Trial Premiere: 2019 Annual Introductions
Costa Farms in southern Florida launches the trial season each year with its spring preview. I attended the spring trial week 10 this year to evaluate the annuals and perennials, which would later be introduced to the industry at California Spring Trials. I will highlight some of the annuals that are new and impressive in this trial.
In the July issue, I will follow up with the new perennial introductions. The stage and condition of the trial at this time is similar to early summer conditions in the rest of the country, so you can get an excellent read on performance including floriferousness, uniformity, foliage quality, plant architecture and flower stability.
BEGONIA ‘TOPHAT PINK’
There are three colors in the series for 2019: Pink, Scarlet and White. This is an interspecific variety, characterized by vigor, earliness, flower size and versatility. Bloom size matches or surpasses Big and Megawatt. ‘Tophat White’ is the only white begonia in this mega class, and the plants mature at 20 to 24 inches. Syngenta recommends application in jumbo packs, patio
containers and baskets.
CALIBRACHOA ‘MINIFAMOUS UNO DOUBLE PINKTASTIC’
Selecta has reclassified its calibrachoa line for 2018-19 into two main series of MiniFamous. The MiniFamous Compact, Double Compacts, StarShine and the MiniFamous Doubles will transition into two main series: the MiniFamous Uno series and the MiniFamous Neo series.
‘Double Uno Pinktastic’ is one of the most unique novelty calibrachoas available for 2019, and is part of the new Uno series that incorporates seven core colors and four stars as well as the renamed doubles. The features of the Uno series include earliness to flower, medium compact habit and uniformity. This new Uno series offers incredible color diversity with application in quarts, gallons, baskets and Trixi combos. Pinktastic, with the double rose and white bicolor flowers, was one of the most floriferous plants in the entire trial. This variety was a 2017 Fleuroselect winner.
COLEUS ‘MAIN STREET CHARTRES STREET’
This chartreuse introduction was vibrant and non flowering in the trial, an excellent addition to the Main Street series. Five colors have been added for 2019. Based on production the past few years, the series has demonstrated exceptional uniformity, and garden performance has been outstanding. We have many choices in coleus, and this may be the most uniform and programmable series in the industry.
COLEUS ‘FLAMETHROWER SALSA SERRANO’
I have highlighted various Flamethrowers in earlier articles for many reasons — specifically the audacious foliage colors, distinctively shaped leaves and texture. We have two introductions for 2019, Salsa Roja and Serrano. Both varieties were in the Costa trial, and I was most impressed by Serrano with its sharply defined bicolor leaves with bright yellow accents. Serrano is one of the most compact in the series.
GERANIUM ‘MOXIE DEEP ROSE MEGA SPLASH’
Syngenta adds to their interspecific geranium portfolio with the compact
Moxie series. Available in six colors for 2019, Moxie was in greenhouse
production trials this spring and will be in multiple summer trials. This is
an entirely new class in interspecific breeding with a compact habit for
quart and tight pot production programs. The colors were vibrant in the
trial, and Deep Rose Mega Splash had clearly defined and stunning bicolor
flowers. This was the most impressive Moxie in the trial. A more thorough
evaluation will be completed by early fall of all the colors. Syngenta states
that the series is an upgrade to traditional compact zonal geraniums with
comparable early bloom times.
IMPATIENS SUNPATIENS VIGOROUS SERIES
We will now see a significant reclassification of the SunPatiens with the
consolidation of the spreading varieties into the Vigorous series and the
introduction of three new varieties: Orchid Blush, Red and Rose Pink. The
Vigorous series is obviously more robust and will provide more size and
earlier performance in the northern climates. The three new Vigorous
varieties lived up to their reputation with floriferousness, flower stability
and foliage durability. The new introductions will be available this fall.
PETUNIA ‘FORTUNIA BURGUNDY STAR’
Five Stars have been added to the Fortunia series for 2019: Burgundy Star, Burgundy Cream, Red, Purple and Monarch. This naturally compact series was introduced by Fides in 2010, and new unique color additions have increased the number to 15. The earliness, uniformity and compact growth habit of the Stars is consistent with the entire series. The Burgundy Star manifested a defined, clear bicolor pattern with excellent color separation. The Star colors augment the entire Dümmen Orange petunia portfolio.
PETUNIA ‘SUCCESS SILVER VEIN’
Silver Vein is the new standard variety for 2019. This new introduction was vigorous, and floriferous with stunning cool pink petals with deep rose throat and venation. This brings the total to 14 colors and two mixes in the series. This has been a high performing series for its earliness, uniformity, timing, multiple production applications and garden performance. Benary is introducing two new Success series for 2019 including Success HD, comprised of seven colors for high-density production and Success 360, comprised of 13 colors and a mix. The 360 series has a more vigorous rounded habit, larger flowers, excellent uniformity and day length neutrality. The three series will provide flexibility and increased application potential.
PETUNIA ‘SUPERCAL PREMIUM CARAMEL YELLOW’
The five new SuperCal Premium colors for 2019 are Caramel Yellow, Sunray Pink, Cinnamon, Bordeaux and French Vanilla. They were all represented in the trial, and the new colors were eye popping. This new series appears to have the excellent garden performance of the original colors with a more mounded habit, larger flowers, and exceptional disease resistance. Cinnamon and Caramel Yellow will have application not only in spring, but in fall programs with their unique two-tone flowers with subtle venation. The new colors and controlled growth habit expand the range of these new Supercals.
SALVIA SKYSCRAPER SERIES
Three colors are introduced for 2019: Dark Purple, Pink and Orange. This series is a tender herbaceous perennial, which will be marketed in the north as an annual. It has a strong upright growth habit and medium vigor. The large asymmetrical flowers produce a prodigious flower presentation and are positioned well above the foliage canopy. The series was an eye catcher in the trial with stupendous flower power. This will be a more compact series than the traditional ‘Wendy’s Wish’ with similar attributes of drought tolerance, durability and heat tolerance. This is a season extender from late spring through fall. This series will have excellent application as a thriller in combos and as a background component in landscape beds. Finally, and most importantly, the color orange is a genetic breakthrough in this species.
SALVIA LONGISPICATA X FARINACEA ‘BIG BLUE’
I have focused on top-performing vegetative salvia varieties in the previous two articles, and this new — first of type — seed introduction is an excellent alternative. The clear blue inflorescence was prolific and abundant in the trial. It was vigorous with deep green foliage and strong upright architecture. In the north this variety will not begin blooming until early summer but will continue until frost. It is durable, heat tolerant and a hummingbird, bee and butterfly magnet. It matures at 18 to 24 inches and is a season extender with excellent application in mixed containers.
VERBENA FIREHOUSE SERIES
The Firehouse series replaces Aztec for 2019. It is characterized by a medium mounded habit, early blooming, less cycling and mildew resistance. Available in nine colors, this series will be excellent in quart and mixed containers. It was earlier and more floriferous than Endurascape in the trial, which is to be expected as Endurascape blooms later but manifests outstanding garden performance until frost.
VERBENA ‘LANAI UPRIGHT TWISTER WATERCOLOR’
Syngenta adds to the Lanai Upright Twister series with four introductions for 2019: Scarlet, Rose, True Blue and Watercolor. Watercolor has excellent color saturation with lavender/rose inner petals and light purple outer petals. This series is excellent for high density production with an upright mounded habit, eye-catching bicolor flowers and the flower cluster positioned above the foliage for a colorful presentation.
VINCA TATTOO SERIES
This is the most distinctive and stunning vinca series to enter the market in many years. It is comprised of four unique colors with striking black centers and a uniform upright habit. The flower window is three to five days. This is a designer series with multiple applications in quarts and mixed containers. The black eye and swirls in the flowers will be more intense with warmer summer temperatures. This series based on its unique flower colors is one of the most significant introductions for 2018-19.
ZINNIA ‘PROFUSION LEMON’
When I complete my trial visits in the fall and reflect on the summer survivors, the Profusion zinnias are perpetually on my list. We are all familiar with the features and benefits of this series. Very few plants manifest the radial symmetry of this series, as well as landscape performance, versatility, mildew resistance, and heat, humidity and drought tolerance. The new bright Lemon adds a unique color to the Profusion palette. Sakata has also added a new All-America Selections mix for 2019 comprised of Cherry, Orange, Red and White.
In summary, the purpose of the Costa trial is to evaluate new introductions for production and summer performance and to introduce these top-performing varieties to the consumer through various marketing channels. The yearly increase of new introductions will continue as new breeding technology is applied to ornamental horticulture. I encourage you to review the plant lists from the 70s, 80s and 90s to get a perspective on the plants that have been supplanted with the advent of new and improved varieties.