Greenhouse Canada

Day 6: When Silicon Valley Meets Big Begonias

April 7, 2017  By Dave Harrison

APRIL 6, 2017, Watsonville, CA – What happens When Silicon Valley Meets Big Begonias? That was the theme Benary tackled with its California Spring Trials open house, my last stop on the tour.

Silicon Valley is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Benary site. It has produced many of the high-tech gizmos we now take for granted.

Horticulture is indeed embracing new technologies at a quick pace, though perhaps not as fast as our customers.

  • Benary produced an imaginative virtual reality presentation largely showing their product line as if seen through the eyes of a bee. The virtual reality was amazing; you really felt you were buzzing among the plants.
  • The company has new seed bags with a QR code. Growers can scan the code at any time for information on their seeds, especially germination rates (which the company continually checks with ongoing trials). If the seed pack has been on the shelf a few months, these updates a important.
  • Self-monitoring/watering pots were displayed (not a Benary product). Homeowners can regularly check in on their plants wherever they are for the latest information on growing conditions.
  • A solar-powered, self-watering pot was also showcased. Plant care really doesn’t get any easier than this.

PHOTO ONE: Is this the future of pollination? Automated pollinator drones may soon be essential if bee populations fall significantly. The technology is just a tweak or two away from reality. Let’s hope we never need this option.
They also offered helicopter rides, which were literally a great pick-me-up after seven days on the road and perhaps a few hours too many behind the wheel. What’s wrong with adding a little escape time from the trials, even if it’s at a thousand feet or so?
But the focus is on the plants, and there were many new varieties displayed.

PHOTO TWO: John Greenwood, Australia sales manager for Benary, with Whopper Begonia. This is the ideal landscape plant, or the focal point in large containers in either baskets or mixes. Versatile, it fine in full sun to full shade, and performs well in all regions. They are 20 to 25 per cent larger than the Big Begonias.

PHOTO THREE: This is the first Calocephalus from seed. It is heat and cold tolerant and ideal as a fall crop and accent plant in beds. And my prediction is that it’s going to be a favourite with many combo designers.

PHOTO FOUR: ‘White Purple Wing’ is one of two additions to the Admire® viola lineup. The series is comfortable in either fall or spring production. Admire is quite uniform and the flowers don’t fade. There are 15 colours and nine mixes.

PHOTO FIVE: The Samira verbena series from Volmary works well in pots or hanging baskets. The flowers are large and the plant is well branched with a mounded trailing habit. The series is mildew tolerant and you can expect a strong show of blooms right up to the first frost.

PHOTO SIX: ‘Dark Lavender’ is a new addition to the Grandeur pelargonium series of Volmary. The flowers and foliage have good contrast, and the plant displays plenty of flower power. It has good basal branching, a compact habit. And is easy to ship. It is very heat tolerant.

Benary and Volmary are now working together on a joint venture called Benary+. It will sell directly to growers, as well as through its regular broker network.

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