Another look at trialled varieties
Part two of new and notable varieties that survived the Ontario summer in this year’s Sawaya Garden Trials.
By Melhem Sawaya
This article concludes a two-part series covering highlights from the 2020 Sawaya Garden Trials, held annually in Simcoe, Ontario. Find part one of my trial coverage in the October 2020 edition of Greenhouse Canada with details on groundbreaking new developments for the trials in 2021, as well as #1 to #24 of my varietal highlights.
As always, they are not listed in any particular order. Some may not be new varieties, but remain notable mentions. Here are #25 to #46.
 Gypsophila Gypsy White. This picture was taken at the end of July and still looks perfect amid a summer that saw higher-than-average temperatures. This variety is grown from seed and can be sold in 4” containers for landscape or in larger patio pots. No deadheading required. Neither rain nor heat ever affected the Gypsy negatively. When we held the charity sale on August 15, Gypsy was still looking good and it was one of the first ones to be purchased.
 Helichrysum Silver Threads is a soft trailing plant that will complement and enhance any combination. Excellent garden performance independent of the weather. Silver Threads can take the heat and do very well in the cold, which makes it a winner in any combination. This variety can be grown in 4” or 6” pots for landscape, large patio pots or in combinations – especially all-foliage combinations without any flowering varieties.
 Hibiscus Luna Pink Swirl. An excellent garden performer for landscape or in large patio pots, Luna Pink Swirl is a true perennial for southwestern Ontario and doubles in size every year. Excellent for extending spring sales into late June. Flowers naturally in the garden from late June till frost.
 Lavandula angustifolia Aromatico Blue improved and  Lavandula angustifolia Blue Spear are two standout varieties among the exploding lavender market. Neither variety needed deadheading and looked great all summer long. Excellent garden performance in hot or rainy weather, these two were among the first items that consumers grabbed at our charity sale in August. Lavender is increasing in popularity with consumers and that is why we will expand to include as many varieties as possible next year.
 Leucanthemum Sweet Daisy Birdy is hardy to southwestern Ontario. It has four stages of flowering, which means it will reach the fourth stage of flower budding before you need to deadhead the first stage. Many Leucanthemums flower just once in a season, which does not give them a long-lasting flowering period.
 Petunia Hybrida Shortcake Blueberry is a semi-trailing medium-sized multiflora variety that does not need any deadheading and recovers extremely well after a rain. Shortcake Blueberry is great for landscape and combinations where it complements any mix.
 Petunia Bee’s Knees is one of the best yellow trailing petunias on the market. With a deeper yellow colour compared to other yellow petunia varieties, it works well with many combinations and is great in hanging baskets. It’s shown excellent recovery after a rain, with no signs of Botrytis on the flowers.
 Petunia Cascadias Purple Gem is a mounding petunia that has a controlled growth habit, making it excellent for pans or window boxes. The variety has great garden performance that looks better with hot weather and recovers quickly from the rain without any negative side effects. The purple and white flowers stand out even from a far distance, making it an excellent landscape plant.
 Petunia ColorRush Blue is one colour in the ColorRush series that is vigorous and produces lots of flowers throughout the whole season. It continues to deliver great garden performance during or after a rain and even when it gets hot. Petunia ColorRush Blue is great in combinations with other vigorous cultivars or in hanging baskets 10” or larger.
 Petunia Dekko Blue Improved is one colour in a series where most, but not all, have matching habits. Blue Improved has medium-sized flowers that cover the entire canopy of the plant. Dekkos are one of my favourite petunias for combinations as they can gel very well with other cultivars and work well in hanging baskets. All of the Dekko series performs well in the garden with the exception of red.
 Petunia Hippy Chick Violet looks remarkably like Petunia Cascadias Purple Gem – so much so, that you would think they were from the same family. Hippy Chick Violet has a controlled growth habit that will also look great in pans and window boxes, with great garden performance through rain or hot weather. It works well as a high-density crop due to its controlled growth habit.
 Petunia Main Stage Purple is a petunia on steroids. Great for large containers and big landscape areas, this variety has excellent garden performance. It quickly recovers from rain and excels in hot weather as long as it is watered regularly.
 Petunia Midnight Gold has a unique double flower colour that stands out from all the others. In contrast to many other double flower petunias, Midnight Gold displays excellent garden performance even after a heavy bout of rain and recovers amazingly fast. With its controlled habit, this variety can be grown in gallons for landscape use.
 Petunia Pink Diamond is a little more vigorous than Petunia Midnight Gold, both with the same excellent garden performance of flowers resistant to rain damage and Botrytis. Ideal for upgraded containers and in combinations.
 Petunia Supertunia Mini Vista Indigo Improved. Formerly known as ‘Charms,’ this petunia variety is vigorous and produces a massive canopy of medium flowers. Mini Vista Indigo displayed excellent garden performance throughout the whole summer without any deadheading needed. It works particularly well in large hanging baskets and large containers.
 Phlox Gisele Light Violet is on the compact side compared to other phlox, but it fills the pot early with dense foliage and a good canopy of flowers. By comparison,  Phlox Intensia Blueberry is very vigorous and starts to look great towards the end of May/early June. Annual phlox are underused because we try to sell them early in the season when they do not look their best. Both the Gisele and the Intensia series make excellent performers in containers, in the garden or in combinations.
 Plug & Play Seaside Delight is an example of a combination that just makes sense. Not only does it perform, it’s also profitable because the input cost is equal to three plugs of seed Angelonia and three plugs of vinca. Because this combination should not be sold until late May, the plugs are planted later in the season. There are many great seed combinations on the market, and this one offers excellent performance the whole summer long.
 Sedum Lemon Coral is excellent in both landscape and containers. It loves the heat and tolerates dryness, but thrives when moderately moist. Sedum Lemon Coral is grown for its foliage but will flower if old enough and placed in full sunlight.
 Trixi Twice as Nice is one of the Trixi liner combinations. It consists of three double flower calibrachoas that show very well in large hanging baskets and patio pots. Excellent garden performance in the heat and rain, its double flowers last longer than single calibrachoa flowers. The double calibrachoas are a must for grower programs.
 Vinca F1 Valiant Lilac is one colour in the Valiant series. I like it because of its early branching habit which is key in the vinca’s ability to take off in growth. Vinca is one of the top in landscape genera. Lately, I’ve seen it in many landscapes due to a lack of confidence in walleriana impatiens, but anyone who has tried the vinca has been pleased with its performance.
Like I always say, new varieties are exciting to try on a small scale. If they prove to work well, surpass what you are growing now and offer consumer appeal, then and only then should you expand on that particular variety. Just remember to remove the one that is being replaced. It has been proven over and over again that great quality product and good service is much more important than quantity.
See you next year at our new location for the Sawaya Gardens.
Melhem Sawaya of Focus Greenhouse Management is a consultant and research coordinator to the horticultural industry. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.