At the 2019 California Spring Trials, breeders showcased their latest in petunias, begonias and more.
Kelli Rodda, Michelle Simakis and Patrick Williams
At the 2019 California Spring Trials, Garden Center saw everything from a rainbow of petunias and calibrachoas at numerous stops to unique fall and winter crop alternatives to nearly 6-foot-tall salvias.
Breeders and distributors offered new and trendy ideas as well as their takes on existing trends. In begonias, large sizes for the landscape and trailing habits for pots and baskets are gaining steam. In perennials, silvery foliage appears to be currying favor with consumers.
Below, we have compiled a photo gallery of some of the standout plants in several categories.
Benary introduced four new colors in its Funky series of trailing, basket-type, heat-tolerant begonia hybrids that perform well in mixed containers and grow in partial to full sun. Funky has high germination rates and is easy to ship. The new colors for 2020 are Light Pink, Orange, Scarlet and White. The Tophat interspecific begonia series from Syngenta Flowers finishes one week earlier than others in its class and is bred to finish in 306 packs up to large patio containers. New for 2020 is Bicolor which, like others in the series, features large blooms that sit atop of the foliage. With a mix of foliage and flower colors, Sakata Seed America’s Viking and Viking XL series of hybrid begonia thrive in the landscape or containers. Viking is available in eight colors and Viking XL is available in four colors, including the All-America Selections-winning Red on Chocolate.
Wave Petunias from PanAmerican Seed will celebrate 25 years in 2020. Classic Wave Purple — an All-America Selections winner — was the first color to be introduced in the well-known series. To mark the anniversary, PanAmerican will be producing point-of-purchase materials for retailers. Easy Wave Lavender Sky Blue is new for 2020 and, just like Classic Wave Purple, it is low-growing and wide-spreading. Danziger showcased several petunias including a new color to its Amore series. Amore King of Hearts (pictured) is compact and early to flower. It works best in combos, quarts and baskets. Danziger also featured new pots for the Amore line and ideas for Mother’s Day marketing. New to the Capella petunia series are Baby Pink, Ruby Red and Neon Pink. Lisa Heredia, marketing and key account manager at Danziger, says Capella petunias require little to no PGRs and are great for pot-tight production. New Cascadias Purple Ice petunia features a semi-trailing habit with strong, long-lasting flowers.
American Pie ‘Cherry Pie’ dianthus from Pinks by Whetman will follow in the footsteps of the top-selling ‘Georgia Peach Pie’ for the 2020 season. Robert Bett of PlantHaven says he’s quite impressed with its foliage color and prolific bud set. As a bonus, the cherry-red flowers on strong stems work great as a cut flower for the consumer.Echibeckia Summerina Blazing Fire was one of the star plants at Pacific Plug & Liner, planted in containers near the entrance of their Spring Trials display with its own vignette. Echibeckia is fast-growing, good for shoulder season sales, can be grown in multiple pot sizes and is heat tolerant. One 72-cell liner can easily fill larger pots such as 1.5 gallons and deco pots.
Green Fuse Botanicals introduced a new Begonia Rex series for 2020 called Bewitched in three colors: White, Wintergreen and Red Black. Steve Jones, president, emphasized that the plants can be used indoors or out, noting the robust popularity of houseplants. As part of its First Look pre-introduction program, the company also provided a sneak peek for what 2021 will have in store — three more colors in the Bewitched series: Cherry, Pink and Rose. A greenhouse crew may ask, “Which way is up?” when planting caladiums. Classic Caladiums, which are now available through a new partnership with Proven Winners, helped solve this dilemma by painting the eyes of the tubers so there’s no question that the painted side faces up. New to the Proven Winners line is the Heart to Heart Series including ‘Caribbean Coral’, ‘Heart and Soul’ and ‘Lemon Blush’. J Berry Nursery’s Crown Jewel Begonias currently offer four selections in the series: Positively Peridot (pictured), Enduring Onyx, Tenacious Topaz and Joyful Jasper. Marketing and Brand Manager Tamara Risken says the nursery is working on oranges and reds to add to the collection. Thick leaves help the Crown Jewel Begonias withstand higher temperatures and the foliage color gets darker with cooler temperatures.
Heuchera LITTLE CUTIES ‘Shimmer’ from Terra Nova Nurseries is constantly blooming and has multiple crowns. This coral bells, hardy to USDA Zones 4-9, is able to fill pots quickly, but won’t overpower in a mix, says Sales Manager Larry Finley. The pink, fragrant flowers of ‘Pink Diamonds’ Dicentra from Walters Gardens will flower all season long. This bleeding heart attracts bees and hummingbirds, and is deer-resistant. Growing to 12 to 16 inches high with a 16- to 18-inch spread, it is easy to produce in a container and to get to flower.Skyscraper Senecio Senecio ficoides ‘Mount Everest’ from Sunset Western Garden Collection can add a dramatic, vertical element to mixed succulent containers. Skyscraper is an upright grower, reaching upwards of 5 feet tall. In colder climates, Skyscraper can be grown indoors as a houseplant. It will be available for retailers this year.
For 2020, Dümmen Orange is introducing Fleur de Rock, a new collection of alpine garden plants consisting of an iberis, two delosperma, an aubretia and a saxifraga. Consumers want crops that are easy to plant in the garden with low-water and low-maintenance requirements — and this collection fits the bill.Preciosa Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) from Takii Seed is a new series that is early flowering. It produces large, double, dahlia-like blooms and is being launched in eight colors, including a mix. Colors include Light Yellow, Pink, Rose, Scarlet and Tropical Blend (pictured here). Plants grow to 10-12 inches tall with a 4-inch bloom. Preciosa also has heavier branching, uniformity in production and doesn’t need a pinch. Benary has launched the Taka Tuka Bidens ferulifolia series with four new colors: Red Glow, Red Yellow Center, Orange Yellow Center and White Yellow Center. The breeder pulled the series name from the tales of Pippi Longstocking.