Coasting through California: A look at the 2018 California Spring Trials
By Greta Chiu
Photographs can be beautiful, but nothing quite beats the rush of seeing new varieties in real life.
Joining the Cornell University tour group for this year’s California Spring Trials (CAST), I got to see first-hand the new varieties being rolled out for 2018/2019. Following a very ambitious four-day itinerary, here were my highlights. Note that we were not able to visit all the breeders.
Note: varieties marked “experimental” are approximately two years from market and will not be available for 2019.
1. Linaria Fantasista: This vibrant series is extra dwarfed, blooms extra early, has good basal branching and can tolerate mild frosts and short-duration freezes down to -4 degrees Celsius.
2. Trilogy Purple Vein (experimental): True to its name, this experimental addition to the hybrid petunia series Trilogy has a vein-like appearance. This series is meant to use fewer PGRs, have a longer shelf life and be low maintenance in the garden.
3. Delphinium grandiflorum (experimental): A striking blue colour, this experimental line also comes in a light pink. Meant for garden or cut flowers.
4. Helianthus Marley (experimental): A gorgeous bicolour sunflower line reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting, with long shelf life and multiple blooms.
5. Capsicum Onyx Red: Its dark foliage is attractive enough standalone, even before fruiting.
Ball Horticultural Co.
6. Coreopsis Super Star: A new perennial coreropsis hybrid with large yellow flowers and strokes of red across its petals.
7. Dianthus Corona Strawberry: Large, multi-tone blooms are the focal point of this variety, with uniform flowering time and compact, mounded habit. Patterning is wonderfully varied with solid, bicolour and picotee. Great performance in cool weather.
8. Drift Roses: These compact, groundcover roses bloom repeatedly over the season and come in nine different colours. Great for filling garden space.
9. Helichrysum Silver Threads: Uniquely shaped needle-like foliage paired with an attractive silvery colour, this variety goes well in combinations and gardens.
10. Lavandula Avignon Early Blue: This new lavender flowers earlier than similar English lavenders. Needing just a 10.5 to 11-hour initiation period in lower temperature greenhouses; no PGRs and no pinching required.
11. AmeriHybrid Picotee Tuberous Begonia: These large, full bicolour blooms either have light edge on dark petals, or dark edges on light petals.
Not pictured: Perpetua Blueberry, Dianthus Mountain Frost and City Lights Dahlia.
12. STREAM Lobularia: New this year are ‘lilac’ and ‘snow’. Not only is this series pollinator-friendly, it’s early flowering and emits a beautiful floral scent. Long-lasting flowers, mounded habit and lots of blooms.
13. Sunstrong Bicolor Purple: New for the season and only available in North America and Japan, this large Erysimum linifolium will continue to flower and maintain its colour throughout the season.
14. AMORE Queen of Hearts: One of their best sellers, the striking colours draw attention. Early flowering with a mounded habit.
Not pictured: Harmony Blush Impatiens.
15. Calla Pink Arrow: This compact, medium-tall series can be grown for cut flowers or for landscaping and can be stored year-round. A beautiful colour on an elegant bloom.
16. I’Conia Portofino Champagne: A gorgeous new mixed-colour addition to this hybrid begonia line that loves both sun and shade and transports well.
17. Party in a Box: Just one example of their new pre-mixed planters. All the components are shipped at once, and selections all finish on the same day. This one shows great contrast.
18. Poinsettia Golden Glo: Who says poinsettias are only for Christmas? Extend the season with autumn colours like this Golden Glo.
Not pictured: Main Street Coleus Ocean Drive.
19. Echeveria Coral Reef: An Echeveria gibbiflora hybrid, this variety is meant for summer production due to its slow growth and warm temperature requirements.
20. Lupine Staircase: Unlike traditional lupine, this perennial series flowers continuously.
21. Dianthus Constant Cadence: This day-neutral series requires no vernalization and offers the same bloom time across colours. Available in a number of colours. ‘Milk cherry’ opens up white and turns cherry.
Not pictured: Lavender Madrid Lush.
22. Helleborus Winterbells: Not new but worth a look, this early and abundantly flowering variety produces unique lime green flowers.
23. Kaylee: This small-stature, potted carnation features large, bicolour blooms and a subtle floral scent. Cute and elegant.
24. Mooodz: This echinacea is propagated using tissue culture, resulting in full, beautiful plants within a short time frame.
25. Superbells HOLY series: With names like ‘Holy Moly!’ (bestseller), ‘Holy Cow!’ (new, yellow with blue-purple splotches) and ‘Holy Smokes!’ (new, yellow with pink splotches), what’s not to love about these calibrachoa hybrids? Unique colour splotches are reminiscent of colouring with crayons.
26. Diamond Mountain Euphorbia: A low maintenance plant that’s great for landscaping and in mixes. It may start to drop leaves in the fall, but not the flowers.
27. Truffula Pink Gomphrena: Adorned with hot pink blooms like mini pom-poms, this variety makes a great “thriller” in the garden and maintains its height with good scaffolding. Great as cut flowers.
28. Rockin’ Fuchsia: Say hello to the world’s first fuchsia-coloured salvia with dark-coloured sepals and a black calyx. Pollinators love this plant, too.
29. Coral creations succulents: Note that Proven Winners has delayed the sale of this succulent collection in order to build stock. Varieties were chosen for their lasting colour and shape, even up to 9 months.
Not pictured: Amazel basil is the first Italian sweet basil with downy mildew resistance, it flowers extremely late and is sterile, meaning more leaves and more consistent flavour. One pinch to finish. For tomatoes, both Garden Gem (cherry, determinate) and Garden Treasure (larger, indeterminate) were developed for heirloom taste, disease resistance and high yields.
30. Harmony Double: Hardy to zone 5, this double flower anemone series is sister to Harmony. Comes in three colours.
31. Lisianthus Voyage 2: Large flowers with an elegant, spilling fringe. Comes in eight unique colours.
32. Pink Fizz Coleus: This is the latest addition to the Party Time series. Instead of an upright habit, it’s mounding, compact and dense.
33. Citrus Mix Color Max: this mix of giant violas offers great contrast and large blooms. A mix of ‘clear yellow’, ‘clear orange’ and popcorn.
34. SuperCal Petchoa: A cross between calibrachoa and petunia, this series of petchoa hybrids offers vibrant colours and large flowers. It can better tolerate heat and pH than calibrachoa, and doesn’t get as beaten down by rain as typical petunia. Pictured here is ‘Premium French Vanila’.
35. Sakata Home Grown: These compact, container-friendly plants need to taste and look good. New “Lola” sweet banana peppers come in three colours, ranging from light yellow to bright red.
36. Sunpatiens Vigorous Red: First discovered in Indonesia, this series of interspecific impatiens is more robust in cooler climates, and blooms in extreme heat. This latest red is an attention-grabber.
37. Perennials: Having relaunched their perennial genetics in the last year, their display included Kirigami Aquilegia, Delphina Delphinium (open-pollinated, naturally compact), Phlox trot (more vigorous type with large flowers), Scent Lavender (earliest and most programmable English lavender with more consistent flowering), Western Star Leucanthemum (first-year flowering white daisy with a long flowering window).
38. Sunfinity: Pre-launched last year and appeared earlier at Canada Blooms, Sunfinity produces hundreds of blooms all through the season – hence its slightly higher price. Because of its free-branching and vigorous habit, Syngenta compared different PGR treatments in trials (check out the results on their website).
39. Snapdragons: Their snapdragon genetics are earlier to flower and have stronger stem strengths for better post-harvest quality. With the exception of scarlet, all the colours of their latest Snaptini dwarf snapdragons flower within the same week – helpful for production planning.
40. Delta Speedy: These pansies offer fast crop times even under short days. The yellow and purple ones are particularly gorgeous.
41. Moxie! Geraniums: These interspecific geraniums offer new, rich colour options with densely branched habits.
42. Goblet cyclamen: Because most commercial varieties look very similar, Varinova offers special varieties that appeal to different markets, such as Globlet, a well-received variety in Japan. Speaking with Bart Kuijer, cyclamen could be a great option for landscaping in Canada thanks to its ability to withstand colder temperatures, even when covered with snow.