Sorting Through Pack Trials By Bridget White, Tim Hodson and Catherine Evans

With so many newi n t roductionsshown each yearat the CaliforniaPack Trials, it can be pretty toughto identify the few that will workunder large growers' special conditions:small containers, tightspacing and fast turns.

This year, Big Grower has startedthat process for you. With theinput of a few growers and industryconsultants, we've identifiedboth bedding and potted cropsbred for mass production. Allproducts are available throughany broker unless otherwisenoted; contact your broker or thebreeder/marketer for moredetailed culture information.

Mini Argyranthemum

If you've been looking foran argyranthemum to work in4-inch production, ProvenWinners' new Mini Molimbasmight be what you need. MiniMolimbas will reach approximatelythe same landscape heightas regular Molimbas, but they arehalf the height during production,reaching only about 5-8inches. Treatment like a regularargy will create nice plants forshipment, and the single-flowertypes, which cover dead flowerswith new ones, will have betterpost-harvest appeal. Becausethese plants start off slow, theyrequire less PGRs, which willhelp reduce production costs.

Gerberas Galore

Two innovative gerbera introductionswere worth noting thisyear.'Crazy Colors' from Dutchbreeder Lekkerkerk (marketed inthe United States by SuperfreshMarketing) made the cut because itseems to offer a more consistentfinish time, possibly even allowinga bench run of product with supe-rior quality. 'Flori Midi Bicolor'from Dutch breeder Florist deKwakel B.V. (marketed in theUnited States by NorthernInnovators) is a mix of unusualbicolors and unique flower forms,which should bring a premiumprice at retail. Neither seriesrequires special culture, but bothshould offer pronounced benefitsfor large growers. 'Flori MidiBicolor' is still in seed build upand will not be available on a largescale until fall 2007. 'Crazy Colors'is currently only available as a mix.

Behaved Lobelia

Lobelia has long been a consumerfavorite because of itsclear-blue colors, but productiontypically requires a lot of space,often limiting the crop to mixedcontainers for high-volume growers.But 'Magadi Compact Blue',bred and marketed by SelectaFirst Class, makes a perfect ballatop a 4-inch container in approximately6-8 weeks. Selecta includes'Magadi Compact Blue' in itsHigh Density program (cropsselected for their performance inpot-tight conditions) but does recommenda PGR application underthose circumstances. This varietydoes require a pinch to ensuregood branching. 'MagadiCompact Blue' has somedaylength requirements, thoughexact timing has not yet been figuredout. But the marketing possibilitiesmake working out aproduction schedule worthwhile.

Strong Nemesia

Hybrid nemesia took the marketby storm a few years ago, andnow it seems everyone is introducinga series. Fides NorthAmerica joined the crowd thisyear with a series that showedbetter than any ever has. TheAngelart series has seven colors,and though none of them areclear, they are all bright and eyecatching.Angelart has a fairlyconsistent, mounding habit.Cherry is the most upright,Peach is the most compact andAlmond has the best color presentation.The big draw to thisseries, aside from a plant thatdoes not break apart in the center,is the large flowers that arevery fragrant. Plants are fairlyvigorous, so a few applicationsof B-Nine (Chemtura Corp.) at 1,000 ppm and a pinch will keepplants under control.

Phlox Breakouts

This was an impressive yearfor the relatively new-to-the-U.S.-market German breeder Westhoff(marketed in the United States bySuperfresh Marketing and CohenPropagation Nurseries), with twointroductions that made our list.The Powerphlox series follows inthe footsteps of Intensia (ProvenWinners) and Astoria (Jackson &Perkins' Suntory Collection), presentinga hybrid of Phlox drummondiithat has heat tolerance anda long flowering window.Powerphlox also continues thetrend of being more compact,appearing to be the most compacton the market. Like other phloxhybrids, Powerphlox can betricky to root, loves high heat andprefers low moisture to start. Ofspecial note in this series isPurple Star, the first specialtyshapedflower in this grouping.

Dwarf Ranunculus

Following last year's successfullaunch of the MachŽ ranunculusseries, Goldsmith Seeds is offering anew dwarf series. The Magic seriesoffers the same high germ rate — 80percent — and flower size as theMachŽ series but requires no PGRsto keep plants compact enough for4- to 6-inch production. At thispoint, Magic is only available as amix, but we were told Goldsmith isworking on separate colors. Like allranunculus, there is a daylengthrequirement for Magic, soGoldsmith recommends sowing inOctober for bulk-up under shortdays. 'Magic Mixture' seed is onlyavailable through Ball Seed.

Perfect Scaevola

Remember when scaevola hitthe market? Leggy and extremelyvigorous with flowers hiddeninside the foliage, those plantswere still a leap forward. Skipahead almost 20 years, and thenew Top Pot series seems just asimpressive. Bred by Westhoff,this series is well branched withextremely short internodes, andits upright habit concentratescolor on top of the pot, enablingmonoculture in a 4-inch pot. Toensure the desired habit, plantsneed one pinch soon after transplant;in a 6-inch container that'sit, but 4-inch production alsorequires a PGR application.

Fast Snapdragon

Sakata's new Speedy Sonnetseries is not day-length neutral, butit goes a long way toward the goal.Requiring only 101?2 hours of daylightto bloom, according to Sakata,Speedy Sonnet needs 21?2 hours lesslight than Sonnets. In all otherrespects, Speedy Sonnets shouldbe treated just like Sonnets. Theyare fairly vigorous snaps that arenot really suited for pack sales buteasily fill out a 4- to 6-inch containerin approximately 16-18 weeksfrom sow depending on sow date.In 2007, Speedy Sonnet is onlyavailable through Ball Seed.

Upright Verbena

It is hard to find somethingtruly different in vegetative verbena,but the new Lanai Uprightsubseries is worth taking a closelook at. Bred by Goldsmith Seedsand marketed by Fischer USA,Lanai Uprights tout a pronouncedupright growth habitthat makes them easier to producein small containers. The differenceis that Lanai Uprightvarieties are approximately 3-4inches taller than and half thewidth of regular Lanais. Fischerrecommends the same culture asregular Lanai — one pinch andPGR as needed — but given itsmore compact nature, LanaiUpright will need less PGR.

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Bridget White, Tim Hodson and Catherine Evans

Bridget White is editorial directorof GPN. She can be reachedat or (847)391-1004.

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