Apr 11, 2017
A Closer Look at Plant TrialsBy Jasmina Dolce

I know it seems like I’ve been talking about the California Spring Trials for months — well, I probably have been. But today, I’d like to take a break from the Spring Trials to highlight the many other plant trials hosted all over the country.

After the big coastal event each year, many growers, universities and public gardens take some of those new introductions and grow them in their trial gardens to see for themselves how they’ll perform outside of California.

And GPN introduced a new column in 2017 to share evaluations from many of these trials. Industry consultant Vaughn Fletcher, who has worked in many areas of horticulture from landscaping to greenhouse sales, has been visiting plant trials across the country for years. His colleagues trust his evaluations of the trials, so we decided we wanted to share those evaluations with our readers.

In his monthly column, “Vaughn’s View,” Fletcher shares insights on variety performance. Each month, he focuses on a different breeders’ genetics or a specific product class.

Now that we’re four months into the year, I hope you’ve had a chance to check out and learn from “Vaughn’s View.” If not, here are some highlights from his first four columns.

In January, Fletcher focused on new varieties introduced by Terra Nova Nurseries. He says, “As one of the premier perennial breeding companies in the world, Terra Nova has been committed to the entry of new perennial varieties, and with the introduction of many new coleus series in the past two years we are seeing many new and exciting varieties with unique foliage and leaf shapes.”

Coleus ‘Electric Slide’

A naturally self-branching, compact non-fading variety, ‘Electric Slide’ presents ruffled green foliage with striking red venation with a chartreuse background.

Brunnera ‘Alexander’s Great’

Terra Nova devoted a full page to this variety in the 2017 catalog. This was a very dramatic, vigorous plant with well-defined silver variegation in the Colorado State University trial in early September. It is stunning and hardy to Zone 4.

In the February issue, Kientzler’s genetics were the spotlight. The company  has broadened its North American product offering in recent years and is participating in many trial sites throughout the United States.

Bidens ‘Popstar’

We have many bidens choices today, especially since 2016 was the year for new bidens introductions. ‘Popstar’ boasts large flower size and a tight mounded habit. In trials it demonstrated uniformity and floriferousness.

Salvia ‘Midnight Candle’

The Candle series has been in numerous trials the past two years. The most vibrant and eye-catching variety has been ‘Midnight Candle’ with its excellent branching, floriferousness and deep midnight blue flowers.

In the March and April issues of GPN, Fletcher focused on top-performing seed annuals from various breeders, including PanAmerican Seed, Benary, Floranova and Syngenta Flowers. These seed introductions were eye catchers in multiple trial sites last summer with excellent performance, including vigor, flower vibrancy, foliage quality and heat tolerance.

Canna Cannova series
Ball Ingenuity

Bred in the Netherlands by Takii and introduced to North America by Ball Ingenuity, this is the first F1 canna series. Cannova is characterized by uniformity, unblemished foliage, heat and cold tolerance, vibrant colors and adaptability in various container sizes.

Snapdragon Snaptastic series
Syngenta Flowers

Syngenta introduced this series at the 2016 California Spring Trials. It has a very strong root system, resulting in exceptional heat tolerance, large vibrant flowers, excellent basal branching and upright growth habit. Five colors and a mix are available (Magenta is pictured).

If you have yet to read through Vaughn Fletcher’s trial reports, be sure to check them out. I’m sure they will be a useful tool as you plan for your upcoming production season. If you have any favorite trial performers that haven’t been listed, feel free to shoot me an email and let me know about them.

— Jasmina


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Jasmina Dolce

Jasmina Dolce is managing editor of GPN magazine. She can be reached at [email protected]

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