Greenhouse Canada

Day One of the California Spring Trials

April 2, 2017  By Dave Harrison

April 1, 2017, California – Four-and-a-half hours into my first trans-U.S. flight, and enroute to my very first California Spring Trials, and I’m looking out from my window seat … and all I see is cloud cover. The flight started with cloud as we took off from Pearson Airport in an ugly, persistent drizzle. Nothing but clouds. For hours.

Not even the generous portions of delectable WestJet pretzels could lighten my mood, though the salt did wonders for my blood pressure.

My disposition had been upbeat in planning the trip, and I was looking forward to jetting out to the “Golden State” for a week of warm temperatures, sunny skies and plenty of plants to ponder.


But the trip was off to a gloomy start.

But then, almost on cue, the clouds parted, and I was flying over what I believed to be – only because we were less than an hour from landing – the state of California. And it was SUNNY… and I expected it to be warm, too, though that’s a hard call to make when you’re 39,000 feet aloft.

After our usual Canadian winters that are long on cold and snow and short on wool toques and Vicks Vapour Rub, I felt I was owed a week of shirt sleeves and sandals (though sandals with socks, of course, because this is a business trip afterall).

Los Angeles was everything I thought it would be … with a series of traffic snarls to dampen my pace as I headed north towards my first home away from home this week in Oxnard.

But as the traffic lightened, and I finally figured out how some of the do-dads and gadgets in my rental vehicle worked, including how to lower the radio volume, I was taken in by the beauty of the road. The hills/mountains were breathtaking, almost as breathtaking as my learning early on in the drive that motorcyclists here can apparently zip up between lanes of cars on a whim. I think they call it “lane splitting.” I call it “nerve wracking.” It may be legal, but it is discouraged. It does take your breath away the first time a rider blows by you less than a metre from your side mirror.


So…after that extended preamble, I’ve finally completed my first day of the Trials, taking in the displays at Ball Horticultural. I’ll be visiting as many trial sites as I can this week, given my navigational shortcomings even with GPS, and will be posting highlights nightly.

Note that a full report of my trip, with interviews and more photos, will be published in our summer editions.

PHOTO ONE: Some plants are especially popular with gardeners who want to taste the fruits of their labours, including this strawberry plant from Ball Ingenuity. Ball offers both ‘Sweet Kiss’ and ‘Cupido’ ever-bearing varieties. I avoided the temptation to sample this low-hanging fruit as a courtesy to my fellow Spring Trials attendees who will follow. But I’m wagering this berry won’t last the week.

PHOTO TWO: Big things do indeed come in small packages. Florence Vaux of Morel Diffusion poses with two of the Smartiz Fantasia Series cyclamen. These mini performers are big on consumer appeal, and I can see them being big for impulse buys. The series features bright and intense colours with very long flowering. The new colours are ‘Purple’ and ‘Magenta.’

PHOTO THREE: A number of cut flowers from PanAmerican Seed were featured. The cut flower segment doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but I can see it changing.

PHOTO FOUR: The SolarTower™ Series, described as the first self-climbing ipomoea, is proving to be an effective “thriller” in combinations, as seen here. Sharing the spotlight is another newcomer this year, ‘Can-Can® Bumble Bee Pink,’ which features a star, eye, picotee and is a tri-colour – it’s a floral multi-tasker. Rounding out this exciting combo is Angelonia Archangel Purple.

PHOTO FIVE: The Blockbuster Tomato Take 2 combo series from Burpee Home Gardens includes ‘BushSteak Beefsteak and ‘Indigo™ Fireball small-fruited tomato in a single container. This combination of a beefsteak variety and a cherry tomato produces tomatoes all season long. Also joining the Take 2 series this year is Director’s Cut Pepper Combo, which includes ‘Tangerine Dream’ and ‘Lemon Dream.’ The peppers are great for snacking.

PHOTO SIX: ‘Batting Eyes’ is one of the new additions to the Trixi® lineup of popular mixed containers from Selecta. ‘Batting Eyes’ contains ‘MiniFamous Neo Coral+Red Eye,’ ‘MiniFamous Neo Orange Red Eye,’ and ‘MiniFamous Neo Yellow+Red Vein’ calibrachoa.

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