California Spring Trials – Wednesday

On Wednesday, Dick and I spent time at the Ecke Ranch, where we viewed their 2013 introductions and got reacquainted with a number of their excellent annual varieties.

Ecke is known for the Oglevee brand of geraniums that are known worldwide. New this year in their Elegance series of Regal Geraniums is Elegance Burgundy Frost. The dark maroon flowers with white margins are simply stunning. We were also drawn to their new Nordic Tuberous Begonia series. I especially liked Nordic Dawn. Both Nordic Dawn and Fire completely fill out baskets and are loaded with gorgeous pendulous blooms. Also be on the lookout for another new Tuberous Begonia series – Arcada. Seven colors are being introduced, all with large lush full double blooms that will knock your socks off. I didn’t have a favorite because I liked them all!


Another new annual that captured my attention at Ecke’s was Bacopa Atlas Lavender - a wonderful complement to last year’s new Atlas White. Both have beautiful extra-large flowers - a real plus with Bacopa. Also keep an eye out for Coleus Stained Glassworks Luminesce. I thought the strappy leaves of this variety just popped with color.


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California Spring Trials – Tuesday

It was a full flower trial day on Tuesday with visits to Gro Link, Westhoff, Plant Haven, and PanAmerican Seed, all located in the Ventura area.

Gro-Link is a leading breeder of Chrysanthemums, so we spent a fair amount of time reviewing the new introductions as well as learning which series or families are bred for early, mid and late season flowering. Although yellow and red are the 2 top selling ‘mum’ colors, I have to admit my favorite new variety for 2013 from their trial is Magnus Violet, which was really more in the rose-pink color range. A close second is Staviski Yellow.

Westhoff is always fun to visit because of their wonderful selection of annuals. I was most taken with their Verbena Estrella series, especially the new Estrella Voodoo Pink Star, and an as yet unnamed lilac-hued variety. Awesome color! Their new Calibrachoa Celebration Peach Mango also caught my eye with its consistent orange eye on a creamy yellow background.


We stopped by Florist Holland, the breeders of the magnificent large outdoor Gerbera Patio series. Nothing new here, but they are well worth considering with their huge, semi-double blooms. Look for names like Bryce Canyon or Everglades, all are named after National Parks, etc. The Flori Line series of Gerbera are also worth considering. They are more of typical Gerbera flower size, but have a vast array of flower types and colors. New this year is a nice pastel, FloriLine Midi Monet.

Our last visit for the day was PanAmerican Seed where we had a thorough tour of their new seed introductions. We also had a chance to look at the new vegetative material from Selecta. Highlights at PanAm included a new dark purple to almost black Petunia Sophistica Blackberry. Its plant habit is more open with a few less flowers than most of the other Sophistica grandifloras, but it’ll look great when it’s interplanted with other petunia colors like the new Sophistica Lime Green. Other PanAmerican highlights include trailing Pansy Cool Wave, Coleus Chocolate Covered Cherry and Petunia Shock Wave Deep Purple.


Selecta is well known for the great combinations in their Trixi Liner program, and they’ve added 5 new blends to their lineup. My favorite of the new group is ‘Out of the Blue’ featuring Bidens Namid Yellow, Lobelia Magadi Dark Blue, and Verbena Lascar White. Their new double Osteo 3D Berry White is also not to be missed, combining creamy outer petals with a violet center.


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California Spring Trials – Monday

Yesterday we visited Sakata Seeds in Salinas and Floranova in Lompoc. At Sakata, I was very pleased to see that they’ve added more varieties to their Petchoa SuperCal® series. The varieties in this nice series are crosses between Calibrachoa and Petunia. If you haven’t tried them growing them yet, you’ll want to in the future, because they exhibit all the best traits of both genera. The SuperCals have the flower power and non-sticky leaves of Calibrachoa, and the better pH adaptablilty and larger flowers of Petunias. New for 2013 are 3 varieties: SuperCal Artist Rose, Blushing Pink and Violet. SuperCal’s make great baskets and containers, but also have proven performance in garden beds.

We also spent time discussing the attributes of the sun-loving New Guinea Impatiens series called SunPatiens®. They’ve been on the market for a few years now and are increasing in sales momentum as growers, landscapers and home gardeners gain experience growing them. SunPatiens come in 3 different types: compact, vigorous and upright, so there is a place for them in just about every setting. We learned that the SunPatiens varieties are not only unique because they thrive in full sun, but also their root system differs from other New Guinea Impatiens. They form more of a columnar root that can grow down to almost 2 feet, helping them to become more firmly established. New in SunPatiens this upcoming year are Compact Electric Orange, Vigorous Blush Pink and an improved Compact White.

Floranova’s trial this year featured their recent foray into home garden vegetables with their Vegetalis patio vegetable product line. Be sure to check out Cayennetta Pepper, a 2012 All-American Selections winning cayenne chili pepper, a nice patio pepper that is loaded with colorful fruit. I was intrigued with the newest addition to their Ikon begonias called Ikon Bronze. The plants are vigorous and produce pendulous pink blossoms that nicely offset the dark bronze foliage. It’ll be a great item for large patio planters and hanging baskets.

Today we’ll be visiting Gro Link, Westhoff, Plant Haven, and PanAmerican Seed, all located in the Ventura area, so stay tuned!


California Spring Trials – The Weekend

This past weekend Dick Chamberlin and I stopped at 5 different sites, representing 6-7 different breeding companies in Watsonville, Gilroy, San Juan Bautista and Salinas. We visited Golden State Bulb Co., Syngenta Flowers, Danziger Flowers, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, and Takii.


We saw Calla Lilies in all different colors and sizes, including a very beautiful variety named Nightlife that throws off 7-8 blooms per bulb. Golden State had a great demonstration of growing Calla’s for cut flowers that we’ll be researching in more depth for our cut flower growers. There were wonderful new Kwik Combo’s from Syngenta that make super colorful statements in baskets and containers. Syngenta is also releasing a new ‘milliflora’ petunia series called Picobella Cascade, the first of its type from seed.


I loved Danziger’s new Argyranthemum called Pompon Yellow. It has a very compact, branched habit with lively yellow cushiony flowers. Very nice! At Hem Genetics the message was very clear – try to grow genetically dwarf annuals when you can – it helps reduce the use of PGR’s (plant growth regulators), simplifies production, and home gardeners will still enjoy a nice plant habit and performance in the garden. Hem Genetics has adopted the phrase ‘How Low Can You Grow’ for any of their flowers series that fall into this class, which I think sums it up perfectly! Examples are Petunia Limbo and Mambo, Salvia Reddy, and their 2013 introduction – the Nano series of Geranium.

Next season look for Triology petunias from Takii Seed. This full-fledged spreading petunia series boasts a plant habit with shorter internodes than most other trailing petunias, giving it a densely branched compact habit that will ultimate spread to about 30” in the garden or containers. I particularly liked Triology Purple with its bright purple blossoms that completely cover the plant. Their demonstration showed you’ll only need one plant to yield a full blossom covered 10” basket.

On Monday we visit Sakata Seed in Salinas, and Floranova in Lompoc., so stay tuned!


California Spring Trials – An Annual Event

I know spring’s arrived when it’s time to head out to California for our annual spring trials trip. I’d noted in last year’s blog that while most gardeners are eagerly sowing, buying or planting flowers or ornamentals for their current spring and summer gardens, this trip really kicks off our company’s entry into the new growing season (2012-2013). It’s the event where we make final decisions on what new products to add to our product line up for both professional greenhouse growers and for our home garden mail order business.

Starting tomorrow, Dick Chamberlin (president of Harris Seeds, and our resident photographer!) and I’ll be trekking down the California coast, starting in Gilroy and ending up in San Diego. We’ll visit 13 different sites that represent about 20-25 different breeders. We’ll be making blog posts along the way about neat and interesting ornamentals that we come across during the course of our trip, so be sure to stay tuned!


Proven Winners® - It’s Not Just a Name

Most flower garden enthusiasts have most likely heard of the Proven Winners brand name. It’s hard to miss, because it’s often displayed in the garden centers on banners, pots, plant tags and more. PW’s are featured on many gardening shows and in ads in most home and garden magazines. If you follow any of P. Allen Smith’s gardening programs on television or radio, then Proven Winners is a familiar name.

What exactly does growing a Proven Winners plant mean? The PW group searches the world to find and select plants which are clearly superior to others of their type. They test large numbers of different varieties in their trials in MI, NH, CA, FL, Germany, and Japan. That selection process translates into better performance for the home gardener. The plants are more resistant to disease and insect pests, have heat and humidity tolerance and a broad geographic range of superior performance, all of which means they are overall proven performers. Because of their rigorous testing program, the Proven Winners group has tagged the slogan ‘The right plant for all places’.

Supertunia Royal Velvet
What are the top selling Proven Winners? Supertunia Royal Velvet heads up the list. This petunia was introduced a number of years ago and still continues to outperform and outsell other petunias in its class and color. Euphorbia Diamond Frost and Bacopa Snowstorm Giant Snowflake follow in a tie for 2nd and 3rd place. I love Diamond Frost when it’s used in conjunction with other flowering annuals because it lends such an airy touch to the finished planter. Snowstorm Giant Snowflake continues in popularity with bright white flowers that easily covers a hanging basket. It looks marvelous on its own yet is also a nice filler in combo planters.

Euphorbia Diamond Frost

Bacopa Snowstorm Giant Snowflake

Although I’ve only named 3 varieties in the PW brand, there’s a ton of options. Many garden centers offer fully finished hanging baskets or containers of PW’s in both single and combination plantings. But if you like to create your own, simply look for the Proven Winners pots in which the varieties are grown. You’ll find an abundance of textures and colors to create your own palette of planters!

Be sure to check out the Proven Winners website that is chock full of growing and gardening information. It also has a garden center locator to assist you in finding that perfect group of Proven Winners that is just waiting for you!