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Growing in the Green: August 2010

July 20, 2010  By Melhem Sawaya

This is the second part of Melhem’s two-part recap of his tours of the
California Breeders  Showcase, more commonly called the California
Spring Trials. Part One in July provided a backgrounder of the Trials,
including notes on the many merchandising ideas breeders are developing
to boost more consumer sales.

Increasing your market share requires much imagination and merchandising panache


Editor’s note: This is the second part of Melhem’s two-part recap of his tours of the California Breeders  Showcase, more commonly called the California Spring Trials. Part One in July provided a backgrounder of the Trials, including notes on the many merchandising ideas breeders are developing to boost more consumer sales. To review that introduction, go to our website and check out Part One in our “Past Issues” section. In this report, Melhem looks at a number of other varieties that caught his eye.


Garvinea (1) is a new series of gerbera that have smaller blooms but more of them. This series is good in pots with some adjustment in production compared to other series. The hope is that it will do well in landscapes so it can be used as a bedding plant. We have Garvinea in our Sawaya Garden Trials and I am looking forward to seeing how it performs outdoors.

The explosion of of ipomea in the market, and in particular ‘Sweet Georgia Mix’ (2), is because most look good and are self-branching and vigorous. Ipomea is very popular in mixed containers and sales as a 10-centimetre pot this past season were strong. The lime-coloured leaf should be 75 per cent of your production.

‘Violet’ (3) is a new addition to the Blanket Series. It is an excellent grower and, as the name says, it really grows to blanket a large area of the landscape or puts on an excellent show in large hanging baskets. Along with being vigorous growers, Blanket Petunias also bloom early.

‘Beaucoup White’ (4) is another series of Begonia boliviensis. Many new series are now available since ‘Bonfire’ was introduced a few years ago. The genus Begonia boliviensis was discovered in 1864 in Bolivia. ‘Beaucoup White’ is one colour in this series that likes to branch more than other varieties. Remember, this was a new introduction in a show – the real test will come in commercial production and garden trials.

Angelonia, or as some call it Summer Snaps, is one of the best garden performer genera but its excellent performance is not matched by sales numbers. ‘Pink’ (5) is one colour in the Actor Series that is self-branching and flexible compared to some other varieties. Angelonia are excellent in containers, flowerbeds and combinations. It is a top performer in our trials and a favourite of mine. We include angelonia in our home garden every year.

Dahlia ‘Dahlinova Hypnotica Rose Bicolour’ (6) and ‘Dahlinova Hypnotica Bronze Bicolour’ (10) are two colours in this series that are excellent garden performers. They grow well the entire summer, never stop blooming and are excellent in landscapes.

‘Pink Picotee’ (7) is a new addition to the Fortunia petunia family. ‘Picotee’ has a nice bloom colour, but the plant habit is too upright – it’s great in the early stages but it falls apart when it matures. Like many of the new petunia introductions bred for early flowering with an upright habit, they look great for 10 days… and then they fall apart.

‘Light Blue’ (8) is a new colour to the calibrachoa Colour Expression Series. It has a mounding habit with an excellent ratio of flowers to foliage. Calibrachoa is great alone in baskets or pots, for ground beds and in combinations. Calibrachoa is still the fastest growing genus in production and sales numbers. A well-grown, toned calibrachoa is hard to top – it always puts on the most beautiful display!

If you are still looking for a Double Wave Petunia, ‘Double Wave Red’ (9) is a new introduction to the double flower Wave Series. Double Wave flowers later than regular-size, large flower petunias and the flowers don’t do very well in rainy seasons; however, in high light, sunny weather, they have a great show. The Double Wave adds a lot of class and considerable value to any combination.

‘Master Idols Scarlet Red’ (11) is a large geranium variety like all the others in the series. It is great for one-plant-per-large-pot (20 cm) production or one centre cutting in large combinations as it grows tall so other plants will not drown it. This variety provided vibrant colours and excellent garden performance in our trials last year so we have the whole series in our Trials again this summer.

‘Begonia Gryphon’ (12) is grown for its colourful foliage and is started from seed. One plug will produce a 10 cm pot in six weeks. It being new on the market, I’d recommend only limited trials in your greenhouse until production, market and garden performance testing have been completed.

Begonia ‘Sherbet BonBon’ (13) features an eruption of colour with a low habit. It is excellent in full sun to part shade, and is great in mass plantings.

Yes, we have a black petunia! ‘Black Velvet’ (14) and its cousins, ‘Phantom’ (15) and ‘Pinstripe’ (16), are the results of a breakthrough breeding process that results in a black-flowered petunia. Because it is new in many ways, begin only with trials on a small scale until you know where it fits into your greenhouse/garden centre operation.

‘Patchwork-Peach Prism’ (17) is a new impatiens with a two-tone colour scheme per flower. It showed excellent habit at the California Showcase with a good  ratio of flowers to foliage. It is very vibrant and shows potential of good sales if  marketed properly.

‘Piccadilly Dark Salmon’ (18) is a good trailing diascia with loads of flowers that are excellent in mixed containers in the spring as well as in fall mixed containers – especially towards Halloween.

Nemesia Serengeti ‘Upright Dark Violet’ (19) and ‘Serengeti Flan de Cocoa’ (20) are two colours in this series that grow upright with a good ratio of flowers to foliage. Both are excellent in early mixed containers where colour is important and give good contrast with any combination.

Anisodontea ‘Slightly Strawberry’ (21) is an upright plant with loads of pink flowers that will make an excellent colourful shrub. Good in landscapes and containers, it also adds beauty to any combination. It lasts until frost and flowers the whole summer.

‘Goldilocks Rocks’ (22) is a new breeding that has loads of yellow flowers on sturdy, full stems and thicker foliage compared to other bidens.

‘Simply Sensational’ (23) is a different heliotrope in the sense that it grows much more vigorously than other heliotropes. It can grow in large containers or landscapes, which will form a large mound of excellent foliage and lots of flowers. Also, it is great in combinations in large containers.

Mecardonia ‘Gold Dust’ (24) is a globe of green, shiny foliage crowned with hundreds of little yellow flowers. Try it alone or in combinations.

‘Sunsatia Coconut Improved’ (25) is the new breeding that is going back somewhat to the older upright variety of nemesia, where it is much sturdier and more resistant to viruses. Nemesia always adds considerable value to any combination.

‘Blueberry’ (26) is another colour added to the phlox Intensia Series. This is an excellent summer plant that is very floriferous up to the point where you cannot see any foliage. Target phlox sales toward the end of May, because producing them early does not give the plant time to display its real performance. They’re excellent in 15 cm containers or
larger, or in mixed containers.

Mandevilla ‘Sun Parasol Pretty Crimson’ (27) is upright and trailing with small dark green foliage that is topped with flowers, especially in hot bright summer weather.

Calibrachoa Million Bells is regrouped into two different groups: Million Bells Trailing (28) and Million Bells Mounding (29). This is very important information when you are trying to mix two colours of the series to enable a synergy of growing habits.

The same is done to the petunia Surfinia Series. Surfinia Trialing (30) and Surfinia Mounding (31) are the two groupings of Surfinia. This important differentiation allows the growers to know what to expect growth wise in vigour and habit. This differentiation is very important in combinations with petunia or other genera.

DeSana (32) is another fairly new series that is compact compared to other ipomea, giving growers more choices.

Helichrysum ‘Silver Yellow Leaf’ (33) features a bushy fine leaf structure with small yellow flowers, which makes this variety excellent for combinations where it does not overpower the other plants but enhances them.

‘Flutterby Yellow’ (34) is a new argyranthemum that is supposed to flower earlier than the ‘Butterfly’ argyranthemum. A little more compact and sturdy a plant, it will be great to see the difference in our garden trials this summer.

‘Stained Glassworks Green Autry’ (35) and ‘Stained Glassworks Eruption’ (36) are the two additions to the Stained Glass Series. Coleus is excellent in landscapes, sun or shade, and various container combinations. Try some combinations made up of only different varieties of coleus with some other foliage species, such as talinum.

‘Vigorous Pink’ (37) and ‘Spreading Corona’ (38) are the two additions to the Impatiens Sunpatiens Series. This series has excellent garden performance, especially in spacious gardens with large evergreens or other shrubs. Its excellent growing habit could be too vigorous for small pot sizes but plants could be sold in 10 cm pots as long as they are not given too much growing time. However, Sunpatiens shine in large pots or large landscapes.

The osteospermum Cresando Series (39) is a very floriferous series with bright flowers that will bloom throughout summer. Cresando is a definite enhancement to any combination including a mix of its own colours.

As always, I remind you these are mainly new introductions so trial them this year, increase the varieties you like by 10 per cent next year, see how the demand develops, and then you will know how to produce them successfully. Also, be sure to visit garden trials like the Sawaya Garden Trials being held on Aug. 11. Come and see how they perform under Ontario weather conditions. See website in author’s bio below for more information.

Many more varieties will be covered at the Canadian Greenhouse Conference in October, where I will share with you how the variety performances in Ontario compared to those in California. ■

Melhem Sawaya of Focus Greenhouse Management is a consultant and research coordinator to the horticultural industry. Comments on this or any other article are always welcome via, or visit or .

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