Exceptionnelle performance

July 11, 2014
Written by Claude Vallée & Annie Lachapelle
Les Exceptionnelles® 2014 is the ninth edition of this competition. This is quite an achievement in Quebec! How can this growing success be explained? It is due to the selection criteria and procedures along with a knowledgeable panel of expert judges.

To begin with, these are the selection criteria for becoming part of the list of Exceptionnelles:
  • Be part of the 30 newcomers voted by the public as their favourites. (The new plants are introduced at Jardin Daniel A. Séguin during the summer season where the public is invited to vote by using flags to select their preferred varieties.)
  • Be new to the field of horticulture.
  • Perform effectively based on the technical assessment carried out on four occasions at Jardin Daniel A. Séguin, according to the following four key elements of general appearance, floriferous quality (for flowering plants), incidence of attack by insects, and incidence of fungal diseases.
  • Be well received by judges (subject to neutrality and objectivity in voting).
  • Be available in sufficient quantity to producers the following season.
Jury members include Émilie Gabias* (Associ-ation québécoise de commercialisation en horticulture ornementale – AQCHO), Albert Mondor* (media), Marie-Pierre Lamy* (Roger Van den Hende Botanical Garden), Pierre Charbonneau* (JVK), Mireille Bourgeon (Ball), Rock Giguère* (Groupex), Chantal Gauthier (JVK), Patricia Gallant* (Jardins de Métis), Manon Lemieux* (Ball), Normand Tellier* (producer), Mireille Dubuc* (Montreal Botanical Gardens), Claudette Roy (Roger Van den Hende Botanical Garden), Annabel Carignan* (Institut québécois du développement de l’horticulture ornementale-IQDHO), Lise Goudreau* (Norseco) and Daniel Cléroux* (Botanix). Claude Vallée* (ITA- Jardin Daniel A. Séguin) is behind the camera! (*committee voting member)

With these criteria, it is clearly implied that expert judges take into account a new plant’s sales potential in garden centres and that the variety be comparatively easy to grow by producers.

Selecting from a list of 30 newcomers voted as their favourites by the public and based on the technical assessment of the plants, a group of expert judges selects the varieties that best qualify for a performance expected of one of the Exceptionnelles. In order to do so and in addition to the assessment data provided by the Saint-Hyacinthe site, horticulturists from three different gardens in Quebec, as well as all the members of the jury, contribute their expertise. 

After the selection process has been completed, expert judges reserve the right, for one variety per year, to select an annual plant that was not included in the list of 30 preferred ones with a goal of not excluding a really “Exceptionnelle” variety that could have been overlooked by the public. To be dubbed a winner, this plant must be selected by two-thirds, or more, of the jury panel.

Following are this year’s Exceptionnelles, as selected by over 3,000 gardeners and many of the leading best garden experts in Quebec.

1 – Sun Parasol® ‘Garden Crimson’ Mandevilla
Mandevilla Sun Parasol ‘Garden Crimson.’'

Use: Container planting, alone or in combination with other plants, flowerbeds, massed plantings, hanging baskets.

This new variety is a definite favourite with visitors to the display and evaluation garden for new varieties at Jardin Daniel A. Séguin and recently received a perfect score from the Les Exceptionnelles panel of expert judges. The naturally compact shape of the ‘Garden Crimson’ makes it the perfect vine for hanging baskets, planters and pots. Its introduction paves the way for a brand new series of stocky, robust and prolifically flowering mandevillas that need no support. Originally from Brazil, this heat-loving species displays incredible resistance to drought. What’s more, the Sun Parasol series is more cold resistant than other series.

You will love its velvety red, trumpet-shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds hungry for nectar. This modern, elegant and vibrant plant blends delightfully with its surroundings.

2 – Cocoyam Royal Hawaiian® ‘Hawaiian Punch’ colocasia
Use: container planting, alone or in combination with other plants, flower beds, massed planting.

The ‘Hawaiian Punch’ cultivar, with its fascinating blood-red stems and veins that stand out against its large shiny upturned leaves will make you wonder whether humans and plants are more alike than we think! This new, semi-compact colocasia is suitable for both pots and flowerbeds and is a vigorous, easy-to-grow plant that adds a modern, exotic touch to your landscape. ‘Hawaiian Punch’ is already a favourite pick among the colocasia species available in Quebec, and the complexity of its line pattern on the foliage adds a new dimension.

A tip for passionate gardeners: it’s easy to overwinter colocasia indoors if you give them plenty of light and make sure their potting media is constantly damp by putting the pot in a saucer filled with water. This process will be easier for both you and your plant if you keep only one or two leaves on each stem.

3 – ‘South Pacific Scarlet’ canna
Use: Container planting, alone or in combination with other plants, flower beds, massed plantings, borders.

This unusual and stunning canna is the perfect height for both containers and flowerbeds. It can handle as much water as you can give it, so it’s perfect for gardeners who tend to overwater.

‘South Pacific Scarlet’ is the first F1 hybrid canna that is a cross between two genetically distinct parents, providing the hybrid vigour and uniform seeds of first-generation plants. It produces abundant stems that flower all summer long with a flamboyant harmony of red and yellow blooms. This 2014 Exceptionnelle was a winner at the prestigious All-America Selections competition in the United States and will be the centrepiece of your landscape. It will also delight numerous pollinators.

4 – Scaevola Scampi™ Blue fan flower
Use: Container planting, alone or in combination with other plants, flower beds, massed plantings, ground cover, hanging baskets. Dubbed ‘Fan Flower’ by Anglo-Saxons, this pretty annual is anything but fragile.

Scampi™ Blue is about as close as you’re going to get to perfection. This plant is a fast growing, sturdy, and compact species with an abundance of strong, supple stems that bear a myriad of blue flowers. It’s also an incredibly productive cultivar that flowers continuously until the fall frost. The cultivar is easy to manage as it grows well but doesn’t crowd its neighbours. A little bit of heaven!

5 – First Knight™ Napier grass
Use: Container planting, alone or in combination with other plants, flower beds, massed plantings.

Quebecers just love purple grasses! A perfect example is the ‘Prince’ Napier grass cultivar, which became a wildly popular Exceptionnelle in 2008. The First Knight cultivar is the latest, and darkest of the Royal Collection series of five cultivars produced by a purple Napier grass hybridization program at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The plant’s young leaves shoot up from its centre looking almost like real swords that become gently curved with time, giving the plant a beautifully elegant look. Their deep dark colour contrasts well with surrounding plants. Since First Knight is smaller than its cousin ‘Prince,’ it does as well in pots as it does in flowerbeds. As with all pennisetums, its growth is stimulated by heat, so it does best in warm, sunny areas.

6 – Calibrachoa Superbells® ‘Pomegranate Punch’
Use: Container planting, alone or in combination with other plants, flowerbeds, massed plantings, hanging baskets.

A Japanese touch for the Superbells® Punch series!

This new cultivar was an immediate hit with visitors of the display and evaluation garden for new varieties at Jardin Daniel A. Séguin. Its regular flowering period has been one of the latest in the season compared to other cultivars we tested. This cultivar is held upright on well-distributed and solid stems that bear a mound-like mass of flowers throughout the season. However, this cultivar’s main draw is the creativity of Japanese breeder Ushio Sakazaki: crimson flowers with velvety black centres surrounding brilliant golden stamens that shine out of the dark like little rays of sunshine.

7 – ‘Mighty Mosaic’ coleus
Use: Container planting, alone or in combination with other plants, flower beds, massed plantings.

Picasso would have loved this cubist plant!

Colourful and easy-to-grow coleus has been the focus of numerous hybridization programs in recent years. The ‘Mighty Mosaic’ cultivar, grown from seed, produces an abundant mass of stalks bearing foliage that completely masks its main stems. ‘Mighty Mosaic’ is as vigorous as new cultivars grown from cuttings and boasts a fabulous
yellow, green and burgundy pattern worthy of a great artist! This fast-growing plant should be pruned back when combined with other species as it tends to engulf its neighbours. Coleus has had a name change. It was placed in the genus Solenostemon several years ago, but was recently moved to the genus Plectranthus. Not to worry – its common name, “coleus,” is sure to remain with us for a long time.

8 – New Guinea impatiens SunPatiens® ‘Compact Red’
Use: Container planting, alone or in combination with other plants, flower beds, massed plantings.

The SunPatiens® series of New Guinea impatiens is the first series to be completely tolerant of full sun, and the ‘Compact Red’ cultivar is no exception to the rule. It boasts a multitude of well-branched stems, a compact, regular shape and flamboyant red flowers. This new cultivar will constantly astonish you with its incredible resistance to heat, rain and wind. Impatiens Hawkeri, better known as New Guinea impatiens, are also resistant to impatiens mildew, a disease that is currently affecting Impatiens walleriana cultivars in Quebec and around the world. Numerous New Guinea impatiens cultivars, grown from either cuttings or seed, are available on the market and can be used to replace Impatiens Walleriana in partially shaded areas.

9 – Zahara® Sunburst zinnia
Use: Container planting, alone or in combination with other plants, flower beds, massed plantings.

What fabulous colour! A Fleuroselect gold medal winner in 2014, this new zinnia has everything going for it. It is disease-resistant, robust, a prolific bloomer and tolerates heat and drought. It is also beautiful to look at. Its bright yellow flowers have lovely stripes of red, giving this cultivar its unique look. Pure eye candy! This annual is perfect for brightening up areas that need a little touch of sunshine. Plus, visiting pollinators won’t get enough of it!

‘Les Exceptionnelles®’ is a registered trademark of la Fondation en horticulture ornementale de l’ITA de Saint-Hyacinthe, a non-profit organization that oversees a school garden program whose mandate is to promote and support greater knowledge of ornamental horticulture in Quebec. Species selected by the general public and gardening experts are bestowed this honour because they represent new horticultural varieties that stand out because of their high performance in the garden, their ease of cultivation and their high resistance to insects and plant diseases.

Without its partners, the program would not be as successful. We extend our thanks to: Fafard, Botanix, Passions Jardins, Ball horticulture, JVK, Norseco, Horticolor Canada, Fleurs plantes jardins, Fédération interdisciplinaire de l’horticulture ornementale du Québec (FIHOQ), Deco Style, Institut de technologie agroalimentaire (ITA), Corporation des Fleurons du Quebec, Teris, Institut québécois du développement de l’horticulture ornementale (IQDHO), Association des responsables d’espaces verts du Québec (AREVQ), Compostage GL, Savaria, Jardin Daniel A. Séguin, the Montreal Botanical Gardens, the Roger-Van den Hende Botanical Garden and the Jardin de Métis.

Claude Vallée, Agr. M.Sc., is professor of horticulture and coordinator of the project Les Exceptionnelles. Annie Lachapelle, Horticultural P.T., is the project officer for the program.

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