlox drummondii
that has heat tolerance and
a long flowering window.
Powerphlox also continues the
trend of being more compact,
appearing to be the most compact
on the market. Like other phlox
hybrids, Powerphlox can be
tricky to root, loves high heat and
prefers low moisture to start. Of
special note in this series is
Purple Star, the first specialtyshaped
flower in this grouping.

Dwarf Ranunculus

Following last year’s successful
launch of the Maché ranunculus
series, Goldsmith Seeds is offering a
new dwarf series. The Magic series
offers the same high germ rate — 80
percent — and flower size as the
Maché series but requires no PGRs
to keep plants compact enough for
4- to 6-inch production. At this
point, Magic is only available as a
mix, but we were told Goldsmith is
working on separate colors. Like all
ranunculus, there is a daylength
requirement for Magic, so
Goldsmith recommends sowing in
October for bulk-up under short
days. ‘Magic Mixture’ seed is only
available through Ball Seed.

Perfect Scaevola

Remember when scaevola hit
the market? Leggy and extremely
vigorous with flowers hidden
inside the foliage, those plants
were still a leap forward. Skip
ahead almost 20 years, and the
new Top Pot series seems just as
impressive. Bred by Westhoff,
this series is well branched with
extremely short internodes, and
its upright habit concentrates
color on top of the pot, enabling
monoculture in a 4-inch pot. To
ensure the desired habit, plants
need one pinch soon after transplant;
in a 6-inch container that’s
it, but 4-inch production also
requires a PGR application.

Fast Snapdragon

Sakata’s new Speedy Sonnet
series is not day-length neutral, but
it goes a long way toward the goal.
Requiring only 101?2 hours of daylight
to bloom, according to Sakata,
Speedy Sonnet needs 21?2 hours less
light than Sonnets. In all other
respects, Speedy Sonnets should
be treated just like Sonnets. They
are fairly vigorous snaps that are
not really suited for pack sales but
easily fill out a 4- to 6-inch container
in approximately 16-18 weeks
from sow depending on sow date.
In 2007, Speedy Sonnet is only
available through Ball Seed.

Upright Verbena

It is hard to find something
truly different in vegetative verbena,
but the new Lanai Upright
subseries is worth taking a close
look at. Bred by Goldsmith Seeds
and marketed by Fischer USA,
Lanai Uprights tout a pronounced
upright growth habit
that makes them easier to produce
in small containers. The difference
is that Lanai Upright
varieties are approximately 3-4
inches taller than and half the
width of regular Lanais. Fischer
recommends the same culture as
regular Lanai — one pinch and
PGR as needed — but given its
more compact nature, Lanai
Upright will need less PGR.

About The Author

Bridget White is editorial director
of GPN. She can be reached
at bwhite@sgcmail.com or (847)
391-1004.

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