Greenhouse Canada

Features Crops Flowers
More California dreaming and beaming

January 18, 2008  By Melhem Sawaya

In this concluding installment, columnist Melhem Sawaya continues his highlights of this year’s Breeders Variety Showcase.

12This is the second in our two-part review of this year’s California Breeders Showcase, and the same major industry needs remains the same: increasing the demand for our products, not just offering more products.

Though the CBS is geared mainly for brokers and chain store buyers, which is a great way to connect with them, the ultimate customer base (gardeners and landscapers, etc.) is not taken as seriously as it should, in my view. There are exceptions, of course, as a growing number of breeders – or more correctly, brand groups – are looking for even more, excellent garden performers to put under their banner.


During the 1970s and early ’80s, the impressive expansion of bedding plant sales was mainly due to the introduction of an excellent garden species, namely impatiens. Consumers couldn’t get enough of them, and it got to the point where growers devoted up to 75 per cent of their production in impatiens. This was a species that provided great value and superior customer satisfaction.

What a simple concept: one species able to handle 75 per cent of your production. This is where
production efficiency and customer satisfaction was met without much marketing effort or cost. The product almost sold itself, providing a win-win situation for customers, retailers, brokers and breeders.

They say history often repeats itself. If that’s true, I hope it will happen soon because many growers are looking for more market winners.

For my Showcase trends report, see page 16 of the July edition of Greenhouse Canada, or check the magazine website at

There are some varieties we do not get too excited about in Canada and the northern United States, because growing them in February and March is a slow process and they do not put on the full show until June. Crossandra Orange Marmalade (1) is one of the crossandras that puts on an excellent show throughout the summer with unique flower shapes and colours. Try it for an early June sales target date.

With emphasis on garden performance, breeders are getting the message and that’s meant more flower products are being bred to put on a show in the garden. For the grower, this is the chance to use these products in the larger cell packs, which accounted for 60 to 70 per cent of the flat production volume this past year.

Begonia Emperor Pink, compared to Ambassador Pink (2), shows the relation in size and it is more impressive in the garden where Emperors put on a much better show than the Ambassadors.

Another crop that shows nicely in late May and early June sales is pentas. Bahamas Lavender (3) is one variety that will grow to a larger size than others, which makes it a favourite for larger containers and open landscapes and, as mentioned last month, pentas is a magnet for hummingbirds.

If you liked cannas in the past but were discouraged by diseased rhizomes or rhizomes that did not grow, you now have an alternative. The Canna Tropical Series (4) is a canna from seed with which you can predict its production much more accurately. The Tropical series flowers at a shorter height than the others. However, it keeps growing to a very nice show in landscapes.

The popularity of trailing petunias from cuttings has led the seed breeders to work hard to get that same habit of trailing petunias. This started with the Wave variety but other breeders are trying to capitalize on this crop popularity. Petunia Opera White (5) is one colour of this new series that shows a very good prospect of good performance in the greenhouse and in landscapes. Trailing petunias are bred to spread and trail, so growing them in small packs and growth-regulating them defeats the purpose of this excellent landscape crop. The smallest container size should be 4" and grow them only 10 per flat. The Opera series is an early flowering series compared to the Purple Wave, but keeps growing to make a huge hanging basket or cover a minimum of a 3' x 3' garden area.

If you are looking for a petunia with a different flower, Glow White/Red (6) is a large bi-colour bloom with a good growing habit. It is good for pot sizes of 4" and larger or mixed containers. There are other unique colours in this series. Petunia Glow Lavender (7) has a different lavender bloom and is proportional with the vegetative growth to give a nice presentation. Like other trailing petunias, grow them in 4" pots – or larger – and in hanging baskets or mixed containers.

We are still not communicating the excellent landscape performance of angelonias, but that is not stopping breeders from coming up with new cultivars. Angelonia Alonia Pink (8) is one colour in this series. Pink Alonia is bush-type and self-branching and, like other angelonias, loves global warming: the warmer it is, the better it performs. Alonia is good for 4", 6" and larger containers. It is an excellent complement, and is not over-powering, in any combination planter as long as the growing temperature of the combination does not go below 16ºC. The series comes in four colours – pink, pastel pink, dark blue and white.

Torenia now includes many colours, and improvements on old colours is an ongoing process. Torenia Velvet Moon (9) is only one of four new varieties added to the Moon series, which now has 12 colours. The different colours of the Moon series offer plenty of options.

Asclepias Silky Deep Red (10) is one of three Asclepias colours. Asclepias should only be produced in 10" (and larger) containers for mid-June or July production. A plant that butterflies love and is a good centre for mixed containers, they love hot and dry conditions.

Carex Bronco (11) is only one bronze variety of many grasses on the market. It is a nice contrast in combinations and excellent in landscapes. It is a great alternative to the green dracaena.

Many growers produce herb gardens but don’t take into consideration – or take advantage advantage of – the beauty of their flower. Here is an example of a herb garden, named The Blue Garden (12), that consists of lavender, basil and salvia. This is an example of using creativity in product that already exists, rather than creating new ones.

Phygelius Rectus Fanfare Pink (13) is an upright plant that is especially floriferous. It features a fuchsia-like flower and has the ability to withstand high temperatures and full sun. It is good in combination 6" or larger pots and gives an excellent show in the garden.

Many coleus varieties are on the market but there is always at least one newcomer that looks different and catches the eye. Coleus Combat (14) has excellent leaf colours with variegated patterns that will highlight any combination or garden.

Begonia Bada Bing [green leaf] and Bada Boom [bronze leaf] (15) are part of a new, compact two-leaf-colour series that is self-branching, generates new flowers quicker, fills small pots faster, and is excellent in mass garden landscapes.

Verbena Tuscany Peach (16) is one of six colours in this new series. Their compact habit, catchy colours, and an upright habit make them good choices for packs, or 4" to 6" pots.

Another new series is Vinca Cora. Cora Lavender (17) is one of six colours in this series that is supposedly resistant to aerial phytophthora. It has a uniform habit and flowering time among the different colours, with thick and glossy foliage.

If you haven’t grown seed geraniums for a while, take a look at the Bulls Eye (18) series. It features rich chocolate-coloured foliage and four flower colours. It is excellent in combination or 4" pots for landscapes.
Growers and consumers always looking for yellow flowering plants can look to Goodena Fresca Yellow (19). This plant is worth considering for baskets or in combinations. A low-growing plant with dainty yellow flowers, it loves heat.

Another yellow-flowered plant is Sanvitalia Sundance Yellow (20). This is a great variety and features self-branching, thick stems and large flowers. It is excellent in many combinations. Sanvitalia does not start growing properly until later in the season, so starting it in early January is a waste. Start later for better results.

Achellia Gypsy White (21), commonly known as the summer bacopa, is a variety with double white flowers that never stops flowering the whole summer. It also has an excellent growing habit. While good in 4" and 6" pots and hanging baskets, it truly shines in combinations.

White With Blue Vein (22) is one colour in the Sanguna Series. It is a strong grower with excellent trailing character-istics. It features dense foliage that is excellent for large, hanging baskets or combinations.

Helichrysum Silver Lining (23) is an excellent filler in combinations. It is a strong grower without overpowering combinations. Instead, it sets a complementary contrast to many other varieties.

Petunia Plush Double Pink (24) is one colour of the Plush Seed Petunia Series that grows quickly. It features lush foliage and bright flowers. This is another choice when considering trailing petunias from seed.

Double White (25) is the new addition to the Blue, Rose, and White Copa series. The double flower gives a somewhat three-dimensional look. Like other bacopa, the Double White is a nice complement to any combination, especially early in the season.

Gourmet Geranium [ginger] (26) herb is one of many Gourmet Geraniums with different tastes, like nutmeg, nutty, peppermint, ginger and lemon. This spice is excellent to use as an herb with fish, lamb, beef and pasta.

Gerbera Landscape Yellow Stone (27) is a large gerbera that can be used in the garden. It has a great bloom show for a long period of time. You will enjoy the re-flowering habit of this series. The varieties are good for 6" pots for indoor use, but they really shine outdoors in the landscape or as a large container.
Fabiola, Kim, and Ursula (28) are only three colours and flower shapes of the seven double flower and nine single large flower Klahanie Hibiscus Series.

Schoneveld Twello featured their cyclamen as part of the trials this year, with innovative ideas on packaging (29). Excellent varieties with alternative marketing ideas are always a good thing.

And always, if you have an hour while visiting the California Showcase, treat yourself to the tranquilizing scenery (30) which, on its own, is a natural combination that can never be duplicated by any breeder or grower.

Breeders’ displays, like this one (31), have become increasingly creative.

Trying some of these varieties on a small scale is a smart business choice. But changing totally from another variety with which you are familiar to something news is not! Try a little of something new to see if it sells better, and then make your decision whether to change.

Please note that most of the varieties mentioned here will be included in the Sawaya Garden Trials. An open house will be held Aug. 8. For more details, please log on to

Please note that due to our limited space, I couldn’t elaborate as much as I would like on each variety. If you have questions, please e-mail me at

Print this page


Stories continue below