Striking Newcomers By Tim Hodson, Jasmina Radjevic and Paige Worthy

Each year, the GPN staff travels throughout California to check out the newest introductions offered by breeding companies. See which varieties caught our attention; you may want to add them to your growing program next year.

Team GPN took the West Coast by storm at this year's California Pack Trials. For some of us, it was the first time experiencing this remarkable industry event, making it a trip to remember. With fresh eyes on deck along with the veterans, we viewed and learned about hundreds of new varieties, as well as merchandising trends and marketing techniques.

Breeders and marketers from the United States and abroad came together in California to showcase their latest and greatest. Although Pack Trials exhibitors displayed a large portion of their offerings, this year, most breeders concentrated on their newest plant introductions. And it was easy to choose one introduction at each stop that stood out from the rest.

Even though the event took place a week earlier than usual (March 30 to April 4), we were lucky this year; the weather was fair, and it only drizzled rain one day during our stay in California. The earlier start date didn't seem to affect most of the plants. They looked as spectacular as ever, and attendees were able to really get an accurate observation of the varieties' performance.

On the next few pages, you will get a glimpse of the varieties that caught our attention during our week-long journey. Whether they exhibit astounding disease tolerance, have a striking color display or simply smell good, these new introductions were a big hit and are worth taking into consideration for your production program.


Introduced by Kieft Seeds last year as an experimental series, the Alyssum Allure series is now available in eight stunning colors: Bronze, Deep Purple, Lavender, Lemon-Yellow, Pastel Mix, Pink, Rose and White. These varieties flower early and are genetically compact.

We were particularly impressed with the intensity of 'Allure Deep Purple'. While the other colors in the series are more on the pastel side, this brilliant variety jumped off the bench and caught our attention right away.


The new Mandalay begonia series by Proven Winners amazed Pack Trials attendees with its huge blooms and vivid color. Mandalay varieties are bred to bloom earlier than true tuberous begonias. They tolerate extreme heat and will continuously flower throughout the summer. Growing to 10-12 inches high and spreading 18-30 inches, these new dazzling varieties are an excellent selection for container plantings. The Bellagio begonia series was also very impressive.

Volumia is a new series by Syngenta that is vigorously branched for premium pot annual programs. These new begonias have extra-large flowers and green foliage. Bred for sun tolerance, they should work well in both commercial landscapes and home gardens. 'Volumia Scarlet' is one of five available colors that piqued our interest with its bright color.


At Jackson & Perkins/Suntory, the Million Bells calibrachoa series introduced six new colors along with one improvement. The new introductions include Brilliant Pink, Chiffon, Neon Yellow, Plum, Trailing Yellow and Lime. Trailing Blue 09 is an improvement on an earlier blue. Million Bells are now available in 28 colors and habits.

'Million Bells Plum' was a staff favorite. Its compact habit makes it ideal for 4- or 6-inch finished product. This new variety exhibits excellent branching and is early flowering.


This year, Golden State Bulb Growers introduced two new calla varieties, including 'Strawberry Parfait'. This eye-catching variety displays an excellent upright pink bicolor with both large-pot and cut-flower applications. Moderately branched and erect, flowers are held high and stems are strong. Its medium-sized, ruffled blooms measure approximately 11?2-21?2 inches in diameter.


With more than 80 varieties, GroLink has one of the most complete lines of coleus on the market. While visiting their Pack Trials site, we were in awe at all the beautiful mixed containers on display. And most of them had at least one striking coleus variety in the mix. One variety that really stood out was 'Old Style'. With its dark-purple center and light-green edges, it can complement almost any variety in a combination planting.


The Royal Hawaiian collection impressed attendees at the Plant Haven stop this year with its fabulous foliage and tidy clumping habit. Each variety in this collection has something special to offer. 'Blue Hawaii' has a combination of large green leaves with blue-purple veins. 'Hawaiian Eye' has large dark greenish-purple leaves with a matte finish and a small circular-shaped dark-burgundy "piko." 'Hilo Bay' features large glossy, olive-green leaves that are ruffled or corrugated in texture. 'Diamond Head' presents a combination of large dark-purple to black leaves with a glossy finish and semi-glossy dark-burgundy stems. 'Pineapple Princess' features large yellow-green leaves with light-purple veins, a matte finish and purple leaf margins.

Hardy to Zones 7b to 11, these plants prefer full sun for best color. Colocasias are wetland plants; use a rich, moist soil. They love the heat; warmer temperatures will lead to fast growth.


'Vienco Purple-Red', a new introduction by GGG-International, was a showstopper at this year's HF Michell's Pack Trials stop. This variety lit up the bench with its powerful color. It exhibits a decorative growth with tidy flower clumps in deep red. If you are looking for something different in the cuphea family with high impact, be sure to check out this stunning variety.


Appropriately named for its almost dizzying array of petals and geometric shape, Fides North America's dahlia Dahlinova Hypnotica has a vigorous habit — but still requires few to no PGRS — and blooms more quickly under longer days, about 12 to 14 days. This uniform, well-branching series was a standout at Fides' trial site for its varieties' vivid colors, which will perform well in borders, beds and containers alike, blooming constantly throughout the summer. 'Dahlinova Hypnotica Yellow' wowed attendees with its bright color display and huge blooms.


The biggest introduction at Syngenta Flowers' location at Goldsmith Seeds was the interspecific geranium 'Calliope Dark Red'. Named after the muse of epic poetry in Greek mythology, this cross between an ivy and a zonal produces the deep, dark-red color that was usually only found in zonals.

This very versatile variety can be used in baskets, large pots and beds. The other colors that are in development for the Calliope series include Burgundy, Magenta, Scarlet Fire and Rose.

Floranova was also showing a new geranium this year. A compact series with 360-degree basal branching, Floranova's new Horizon zonal geraniums are both technically advanced and visually appealing, a great find at Pack Trials. It bulks up quickly to provide a good groundcover and flowers early, quickly and in profusion throughout the season. Rose Ice's colors were especially striking: soft rose petals, a deeper picotee edge and a bold pink reverse.


New from Danziger — among the nearly 100 new varieties at its 2008 Pack Trials — is nemesia 'Nesia Fantasy', a compact, pink and white variety with medium-sized flowers. Its compact, upright habit makes it perfect for 4- to 5-inch pots. Known for its pleasant fragrance, the Nesia series should be a success at retail with its glossy green foliage and nine striking color options.


Having moved to a new location on the ranch, Ecke's trial site had a wonderful display of New Guinea impatiens on trial, as well as all their new introductions. One new variety that caught our eye was osteospermum 'Cape Daisy Mara'. This variety is fairly compact, making it suitable for 4- to 6-inch pots, hanging baskets and mixed combinations. All Ecke osteospermums are tested for heat tolerance to advance their garden performance, and this series is no exception. Cape daisies exhibit outstanding flower power and should generate quick sales at retail.

Selecta First Class' Angela Storm told us that all of the breeder's osteospermums were really starting to take off in the marketplace. This year, Selecta First Class added three new colors to its FlowerPower series — Silver Pink, Yellow evol. and Orange. Orange was very striking and really commanded our attention. It has an upright habit and medium vigor.

There were also three new additions in the FlowerPower Compact series — Pink, Lemon and Bronze.


While DŸmmen USA had several petunia series on display this year, one stood out with its bright color and neat habit. The Potunia series features a round, compact habit and is day-length neutral. Two new colors were introduced this year: Lobster and Dark Red. 'Potunia Lobster' performed exceptionally well at this year's University of Florida trial garden and was even named a Best New Variety (see page 38).


The talk of this year's Pack Trials was Ptilotus exaltatus 'Joey', the feathery, light-purple variety that stole the show at Benary. It's native to central Australia, so it loves the heat. It has a compact growing habit — about 12-16 inches tall — and multiple branching with abundant flowers, which makes it practically effortless to grow in the landscape. And because it's the first of its kind anywhere, everyone is drawn to it, from growers at Pack Trials to Master Gardeners and everyday consumers at the University of Florida's Floriculture Field Days.


New from Goldsmith, rudbeckia 'TigerEye' is the first and only F1 hybrid of this type, exhibiting beautiful uniformity and healthy branching. It responds well to plant growth regulators and has reduced sensitivity to powdery mildew. This annual's long-lasting flowers reach 16-24 inches high and are perfect for container gardening. Its bright, golden-yellow petals and dark-brown center are bold enough to stand alone but can also complement others in a mixed container


The new salvia Fizz Series from American Takii is available in four new colors: Cream, Peach, Raspberry, and the one that really caught our eye — Grape. The series also includes the former 'Bloody Mary' now renamed 'Fizz Strawberry'.

All of the colors are very uniform and bright. Fizz will work well in the garden or the landscape. The series flowers extra-early and is heavily branched. We were told the Fizz series is genetically compact so it should not require any plant growth regulators.


Viola 'Aero Black', a new introduction from Bodger Seeds, is an absolutely striking find. Its velvety, nearly pitch-black blooms would pair well with fall flowers in orange hues for autumn merchandising, especially around Halloween. Reaching 6-8 inches tall, it has a compact habit. Other notable colors in the Aero series include Purple Clear, White with Blotch and Velvet. Be on the lookout for these outstanding varieties next year.


Zinnia 'Zahara Coral Rose', a new introduction from Ball Horticulture, is part of a disease-resistant, heat-loving series of four zinnia colors. It has a mounding, upright habit and uniform spread from 12-18 inches tall and wide, and it also requires very little water once established in the landscape. And with flowers that are 20 percent larger than the current industry leader, it was a natural choice to be displayed at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

A new and unique zinnia by Sakata, the Profusion Double series, displays double flowers on compact, well-branched plants. It exhibits a very uniform plant habit just like the original Profusion series and does not require the use of plant growth regulators. Four color options are available, each bright and commanding. 'Profusion Double Fire' impressed us with its intense color and tidy habit.

Tim Hodson, Jasmina Radjevic and Paige Worthy

Tim Hodson is editorial director, Jasmina Radjevic is associate editor and Paige Worthy is managing editor of GPN. Hodson can be reached at [email protected] or (847) 391-1019.

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