Charming ‘Exceptionnelle’ varieties
By Annie Champagne
These five annuals and two vegetable varieties stole Quebeckers’ hearts.
By Annie Champagne
The 2019 collection of Exceptionnelles highlights vivid plants that will appeal to all generations of consumers. Some attract pollinators and hummingbirds, while others boast spectacular flowers or foliage. Some will add colour to shaded areas and others will brighten flower boxes or add volume to municipal flower beds.
The Exceptionnelles is a horticultural assessment program that takes place entirely in Quebec, calling on the public to vote for its favourite annuals from among hundreds of new varieties arriving on the market each year.
One of the key features of the program is to test the plants in an environment similar to that of a consumer’s garden, which may receive less care than a public park. Thus, all the plants evaluated did not receive any special care nor did they receive pesticides in order to identify varieties with the best natural resistance to common pests and diseases.
Previously, the plants were showcased at one location in Saint-Hyacinthe only. For the first time in 2018, visitors were able to admire and assess the test plants at three major gardens: Montreal’s Botanical Gardens, the Roger Van Den Hende University Garden in Quebec City and the Jardin Daniel A. Séguin in Saint-Hyacinthe. The varieties submitted were also thoroughly evaluated for their general appearance, floridity, visual impact and resistance to insects and disease. The winners clearly stood out as a result of their remarkable performance and ease of growing. These choices were then endorsed by a selection committee made up of horticultural experts and industry representatives to ensure their potential in terms of marketability. Winners will be sold as Exceptionnelles in Quebec’s garden centres the following spring.
While annual ornamentals were the focus in previous years, the 2019 selection is made up of five annual plants and two vegetable plants. Understanding the needs of current gardening trends, the Exceptionnelles program is working to engage gardeners who grow their own vegetables and herbs. Let’s discover the seven selected favourites from the 2019 Exceptionnelles program:
1. Canary Wings Begonia
Its gracious foliage is trailing to spreading, which gives it a great advantage in pots. The contrast between its bright, heart-shaped but asymmetrical leaves that change from yellow to chartreuse during the summer (a very unique colour for begonias) and its vibrant red flowers make it the uncontested queen in shaded areas.
2. Valentino Pink Begonia
This star’s dark pink blooms are so abundant and crowded that they completely cover the foliage when the plant is at its peak. All gardeners will want to have it in their garden in 2019; in both sunny and shaded areas.
3. SolarPower Black Heart Ipomoea
This new selection, with its perfectly heart-shaped leaves, will keep its shape and beautiful colour all summer, in both flower beds as well as planter arrangements. The colour of its remarkable foliage changes from dark purple at the beginning of its growth, to dark black.
4. Rockin Fuchsia Salvia
This hybrid salvia is shrub-like in appearance and has a very unusual colour: a pretty fuchsia flower with a black calyx that contrasts beautifully with its dark green foliage. Its nectar-producing blooms attract bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds.
5. White Angel Wings Senecio
The plant’s shape is very graphic, and its spectacular large leaves are silvery white, thick and slightly silky. The plant is hardy to -7 °C, but can also be grown inside, making it a very versatile plant for consumers.
6. Biquinho Iracema Caribbean pepper
The white to purple flowers produce fruit that are red or bright sunshine yellow at maturity. The peppers are small, measuring only 2 to 3 cm in diameter. Quite a few people say this pepper tastes a lot like tangy rhubarb. For the best taste, it should be eaten raw, because it loses a lot of flavour when cooked. The plant is compact and grows slowly. ‘Biquinho Iracema’ is well-adapted to growth in pots. It takes 85 to 90 days to reach maturity.
7. Profi-Frutti Cherry tomato
The Profi-Frutti series are indeterminate plants that were selected for their excellent productivity. The Profi-Frutti Cherry cultivar has round, glossy, deep red cherry-type tomatoes. The Brix, a scale that measures sugars, is 10 °Bx for this tomato, making it very tasty and sweet. It takes approximately 90 days after transplanting to reach maturity.
If you are planning on visiting Quebec this summer, stop at one of the program’s three assessment gardens and vote for your favourite vegetables and annuals. Who knows, maybe your “favourite” plant will become an Exceptionnelle in 2020!
Annie Champagne is the project communications manager at the Fédération interdisciplinaire de l’horticulture ornementale du Québec. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.