Each year, plant breeding companies wow attendees at the California Spring Trials with interesting new varieties, innovative technology and inspirational displays, from Oxnard to Gilroy. This year was no different, and the editors of Garden Center and Greenhouse Management magazines stopped off at the greenhouses to bring you highlights. Here is a taste of what we saw during the weeklong event in mid-April.

Stay tuned for the second part of our coverage, where we look at more eye-catching ornamental varieties, innovative business ventures, tasty new fruits and veggies, entertaining displays and more, in the July issue of Greenhouse Management.

Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Karen E. Varga

Sense of discovery

These new varieties and collections were discovered and developed after many years of hard work on the part of breeders.

Well-known rosarian Ping Lim (1), director of ornamental plant research at Altman Plants, told attendees at the Floricultura stop about True Bloom, a collection of six “hybrid tea shrub” roses that took several years of breeding work to develop. With a 25-petal requirement, they have the look of a tea rose but the disease resistance of a shrub. They each have their own unique quality, as well, whether it be a powerful fragrance (True Gratitude) or a 45 to 50 petal count per bloom (True Inspiration, pictured). All True Bloom roses are also compact and low-maintenance.

Sakata Seed America took selections from its Verano and Picasso mini cyclamen to create Veranda (2), another mini series of cyclamen specifically tested for outdoor performance. Greg Gabrels, ornamentals key account manager for Sakata Seed America, says mini cyclamen are the most weather tolerant, which is why they were selected for the landscape. Watch the video interview with him here: bit.ly/2GCbYcr

Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Michelle simakis
Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Karen E. Varga

After hearing murmurings about this variety for a couple of years, it was exciting to finally see ‘Canary Wings’ begonia (3) in person. Bred by Jared Hughes and brought to market by Ball Ingenuity, this begonia’s unique yellow to bright chartreuse foliage sets it apart from other dragon wing type begonias.

Bailey Nurseries introduced Spring Trials attendees to the newest family member of the Endless Summer Collection, Summer Crush (4), a naturally compact Hydrangea macrophylla that features giant raspberry-colored blooms atop strong stems with shiny, waxy leaves. It grows 18 to 36 inches tall and is hardy to zone 4. Natalia Hamill, brand and business development manager at Bailey, shares more details in this video: bit.ly/2KH0qHe

Spring Meadow Nursery has introduced a new evergreen shrub with its Proven Winners Juke Box Pyracomeles (5), which is a cross between a Pyracantha and Osteomeles but has no thorns, doesn’t flower and is fully branched to the ground. Juke Box has the look of a boxwood but is not susceptible to blight.

We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw ‘SunBelievable Brown Eyed Girl’ (6). This new sterile sunflower is the fruit of Thompson & Morgan breeding and is being sold in a Monrovia pot in the U.S. Brown Eyed Girl doesn’t require PGRs and blooms for six months, producing a whopping 1,000-plus 2 ½ to 3-inch flowers per plant.

Sense of smell

Fragrance was a top priority for breeders interested in bringing scent back into plants.

Danziger had a large display of its new Mixis combos, including the fragrant Heaven Scent (1), featuring three varieties of Lobularia: Lavender Stream, Raspberry Stream and White Stream. Heaven Scent is one of several combinations that were selected by voting attendees during the 2017 California Spring Trials — the favorite combinations officially became a part of the lineup.

Photo: Michelle simakis
Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Karen E. Varga
Photo: Karen E. Varga

Beekenkamp showcased a series of trailing begonias with perfumed flowers from breeder Thompson & Morgan called Fragrant Falls (2) — with scents that match their hues — including Lemon, Orange and Peach. Though they aren’t new, the company wanted to draw extra attention to their lovely fragrance.

A new introduction in 2017, Sakata Seed America expanded its Mime stock series from five to seven fragrant plants with two new colors — blue (3) and white. Mime can be part of early-season promotions and feature dark green foliage and a mix of brightly colored single and double flowers, at 45 percent and 55 percent respectively. Watch our interview with Brad Smith, retail category leader for Sakata, in the video tab on our website.

Cohen Propagation Nurseries’ new Honey Nemesia line consists of 19 varieties from new genetics that boast an attractive color range, are less sensitive and have great habits. Asaf Cohen (4), who leads production and marketing efforts for the company, told us that Bicolor Pink has the most ideal habit, Orange Flame’s (pictured) coloring is second-to-none, and White is the most fragrant.