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Sawaya Garden Trials 2023: Part 2

Profiling another 30 standout cultivars from this year’s trials that were evaluated for their consumer appeal and top-notch performance in the garden

December 4, 2023  By Melhem Sawaya

In last month’s issue of Greenhouse Canada, we considered some of success factors for annual and perennial cultivars and profiled 31 standout varieties from the 23rd annual Sawaya Garden Trials. This month, we profile another 30 cultivars from the trials to consider their performance and consumer appeal.

It is important to note that fertilizing the plants was challenging due to particularly rainy weather this season. This reflected on the varieties that are heavy feeders and the plants that are negatively impacted by rain. On the other hand, varieties that like lower fertilization performed much better than other years like Dahlias, impatiens, and slow growing varieties.

Here is second half of our observations of some varieties that performed well or some significance that is important to mention for growers to adopt.


32. Alstroemeria – Inticancha Sunshine is one of the new breeding of compact Alstromeria that flowered the whole summer and is true perennial for zone 5. We have had it in my garden now for two years. Exceptional consumer appeal and great performance recipe for success. Great grown in gallon for landscape.

33. Dahlia – Darlin’ Ruby  34. Dahlia – Venti Passion Fruit  35. Dahlia – Hypnotica Orange  36. Dahlia x hortensis – Lubega Power Orange Are representative of different size flowers, and different vegetative growth which give the grower the opportunity to produce in different pot sizes with one plant per pot where the compact varieties in 10 centimetres and the jumbo in 30 centimetres still one plant per pot.

The Dahlias this summer trials in the pots and in the ground performed very well contrary to other summers the main difference is the extreme heavy rain for most of the season. Dahlia does not like high salts especially when it is hot, so next year we are going to try dahlia in pots with normal fertilizer and a lot lower rate of fertilizer to confirm our theory. Dahlia flowers give a great show that is why they are used as cut flower also and in pots. Dead-heading is a must to keep the plant looking good. The key to producing a successful dahlia crop is start in long days till April 5th where the day length is close to 13 hours, this is to prevent tuber formation which will diminish the vigour of the Dahlia plants. Dahlias are so versatile, they can be grown in containers, landscape and in combinations with varieties that do not require heavy feeding.

37. Dipladenia – Flordenia Pink Blush 38. Mandevilla – Summer star Pink 39. Mandevilla – Maximo Red and many other new varieties are on the market now with different characteristics of earlier flowering, trailing, bush type, smaller leaves, larger leaves, but almost all performed very well under the adverse summer conditions. Mandevilla is trailing Dipladenia mounding, and many varieties are crosses between the two, but performance is great for both and the crosses.

Mandevilla and Dipladenia love heat and high light and they look better as the summer progresses into frost.

Dipladenias are great to grow in quarts, gallons and hanging baskets, and Mandevillas are mainly for trellises or hanging baskets.

40. Scaevola – Scala Pink Bird is one colour of a favourite scaevola series where, performance-wise, is up there with Dipladenia and Mandevilla. Scala mixed colours grown in hanging baskets are in demand from consumers. Scaveola loves the heat, no deadheading, trailing looks great the whole summer, and is one of the earliest new vegetative genera to be commercially produced.

41. Dianthus Interspecific – Jolt Cherry is an annual dianthus but it can take the heat and looks great the whole summer without deadheading until August but will continue flowering until late fall. Jolt have large flower clusters that can be seen from far. Do not try to produce it for late April sales because it requires long days to speed flowering, just need customer education that it will thrive through the summer heat. Great for landscapes.

42. Dianthus – Rockin’ Rose  is a perennial dianthus that will thrive the whole summer, the same as jolt market it for summer production as well as early sales. Great to grow in quarts or gallons for landscapes. Deadheading is required.

43. Lophospermum – Lofos Compact Rose is one colour of the Lophospermum, with vigorous trailing habit, and nonstop flowering the whole summer. Lophospermum makes great hanging baskets that do not mind the heat. Easy to grow and needs some growth regulators.

44. Basil – Everleaf Thai Towers has masses of leaves with purple stem, columnar growth habit, late flowering and aromatic. It has a licorice flavour and, most importantly, it is very resistant to downy mildew.

45. Melampodium x paludosum – Show star is a very old variety that every year shows a great performance in our trials. No deadheading, sturdy, takes rain, wind and thrives in hot weather. Great to sell in quarts for landscape or large pots for patios.

46. Gerbera – Garvinea Sweet Glow is one colour from the Garvinia series that is bred for landscape. Flowers the whole summer, mildew resistant and thrives in the heat. It can be grown in gallons for landscape or large pots for patios.

47. Hibiscus – Rosa Sinensis Dark Pink is an annual hibiscus that can be taken indoors at the end of summer to be brought out again next summer in very beautiful nonstop flowering. Does not like cold so it needs to be brought out in June. Great in landscape or large pots and a center plant in large, high-end combinations.

48. Fantastic Foliage – Begonia Gryphon is one of the fastest growing plants from seed suitable for center in combinations or grown for large pots and landscape. Gryphon foliage adds nice contrast to any combination or landscape.

49. Lobularia – Stream Compact Rose is a new colour added to the Stream series. It features vibrant colour and excellent habit as long it is not excessively drying out. It flowers all summer and does not mind the heat. No deadheading needed because all old flowers fall on their own, yes, a little messy if it is set on a patio. If planted in landscape, it is an addition to be excellent garden performance it is great food supply for Orius which is the most voracious beneficial against thrips.

50. Sakata Combo #1 – White Wedding 51. Kwik Kombos – Dekko Dare Devil Mix 52. Confetti Garden – Summer Breeze 53. Peach Melba Parfait and 54. Spice of Life combinations I chose to portray to you the different choices we can do other than petunia, verbena and calibrachoa mix which most of the time are not compatible and we end up with one cultivar taking over the whole mix. In each of these combinations the varieties complement each other through the whole summer. As you can see, the combinations could be mono species or all from seed or herb combination. A proper combination is when every species complements each other, and no species takes over.

55. Echinacea – SunMagic Vintage Mango a first-season flowering can easily be programed like an annual with great looks that can be grown in large pots, or gallons for landscape or even centers for combinations. Vintage Mango looked great the whole summer with no negative effect from rain or hot weather.

56. Rudbeckia – Sunbeckia Carla 57. Rudbeckia – Sunbeckia Emma and 58. Rudbeckia – Sunbeckia Luna are absolute, knockout beautiful the whole summer. Large, bright flowers on sturdy stems that were a stand-out among the 3000-trial varieties on display this year. We received many compliments from visitors on their beauty. They are planted in our perennial garden which we will keep for three seasons to see its hardiness in our environment.

59. Gaillardia aristata – Spintop Mango another first-year flowering perennial that flowers the whole summer, and even when the flower is spent still looks good. Great for pots and landscape.

60. Lavender angustifolia – Blue Spear a perennial from seed that looked great the whole summer. Sturdy stems that stood up to the many downpours of rain this summer; many new spears kept growing into the late summer which gives it a continuous fresh look.

61. Buddleja cultivars – Summer Bird Blue is a compact Buddleja that flowered the whole summer and was a great host for the butterflies. Minimal dead heading and total enjoyment to watch the butterflies taking off and landing on it.

Ratings for all the trial varieties will be published both on Greenhouse Canada and Sawaya Gardens’ websites.

Next year’s open house trial date is scheduled for July 18.  

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