‘Exceptionnelle’ new varieties

May 05, 2009
Written by Claude Vallée
Trial Coordinator Claude Vallée
Despite last summer’s wet weather, which did nothing to encourage garden visits, more than 2,500 people (for a total of 10,119 votes) helped in the selection of “Exceptionelles 2009” at Jardin Daniel A. Séguin at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec.

This level of participation by “Exceptionelles 2009” visitors speaks volumes about the public interest in this annual project.

This popular program identifies promising new varieties for introduction into the province’s gardens. For the 2009 season, eight annuals were selected to receive “Exceptionelle” designation. As always, the same formula was used to determine the winners from among public and expert judges. A small change this year involved dropping the “Top 10” formula to put more emphasis on plant performance and consumer satisfaction.

Also new this year is the fact that all point-of-sale promotional material for the project – posters, labels, table skirts, identification cards, etc. – will now be available at Horticolor Canada, and with a much wider range of choice. And the winners are … 

Pennisetum setaceum rubrum ‘Fireworks’
Pennisetum setaceum rubrum ‘Fireworks’
Height: 45-60 cm
Width: 40-50 cm
Exposure: Full sun
Spacing: 40 cm
Application: In groups or isolated, in containers or arrangements.
The craze for pennisetum does not fade. The ‘Fireworks’ variety was the public favourite in 2008, accumulating more than 400 votes. Fireworks is part of the popular Pennisetum setaceum Rubrum family, and boasts vertical stripes of white, pink and purple on its foliage. The intensity of its stem colouration varies according to plant and temperature, and appears by surprise like fireworks, hence the name. Bred in the laboratory by in vitro culture, some variability has been seen in the past from one supplier to another for this plant, an issue that seems to have been resolved by the breeder (Creek Hill).

Solenostemon scutellarioides (coleus) ‘Henna’
Solenostemon scutellarioides (coleus) ‘Henna’
Height: 18-24 cm
Width: 14-16 cm
Exposure: Shade or sun
Spacing: 16-20 cm
Application: In groups or isolated, in containers and arrangements.
Wow! ‘Henna’ will not go unnoticed with its serrated foliage (in the form of small pointed teeth pointing upwards) showing green/chartreuse copper colouration on top and purple underneath. It is quite uniform and does not flower at all (thus, all its energy goes into the production of leaves). A versatile plant, it is perfect for shade or sun and is resistant to insects and diseases. The attached photo was taken in partial shade (50 per cent sunlight). It is produced from cuttings (Ball Flora Plant).

Celosia plumosa ‘Chinatown’ 
Celosia plumosa ‘Chinatown’
Height: 35-40 cm
Width: 20-25 cm
Exposure: Full sun
Spacing: 15-20 cm
Application: In groups, containers and arrangements.
This celosia was the public’s second favourite plant. Comparable to the ‘New Look’ variety, ‘Chinatown’ has a stronger visual impact due to the even more brilliant colour of red buds. This Fleuroselect winner is an annual that produces abundant flowers and is supported on strong stems that do not tend to collapse at the end of the season. Its dark foliage highlights the richness of its flowers. This is a hardy plant that does not go unnoticed. It is produced from seed (Tezier).

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Tiger Eye Gold’  
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Tiger Eye Gold’
Height: 40-60 cm
Width: 50-60 cm
Exposure: Full sun
Spacing: 40-50 cm
Application: In groupings, containers, and arrangements.
This is the world’s first commercial variety F1 hybrid rudbeckia. Its hybrid vigour provides for uniform growth, abundant and early flowering, impressive basal pruning, and good recovery after transplanting. The dense plants are covered extensively in semi-double flowers.

This compact variety does not tend to open in late season and is much less susceptible to powdery mildew than others on the market. Use it in combination with ‘Salvia Cathedral Deep Blue’ (see later in the feature) and you’ll have a hit on your hands. It is produced from seed (Goldsmith).

Lantana camara ‘Luscious Citrus Blend’
Lantana camara ‘Luscious Citrus Blend’
Height: 25-35 cm
Width: 25-35 cm
Exposure: Full sun
Spacing: 25-30 cm
Application: In groups or isolated, containers and arrangements.
This is one powerful lantana variety! Its growth is compact, dense and generous. It is covered with small red-orange to yellow flowers, giving a lively and vibrant tone to its blooms. The pink flower buds create an effect that quite simply forces you to contemplate this spectacle of colours. This plant loves warm, sunny places, is drought resistant, attracts butterflies, and is not grazed by deer. As a bonus, a delicate, sweet fragrance emanates from its flowers. It is produced from cuttings (Proven Winners).

Bracteantha x hybrida ‘Yellow Strawburst’
Bracteantha x hybrida ‘Yellow Strawburst’
Height: 12-14 cm
Width: 14-18 cm
Exposure:Full sun or light shade
Spacing: 15-20 cm
Application: In groupings, containers and arrangements.
Rare are yellows this intense and bright, making this a truly eye-catching plant. The flowers are huge for a brac-teantha, and are abundant and consistent throughout the summer. The compact plant growth and the strength of its stems allows it to easily maintain its structure during the whole season, without risk of collapse. Flowering is constant and sustained throughout the season and even longer if one takes the time to remove old blooms. Another positive observation – despite a wet summer last year, this variety was affected only very late in the season by disease. It is produced from cuttings (Syngenta).

Impatiens hakewi ‘Celebrette Icy Blue’

  Impatiens hakewi ‘Celebrette Icy Blue’
Height: 20-25 cm
Width: 25-30 cm
Exposure: Shade
Spacing: 25-35 cm
Application: In groupings, containers and arrangements.
This Exceptionnelle is perfect for shade and partial shade. The size of the flowers is impressive. It has compact growth and impressive stems. Plants retain their rounded form throughout the season and the dark green foliage highlights the spectacular flowering of this plant. It is produced from cuttings (Ball Flora Plant).

Salvia farinacea ‘Deep Blue Cathedral’

Salvia farinacea ‘Deep Blue Cathedral’
Height: 45-60 cm
Width: 30-60 cm
Exposure: Full sun
Spacing: 25-35 cm
Selected for its larger flowers compared to other salvia, the ‘Deep Blue’ Cathedral variety of the series was chosen by the public because of its generous, dark lavender flowering. The size of the blooms gives more volume to the presentation and its abundant flowering is amplified and supported by generous branches, making for a solid, well-supported and robust plant. Not particularly sensitive to insects and diseases, this variety blends well with most of our other Exceptionnelles. It is produced from cuttings (Bodger).

Claude Vallée is professor and coordinator of technological innovation in horticulture, Institute of Agr-food Technology, Saint-Hyacinthe campus, and can be reached at 450-778-6504 ext 6400,or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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