Top annuals named for 2020/21 in Canada
Breeders highlighted the top five among their newest introductions, tailored for the Canadian market.
By Greta Chiu
With the 2020 California Spring Trials cancelled due to regulations around COVID-19, Greenhouse Canada invited some of North America’s ornamental breeders to share their favourite new annuals for the 2020/21 season. Based on their knowledge of the Canadian market and climate, interviewees thoughtfully whittled down the choices to their top five.
Ball FloraPlant, Selecta One, Ball Ingenuity, PanAmerican Seed
Bee’s Knees Petunia: Diverging from the more mellow-coloured yellow petunias released in the last few years, Ball FloraPlant emerges with the intense, lasting yellow of Bee’s Knees. “Growers have avoided yellow petunias in particular because of an issue with fading – they [tend to be] really light in colour and more susceptible to disease,” says Allan van Staalduinen, sales representative at Ball Seed. And Bee’s Knees is here to change that. With well-branched structure and blooms all summer long, it’s an ideal addition to landscape, mixed containers and hanging baskets. Feedback from growers has been excellent in colour and performance, says van Staalduinen. “This one is very strong in propagation.”
Phlox Gisele: If there’s one genus that deserves a little more love, it’s phlox. “Phlox is really underused by growers and in the Canadian landscape,” says van Staalduinen. “It’s an item we don’t grow enough of.” Heat-tolerant with summer-long blooms, Gisele from Selecta One is an ideal candidate for landscape and container use. Joining the series for 2021 are two new colours: an intense red and a deep purple. “When the consumer gets out into their garden, they’re going to see really good performance.”
Petunia Headliner: Two new colours have joined Night Sky in the Headliner series from Selecta One: Electric Purple Sky and Crystal Sky. Both offer the same wonder-inducing, starry appearance in a stronger, more stable pattern. “Night Sky petunia is one of the most photographed flowers on social media,” says van Staalduinen. “It’s exciting to see the new colours….they match the series very well.” With vivid hues and a mounded habit, the newcomers are ideal for hanging baskets and mixed containers.
Camellia Brew-tea-ful: And now for something different. New Camellia Brew-tea-ful from Ball Ingenuity allows consumers to grow, dry and enjoy their own tea leaves whether from their patio or in the garden. “We’ve seen a big explosion in vegetables and herbs this year. People are looking to grow their own food, and this tea plant would be an interesting addition,” says van Staalduinen. Reaching approximately 12 to 15 inches high, this Camellia sinensis can be planted in the spring and harvested all through the summer.
Beacon Rose: For 2021, vivid new colour ‘Rose’ joins the downy mildew-resistant Beacon series from PanAmerican Seed. “I know consumers have been waiting for impatiens to come back into garden centres,” says van Staalduinen. For years, the genus had been largely removed from the market due to impatiens downy mildew (IDW) – until now. First introduced in 2019 and available in garden centres this year, Beacon shows natural resistance to IDM without the use of fungicides. “It really is a breeding breakthrough.” Though van Staalduinen isn’t sure how many made it home to consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s seen strong positive response at the grower and retail levels and predicts a strong preference towards IDW-resistant impatiens going forward.
Begonia Double Delight: This series easily took the top spot on Glenn Andersen’s list of favourite new releases from Proven Winners. Available in Blush Rose and Primrose, Double Delight begonia boasts large, fully double flowers and a mounding, trailing habit. “They have a citrus scent that’s unique for this type of begonia,” says Andersen, owner of Nordic Nurseries in Abbotsford, BC. Very well-branched with loads of early blooms, Double Delight performs well in full sun or part shade. “We do a lot of begonias and this is a standout – very different from everything else. It’ll grow great anywhere in Canada.” While begonias have traditionally been a shade-loving plant, new genetics such as Double Delight can thrive in the hot sun. Ideal for containers and landscape.
Royal Velvet Improved: One of Nordic Nurseries’ best sellers, Royal Velvet has been placed among their top five for the past 10 years – which made Proven Winners’ decision to improve it all the more difficult. “You don’t want to replace a bestseller unless you know it’s an improvement. And this really is an improvement,” says Andersen. The deeper, richer purple-blue colour holds its own under high light and heat, while its perfected mounding habit grows symmetrically with fuller branches. For Nordic Nurseries, this improved Royal Velvet might even take Bubblegum’s top spot in the near future, he says.
Superbells Coral Sun: With coral pink surrounding a bright yellow centre, this unique new addition to the Superbells family is a joy to behold. “It’s just a vibrant, happy colour,” says Andersen. “The new Superbells are all bred for that really good habit where it will mound but also trail over the edge – just perfect for containers and baskets.” Andersen predicts that Coral Sun will be within their top five selling Superbells products within one to two years. “We have about 30 of them, …and this is as good as the best of them in habit.”
Euryops High Noon: While Euryops have been around the block, the original ones had a leggy habit and didn’t tend to flower well in the heat of the sun. But Proven Winners turned that all around with High Noon. “This one has a really good branching habit, flowers early and at double the size of the older Euryops,” says Andersen. Plus, it’s drought-tolerant and holds up in the sun, perfect for hot, sunny dry spots in the garden. “I was a bit hesitant at first because I know what the old Euryops are like, but I think this is going to be something that will catch on once people try it.”
Lantana Luscious Royale Red Zone: It’s no secret that lantanas like the heat, but this one has stood out in some of the hottest trials in Florida. The tidy, mounding upright habit is perfect, says Andersen. “It grows on its own and makes a stunning plant that is easy to look after.” Flowers start deep red with orange centres, turning into a bright red as they mature. Being sterile, Red Zone flowers heavily even in western Canada, says Andersen. Like many other lantanas, it is well-loved by pollinators and attracts a multitude of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Mojo interspecific geranium: When Mojo was first introduced last year in a rich dark red, it became Syngenta’s first interspecific geranium series that featured dark green foliage – a favoured look for many, says Terry Talsma, Syngenta’s Canadian business manager. For 2021, four new colours join the Mojo series: Cranberry Splash, Orange, Salmon and White. The colour palette is also more vibrant, he adds, in addition to active branching. “The first flush will have far more flowers and the backup buds will be very voluminous.” Ideal for medium-sized pots or larger, it’s also great for landscape where Mojo’s interspecific breeding brings heat tolerance and flower power, as well as a more upright habit compared with Calliope, which offers a more mounding habit.
Rosalie zonal geranium: Resembling double rosebud flowers, Rosalie looks similar to a true, soft pink English rose. “Definitely one of a kind,” says Talsma. Each umble is made up of more than a dozen double flowers, bringing a novel look to geranium programs. Its compact nature may not overtake the landscape, but it’s perfect for window boxes and small pots. Available in one elegant colour for 2021: Antique Rose.
Itsy petunia: Where others went big, Syngenta went small. True to its name, this new petunia boasts small flowers that make up for their size in volume. “If you can picture calibrachoa,… Itsy is even smaller than that,” says Talsma, who describes it as a continuous carpet of electric-like colours. With a controlled mounding, semi-trailing habit and good vigour, Itsy is suitable for landscape and containers and available in an eye-catching magenta for 2021.
FotoFinish spreading petunia: A spreading petunia from seed, FotoFinish was bred for early, uniform bloom times, with well-matched habit and timing. “If someone is looking for spreading petunia from seed in a black pot program, then this should be Plan A,” says Talsma. Mounding, branching and free-flowering means fewer PGRs and fast garden fill. Its earliness to flower makes it easy to grow – and quickly. “You could sow it and….have a uniform, finished crop in 10 weeks,” he says. “Growers can bench run them and not have to cherry pick the colours. The habit and timing are perfectly matched.”
Imara XDR impatiens – New mixes: To highlight the nine distinct colours available in their previously introduced Imara XDR series, Syngenta is releasing five new mixes made up of this IDM-resistant offering in different colour combinations. Dubbed ‘Hot!,’ ‘Pastel,’ ‘ProFormula,’ ‘Rosy,’ and ‘Tango,’ each mix offers a different feel to suit the consumer while simplifying the process for growers. “My favourite is the Rosy mix,” says Talsma, who explains how the pink is unique for the class. Also in the Rosy mix is purple improved, white, violet and rose, showing a distinctive palette across the colour range.
Begonia Rex Bewitched: Highly recognized for their unique and varied Begonia Rex program, Green Fuse first introduced the Bewitched series in 2019 with limited colours. A dissected leaf rex begonia with strong vigour and heavy branching, the breeder has added four new colours for 2021 in cherry, pink, lavender and silver. “This is a series that I really recommend for people who are just now starting to do Rex Begonias,” says Jim Devereux, vice-president of Green Fuse Botanicals. “We rejuvenate our stock every six months out of our Costa Rican facility to ensure their cleanliness.” Compared to a traditional Rex Begonia which can take 12 to 14 weeks, Bewitched finishes in eight to nine weeks for six-inch pots.
Begonia Rex Curly: This whimsical snail- or escargot-type is one of the most popular leaf shapes for Rex begonias. For 2021, Green Fuse is releasing four colours: white, chocolate, cherry and peppermint. “These Curlys also have the same vigour as the Bewitched – a really strong plant, so you can finish them pretty quick,” says Devereux. Once at home with consumers, Rex begonias can hold for two to three months without needing any water or light. They’re rhizomatous, storing their water before slowly using it as the plant needs, he says. They’ve also seen a big uptake in begonias as a poinsettia substitute for the holidays.
Ipomoea Sweet Georgia Series Improved: Green Fuse decided to revamp the entire Sweet Georgia series three years ago, improving uniformity among the different colours. Releasing all nine varieties at once for 2021, the series features a wide variety of shapes and colours along with two bicolour leaf types – the lime green and chartreuse of ‘Green Splash’, as well as the purple and green of ‘Purple Splash’. The spacing between leaves was also improved, measuring no more than a quarter inch for growth into a large, full and bushy plant. Though Ipomoea is typically more of a shade crop, this series is very sun-tolerant. “I’ve never seen it scald,” says Devereux.
Vinca Quasar: Rather than going with seed, Green Fuse backbred to create a vegetative vinca. That creates the foundations for good garden vigour associated with disease tolerance and uniformity, says Devereux. They also sought out colours that were unique to vincas, including one called ‘Deep Space Blue’ which alternates between shades of purple, deep blue and black. Another is ‘Target Orange,’ the first ever orange vinca with a dark eye, while ‘Plum Swirl’ mixes up shades of red and red-purple, all in the same flower. Flowers are 30 to 100 per cent larger than those of the average vinca.
Fuchsia Windchimes Basket: As Devereux explains, traditional fuchsia tends to have long, flowering arms, low heat tolerance and long-day requirements that would reduce the sales window in most parts of Canada. With Windchimes Basket, they changed all of that. This daylength neutral series has good heat tolerance and strong basal branching for fewer spatial problems, all while still offering the large flowers of traditional fuchsia. Good for baskets and mixed containers.
Harmony Colorfall New Guinea impatiens: A traditional New Guinea impatiens, Harmony Colorfall doesn’t just offer big blooms and shade tolerance, but a trailing habit as well. “A lot of people try to put regular New Guineas into the hanging basket, and it looks good when they first ship it to the store,” says Lisa Heredia, who oversees marketing and key accounts for Danziger in North America. “[But] then what happens? It turns into this little tree.” Shipped as a tidy ball, Colorfall cascades neatly over the basket edge as it grows. Danziger is currently trialling this series as a one-stick for hanging baskets, which could reduce input costs for growers. Offered in four different colours, Heredia’s favourite is neon red, which produces a unique, almost shimmery quality.
Sol Luna hybrid impatiens: For consumers with less gardening experience, this interspecific compact series fits in sun or shade, holding onto its colour under the bright sun. “It has a really nice habit,” says Heredia, “but at the same time, its controlled growth means it’s going to behave for the growers in the greenhouse.” Good for quarts, Sol Luna will grow to fill out larger 6” pots. Uniformity tends to be a struggle with any kind of impatiens program, she says, which is why consistency among the colours was an important feature for them. Offered in four colours: Tropical Punch, Pink, Candy Apple and Dark Lavender.
Osticade Osteospermum ecklonis: Bred in Israel, this Osteospermum can be grown and produced alongside other annuals in the warm section of a greenhouse, without the need for cold treatment. Its semi-trailing habit makes it well-suited for patio pots and hanging baskets. “It holds the flowers tight to the foliage, so you don’t have these long, messy blooms,” says Heredia. Of the four existing colours in this series, it’s the new bright Yellow that’s caught everyone’s eye at trials.
Splash Dance hybrid petunia: After trialing over 30 different patterns and plants, Danziger narrowed down their selection to three, creating a new series of early blooming, speckled petunias called Splash Dance. “First we selected for habit, then we trialled them to make sure they would hold their bloom patterns and …speckling in the heat,” says Heredia. While maintaining their patterns, the three colours – Bolero Blue, Purple Polka and Magenta Mambo – all change to different amounts of speckling with temperature, offering a self-evolving look in consumer gardens.
Capella hybrid petunia: “When we were selecting for Capella, the key feature that we were seeking was controlled growth, which meant it didn’t need a lot of PGRs, if any… but that it also performed well in propagation and continued to grow at home for the consumer,” says Heredia. In fact, they call it the perfect petunia for its tidy form in the greenhouse and continued growth in the garden. Among the new colours they’ve launched for 2021, two stand out in particular: the novelty patterned bi-colour Cherry Vanilla and Salmon, a hue that has been a goal for many breeders after all genetically modified orange/salmon petunias were pulled from the market in 2017.
Coleus Le Freak: Channeling a fun yet chill 70’s vibe, this standalone Coleus from Dümmen Orange features feathery, variegated foliage for movement and texture using trendy and earthy colours. “We need items like Coleus Le Freak that can [not only] go in sun or shade, and take the wind, the rain, and the heat, but [also] create movement and texture in gardens and combination planters,” says Diane Surette, general manager for Dümmen Orange in Canada. The multifunctional variety will also be part of the breeder’s Garden Party collection of mixes.
Petunia Durabloom: A brand new category for the breeder, this interspecific hybrid petunia stands up to the widely variable Canadian landscape, emanating both beauty and strength in seven different colours. “The cold spring of the Maritimes that goes into June and July, the extreme heat and humidity of Quebec and Ontario, the dryness of the Prairies, the rain and the wind in BC – it’s the perfect Canadian petunia,” says Surette. Durabloom’s root structure allows for a more durable plant, helping it handle the summer heat and drought. Its thick petals stand up to summer rains and stay full of colour in the Canadian landscape.
Garden Party Aria Habanera: With many Canadian consumers who have little time or space, large combination planters have become a substitute for the backyard garden, says Surette. Featuring new Aria Angelonia, Dümmen Orange is introducing four new mixes in the Garden Party Aria collection. Each containing four different annuals, Garden Party combinations are designed to mix well in habit, style and performance, making it easy for growers and consumers alike. The Garden Party Aria Habanera mix in particular offers a spicy, colourful style with Angelonia Aria Blue, Geranium Savannah Oh So Orange, Calibrachoa Aloha Nani Calibash and Lobularia YOLO Lavender.
Geranium Big EEZE Watermelon: Named for its flower size and ease of growing, this interspecific geranium conveys a true zonal look while maintaining the heat tolerance of its ivy geranium genetics. New for 2021 is ‘Watermelon,’ a vivid pink hue reminiscent of the height of summer.
New Guinea Impatiens Roller Coaster Series: “The roller coaster series is my favorite,” says Surette. “When I see Roller Coaster, I think of beauty – Frank Sinatra summer nights on the patio.” The name comes from its appearance, a New Guinea impatiens with large double flowers and ruffled margins going up and down like the tracks of a roller coaster. Frilly and fun, the Magnum-sized doubles garner a three dimensional effect in the garden and on the retail bench. For 2021, Dümmen Orange has added new white and pastel colours, trendy and on-point for moon gardening on summer nights.
All images are courtesy of the respective breeder.