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Les Exceptionnelles’ exceptional year: Award-winning trialling program to host AAS delegates

April 30, 2008  By Claude Vallée

The Les Exceptionnelles program is held at the
Jardin Daniel A. Séguin at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire
(ITA) in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. Appealing directly to the public, the
trials target new varieties for rapid introduction into the province’s

Coordinator Claude Vallée.

The Les Exceptionnelles program is held at the Jardin Daniel A. Séguin at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire (ITA) in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. Appealing directly to the public, the trials target new varieties for rapid introduction into the province’s gardens.

Last year, more than 2,800 horticulture enthusiasts – some 17 per cent of visitors to the Jardin Séguin – participated in the selection of Les Exceptionnelles 2008. This final list was compiled by a group of horticultural experts who evaluated the 30 plants most preferred by the public according to precise criteria. These include, among others, resistance to disease and public appeal. The selection represents the top performing plants and public favourites, targeted as the best new varieties to promote.


An award-winning

In 2007, media coverage of Les Exceptionnelles equalled more than $1 million in publicity for this innovative program. The winning selections were presented in 15 publications, including four daily newspapers, six gardening and décor magazines, on four television shows and more than 10 websites. The winners were presented to producers and journalists at several industry conferences, and are now found in the circulars of the Botanix and Passions-Jardins garden centre banners. It is the first time that an industry project requiring so little investment has enjoyed so much visibility. Much of the success can be attributed to a winning formula and strong neutrality that was adopted by horticultural journalists and the entire sector.

Jardin Daniel A. Séguin and its partners were honoured by the provincial government for Les Exceptionnelles.

At last fall’s awards banquet held by Québec’s Interdisciplinary Federation for Decorative Horticulture (FIHOQ), the Jardin Daniel A. Séguin and its partners were honoured with the Minister’s Award for the Les Exceptionnelles project. Presented by Québec deputy-minister Jocelyn Cantin, the prize recognizes those innovations providing important outcomes for the entire horticultural sector. It was a stunning and appropriate recognition for this important collective endeavour.

In addition, summer meetings of All-America Selections will be held in Canada this year, including at the Jardin Daniel A. Séguin, confirming and increasing its growing worldwide recognition.

Presented to industry last fall, Les Exceptionnelles 2008 are now being offered to consumers. The winners are:

except1Begonia boliviensis ‘Bonfire’ (photo 1)
The Bolivia ‘Bonfire’ begonia was the public’s favourite, obtaining nearly 400 votes. The jury also awarded it an almost perfect score. Produced from cuttings (Selecta First Class), it best presents itself in containers or hanging baskets, in the sun or light shade. In locations receiving only three hours of sunlight, it will produce longer stems and less abundant flowering. ‘Bonfire’ does not require cleaning of dead flowers.

except2Pennisetum setaceum Rubrum Dwarf, syn. ‘Minimus’ (photo 2)
This variety is a miniature version of the famous Pennisetum setaceum Rubrum, with finer, silkier foliage. This graminaceous plant seduced everyone during the trials, thanks to a compact habit, classic crimson foliage and soft beige flowering with purple-pink reflections. Its stems and inflorescence move gracefully under the faintest of breezes, offering an exquisite sight that changes with the degree of luminosity.

except3Pennisetum purpureum ‘Prince’ (photo 3)
This plant’s performance was particularly impressive. Produced from young seedlings grown from cuttings or in vitro culture (Selection Athens Select), its long purple leaves take on darker shades as temperatures increase. Its strength, rapid growth and dense habit make it the most exceptional of the purple grasses. ‘Prince’ produces no flowers and foliage at the base of seedlings will not likely dry out with time.

except4Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cappuccino’ (photo 4)
This ruffled rudbeckia sports large yellow flowers with coffee-coloured hearts. Easily grown and produced from seeds (Tezier), it demands little care and adapts to almost all fresh, well-drained grounds that are moderately rich in humus, in full sun or partial shade. It can also grow well in clay soils provided compost is added to improve drainage. Despite a late July flowering due to a late sowing date, it garnered sufficient votes to be classified a public favourite. ‘Cappuccino’ is a Fleuroselect Gold Medal winner.

except5Petunia ‘Supertunia Raspberry Blast’ (photo 5)
Our expert panel almost unanimously preferred the public’s favourite petunia, the ‘Supertunia Raspberry Blast.’ Produced from cuttings (Proven Winners), this robust and very floriferous annual with a compact habit deserves its near perfect ranking. Moreover, it is not very sensitive to white mould and its pink flowers, which are not damaged by rain, disappear quickly once faded.

except6Begonia Tuberhybrida ‘Nonstop Deep Salmon’ (photo 6)
All tuberous begonias of the Nonstop series (Benary) gave an excellent performance, producing abundant flowers with foliage remaining healthy and vigorous throughout the season. The ‘Nonstop Deep Salmon,’ with its large orange-salmon flowers, was the most appreciated. This begonia, like others in the series, can be grown in containers or beds, with full sun or moderate shade, provided compost is kept moderately wet.

except7Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Dreamsicle’ (photo 7)
‘Superbells Dreamsicle’ (Proven Winners) is a cascading plant producing abundant flowers that last all summer and up until the first frosts. Upon opening, the orange flower betrays its age by taking on various apricot shades, thereby offering more interesting arrangements. The plant can be grown in containers or as a ground cover. Of all calibrachoas evaluated last summer, this was the public favourite.

except8Verbena ‘Tukana Raspberry’ (photo 8)
This series (Proven Winners) is very floriferous, maintaining a uniform habit and not requiring any cleaning of flowers during the summer. At the beginning of the season, the public favoured the ‘Scarlet’ variety of the same series, but that preference changed by the end of August as ‘Scarlet’ is more sensitive to mould and degraded more quickly, even in sunny locations. The jury thus chose ‘Raspberry’ for its better performance.

except9Lobelia erinus ‘Purple Star’ (photo 9)
Grown from cuttings (Westhoff), this cascading lobelia does not fear the heat and rays of the burning sun. Despite high temperatures during the trial period, ‘Purple Star’ continued to flower significantly. Contrary to most varieties producing blue flowers, it sports a particularly saturated mauve flowering.

exceptNemesia fruticans ‘Angelart Pear’  (photo 10)
All the series proved very floriferous, but this variety was clearly notable, becoming the public’s fourth favourite plant overall. Distinguished by its vibrant yellow colour and featuring a soft fragrance, this cultivar showed uniform and compact growth, with stable, extremely abundant flowering all summer. It needs sunny locations and may be difficult to grow under glass, enjoying colder nights (13-16ºC) once branching begins.

The Les Exceptionnelles project is made possible thanks to the following partners: Botanix, Passion Jardins, Ball Superior, JVK, Dominion Seed House, Fleurs Plantes Jardins, FIHOQ, Jardin Daniel A. Séguin, Fernand Corbeil Produits Horticoles, Fafard, Les Serres Frank Zyromski, Compostage G.L, Plant-Prod Québec, l’Institut québécois du développement de l’horticulture ornementale, and ITA.

Claude Vallée,
Agr. M.Sc., professor and coordinator of technological innovation in horticulture, ITA; director of trials and projects at the Jardin Daniel A. Séguin. • 450-778-6504 ext. 6400,

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