Cloudy skies, cool temperatures are no match for CAST 2023
Growers at this year’s California Spring Trials overcome numerous challenges to share their breeding breakthroughs and stunning series
July 14, 2023 By Rodger Tschanz
This year’s trip to the California Spring Trials (CAST) in late March was characterized by below-normal temperatures and wet weather. These cool overcast conditions, in some cases, played havoc with programming finished plants for CAST. The creeks, rivers, and reservoirs we drove past were full of water. It became evident when visiting the various breeder locations what challenges many had faced in getting ready for this year’s CAST. Flooding, washed out roads, and frost were just some of those challenges that had to be met so the CAST show could go on.
This article will focus primarily on outdoor annuals. Other plant types encountered at CAST will be covered in subsequent issues of this magazine.
PanAmerican Seed (PAS) – Santa Paula
The new Petchoa Caliburst Yellow (1) is produced from seed. A reliable, seed propagated, intergeneric cross between Petunia and Calibrachoa producing a stable colour and growth form is a breeding breakthrough! It is currently available in yellow only, but breeding is continuing to bring more colours to the marketplace. This cross brings the best characteristics of petunia and calibrachoa together in one plant.
FuzzyFern Frizz (2) – Every little bit helps. This is how I would describe PAS’s move to improve seed quality of asparagus fern for the grower. Up until now, the seed for this popular filler plant was collected from a wild collection of plants. With this approach, seed availability numbers were unpredictable, and rates of germination were poor. With the goal of improving seed quality and germination, Fuzzy Fern was born. The seed of selection of Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’, will have germination rates of more than 80 per cent.
The Sweet Talk series of cuphea (3) is new from PAS. It is available in deep pink, lavender splash, and red colours. It is a vigorous grower and benefits from a PGR application early in propagation to keep it manageable during production and to enhance branching. This is a heat lover and a good option for spring/summer production.
The new Premium Sun Coral Candy coleus (4) is an AAS national winner. It has narrow, serrated leaves with a striking coral-pink centre. Like others in this series, it is a seed propagated coleus that can tolerate both sun and shade.
There is a lot happening with dianthus from Selecta One, including ongoing testing for winter hardiness but I’m going to focus on two new series: Capitàn (5) and Vivacia (6). The Capitàn series is vigorous and available in seven bicolours; it produces showy double flowers that are fragrant. The Vivacia series has seven solid colours, with great uniformity between colours. It can reach heights of 41 cm and is ideal for containers as well as the landscape.
Brightside (7) is a new series of Erysimum. It has five colours ranging from yellow to purple. It is daylength neutral, doesn’t require vernalization and has a continuous bloom habit. It’s a good choice for sales in early to late spring.
The new Whimsy (8) series of nemesia has large, fragrant blooms and a uniform compact habit. Maximum height of 30 cm.
Ball FloraPlant (BFP)
Ball FloraPlant has no new series this year but lots of interesting plants and some standalone types that could lead to future series development. One that immediately jumps to mind is the new lantana, Passion Fruit (9). This trailing lantana has a unique habit, different from the other lantana series from Ball FloraPlant.
A vegetative cleome called ‘Lavender Dreams’ (10) has been added to the BFP lineup. It is compact with heights reaching 81 cm. It has soft thorns, is heat and drought tolerant, and is pollinator friendly.
BFP made the leap this year to organize its coleus offerings into collections which position coleus cultivars (11) by different growth habit and vigour as a guide to growers. MicroBlaze is the most compact while Volcanica and TrailBlazer are at the other end of the spectrum and are the most vigorous. Solar Flare is a new to the lineup and a member of the Volcanica collection; its leaves are patterned with warm yellows, reds and burgundy colours and a highly indented leaf margin.
Celebrations (12) is a new series of Anigozanthus or kangaroo paw. It has four striking colours including a unique blue selection. With heights up to 48 cm, it is suitable for container applications. It likes hot and dry growing conditions, but it is recommended that these plants be grown in partially shaded conditions to help maintain their rich colour.
Another unique plant being introduced is a selection of Tecoma stans. The series name is Kalama (13) and it has three colours, all named after tropical fruit: Blood Orange, Papaya and Pomegranate. It has a compact habit reaching 61 cm making it suitable for small containers and spaces. This plant is a heat lover.
A new standalone begonia being introduced is called Emerald Ring (14). It is a cane type begonia with velvety green leaves, stamped with a silvery ring. It grows with a trailing, branching habit only reaching heights of 28 cm but spreading to 41cm.
GreenFuse, Beekenkamp, Westhoff, Hem Genetics – Somis
From GreenFuse is the new Majec (15) series of Arctotis. This plant group’s look might be best described as an osteospermum with silver foliage. It has the same cultural issues that are faced with osteospermum as well. It grows poorly under hot, humid conditions but works well in the spring or fall.
The Petunia Blanket (16) Silver Surprise was introduced last year by GreenFuse and quickly became the No. 1 selling selection in the Blanket series. The “surprise” with this plant is that one plant can produce flower colours in purple, lavender and white with a large percentage of half one colour and half another, depending on growing temperatures.
Beekenkamp has released Grace (17), a new series of interspecific pelargonium with a zonal habit. Its release comes with 12 colours, nine of which are quite vigorous in habit. Also on display was a numbered variety of orange begonia that was getting a lot of attention. Hopefully it will make the cut and get a name for next year.
Westhoff – The Crazytunia series has added more colours to an already deep lineup. Gingersnap (18) and Cosmic Violet caught my eye this year. Four colours of polka dot plant, or Hypoestes, come together to form the Lotty Dotty series, a new addition to Westhoff’s Fancy Fillers lineup.
Suntory – Santa Barbara
One of the unique plants that stood out at the Suntory stop was a vigorous peach-coloured mandevilla called Sun Parasol Giant Peach Surprise (19). New colours were also unveiled for the Catharanthus, Soiree Kawaii (Paprika Red) and Soiree Flamenco (Salsa Red) series (20). This latter series has a unique ruffled petal habit.
Dümmen Orange (DO) – San Luis Obispo
Ballerina (21) is a new fuchsia series from DO. Selections for this series were screened for daylength neutrality in flowering, excellent branching, and heat tolerance. The early flowering and compact habit make this series a great fit for 4” production. There are eight colours now available with cultivar names inspired by terms used in ballet.
DO has two new series of Dipladenia. The Flordenia (22) series is well branched and has a compact mounding habit that is relatively drought tolerant. There are eight colours in this series.
A new coleus series also made its debut at CAST. The Down Town (23) series is characterized by a fine texture created by multi-toned narrow leaves. It has a compact habit and is both sun and shade tolerant. There are currently seven colours in the series, each named after an American city; with a little lobbying, perhaps a Canadian city can be added to the lineup.
The Revelation series of dahlia (24) is replacing the Mystic series. It has uniform timing and habit within the series. There are five new colours, each with semi-double flowers that are held well above the contrasting dark green foliage. Its vigour makes it suitable for large containers and the landscape.
The Potunia (25) and Potunia Plus series of petunias have been revamped. A plant that grew like a bubble was the plant habit desired by the marketplace. This form suited the Potunia Plus series and anything not fitting that form has been dropped from the catalogue. In the future, only the Potunia Plus series name will remain. This unified series exhibits uniformity of form, vigour, and flower timing. There are currently 15 colours in the series with several having TMV resistance.
Danziger – Gilroy
A new series of compact sweet alyssum has been released from Danziger. The Stream (26) Compact series is perfect for 4” pot production and is available in four matched colours. The compact form will be easy to manage on a greenhouse bench and share space better than the more vigorous types with other species in mixed containers. This compact Lobularia series looks to have a great future in the Danziger lineup.
The new addition to the Trinity (27) series of Diascia is the white-coloured Grace. The large dense bloom clusters are attention grabbing. Already in this series is the orange-coloured Sunset. The Trinity series arose from interspecific breeding and resulted in a strong plant with improved disease and heat tolerance over traditional Diascia cultivars.
Amazonias (28) is a brand new petunia series that currently only has one cultivar but with many more in the pipeline to follow. Plum Cockatoo has a unique beige-to-green-to-plum colour pattern with a ruffled edge. The breeding to create the ruffled green edge also created a thick petal that stands up well to rainy conditions.
The bidens Blazing Star (29) has been receiving a lot of attention at CAST and elsewhere. It has moderate vigour and large yellow blooms marked with a rusty red star pattern. This could be a good fit for fall programs as a replacement for mums in certain instances.
American Takii, Sahin, HilverdaFlorist
American Takii has two new series of hybrid zinnia. The Belize series (30) has single flowers and is available in four colours while Belize Double (31) has double flowers and is available in five colours. Both series are naturally compact and don’t require PGR applications or pinching to control size.
Sahin had on display a compact calendula with a large double lemon-yellow flower appropriately called Double Lemon (32). The flowering stems remain short, making it unsuitable for cut flower applications, but its cold tolerance extend its landscape performance well into the fall.
HilverdaFlorist is known for its successful Garvinea garden gerbera series (33). New colours are released regularly. One of these new introductions is Sweet Sparkle, an all-pink gerbera with pink ray florets and a dark pink centre. This is an improvement over Sweet Spice with its pink ray florets and yellow centre.
Sakata – Salinas
After a hiatus of five years, Sakata’s breeding is revisiting the Calipete (34) series of calibrachoa. It is daylength neutral and naturally small, requiring no PGRs. The new colour released this year is Sunset Orange and many new colours are in the pipeline.
SuperCal Premium Red Maple (35) is the latest SuperCal colour to be introduced. It glows brilliantly in the sun. In the past, SuperCal colour mix ideas targeted the fall market. However, since the SuperCal series of Petchoa is cold and rain tolerant, the spring season has now been targeted as has the summer, giving three seasons of SuperCal possibilities. The spring and summer cutting kits will be available soon.
Another mainstay in the marketplace is the highly successful hybrid impatiens, SunPatiens (36). It’s early to bloom and can handle a wider range of temperatures than the standard New Guinea impatiens. This year, the new bicolour SunPatiens Compact Red Candy has been added to the lineup.
Syngenta – Gilroy
The theme at this year’s Syngenta stop was Pansy Palooza (37). After years of selling the global market leading Delta Premium series of pansy, Syngenta became aware it was time to upgrade and improve its pansy offerings. As a result, a new series, Delta Pro was born. This professional product is highly programmable making it profitable for growers and retailers alike.
Talevera (38) is a new coleus series from Syngenta. There are six colours available. Breeding has selected for vigour, broad leaf shape, tolerance to sun and shade, a late flowering habit and Downy Mildew tolerance. This series has an excellent branching habit and is suitable for 1 gal. production.
Limitless (39) is Syngenta’s new tuberous begonia series propagated from seed; it is meant to compete with the NonStop series. This series will finish up to seven days earlier than the competition. The flower form is large and fully doubled. There are currently eight colours in this series.
The vegetative Adora (40) series of hybrid begonia is happy under both sun and shade conditions. The bloom is characterized by masses of small double flowers which contrast well against the dark foliage. Its mounded habit is suitable for a wide range of container sizes.
The new Dipladenia series from Syngenta is small! With heights reaching 30 cm the series is well named as Madinia Petite (41). It is currently available in pink and red colours and grows well in a 1 qt. container.
Benary – Watsonville
The big reveal at this year’s Benary display was the Stonehedge begonia (42). It is an interspecific hybrid but has different breeding parentage than the BIG and Whopper begonias and is physically larger than them as well while having a smaller bloom diameter. Despite these differences, greenhouse production of Stonehedge and BIG finishes around the same time. Light Pink Bronze Leaf and Rose Bronze Leaf are the only two colour currently available but there are three green leaf cultivars coming soon and more bronze leaf colours under development.
Highflyer (43) is a new spreading and mounding pansy series from Benary meant to compete in the same market as Cool Wave and Freefall. There are currently five colours available in the series including a true bright white and intense yellow.
Pawnee Spirit (44) is a new Rudbeckia hirta release that has a similar flower colour pattern to Denver Daisy but a more compact growth habit. Where Denver Daisy can reach heights of 60 cm, Pawnee Spirit may get to 50 cm. In the majority of Canada, it would be treated as an annual.
Suncrest Nurseries – Watsonville
I’ll spend more time at this site at another time but in this article, I wanted to highlight an innovative approach to propagating cannas. Up to this point I had only heard about tissue culture, rhizome division and seed propagation methods. This year at CAST, the Israeli breeder Saas Assaf presented a new product line called Canny (45) wherein it has figured out how to propagate liners from sprouts on the parent rhizome. Since the parent rhizome is screened for virus, the liners should be virus free. Canny includes an extensive range of flower and foliage colours.
Suncrest was literally my last floral stop before flying home. I will talk about perennials and other things in a subsequent article. I want to thank Greenhouse Canada magazine and Ball Horticultural for supporting my travel and hosting me on my visit to CAST 2023.
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