The 2021 California Summer Trials, scheduled for June 23-27, mark a few changes with the annual California pilgrimage for growers, brokers and breeders.

To begin, there’s the obvious one: when it’s happening.

Historically, the acronym CAST has stood for the California Spring Trials with the event taking place sometime in the early spring over the course of a week. In 2020, the event just so happened to coincide with the beginning of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the event did not happen with the various stops across the state shuttered. By virtue of unfortunate timing, CAST 2020 was the first horticulture industry event directly impacted by the pandemic. Each stop canceled its showcase and long-booked plans largely fell by the wayside. Some breeders, however, were able to pivot to digital and host webinars to showcase new varieties, but others were left with no real outlet to market their plants.

The 2021 event is scheduled for June for specific reasons. One is COVID-19 and the hope that the event wouldn’t have to be canceled again due to the virus. At the time of this publication, that appears to be a winning bet. The idea was to, in theory, allow more people to attend during a slower time of the year instead of the peak spring. And, as an added bonus, early summer means a larger diversity of crops — such as perennials and annuals that perform well in the heat — to be spotlighted in a more normal growing climate.

CAST 2021 also sees a different shape to the event with the number of participating breeders dropping. This shift actually began in 2020 when Proven Winners declined to participate, even before COVID-19 was a concern. (Proven Winners announced its decision not to participate in CAST 2020 in July 2019.) Citing declining attendance and a desire to “broaden the pool” of industry members who were able to participate, Proven Winners went digital while still planning to showcase its varieties at other industry events. For 2021, Danziger and Terra Nova Nurseries are among the breeders declining to participate, and it’s unclear if any will re-join the event in the future.

Benary, which is participating in the event, also made changes. Instead of limiting visitors to the official five-day window of CAST 2021, its gardens are open through Aug. 31 to anyone who books a visit ahead of time. The idea here is to not exclude a grower or someone else who maybe can’t make it in June, but could come later on in the summer.

In this preview, you’ll find information on all of the stops, as well as some of the new varieties that will be on display at CAST 2021. And if you’re planning on attending or are just planning to observe from afar, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at cmanning@gie.net. – Chris Manning

BALL Horticultural

Take the Bee’s Knees petunia from Ball FloraPlant to the next level by using it in combos for premium retail containers and baskets. Bee’s Knees puts on a high-impact show all season long in the most intense yellow color. Check out several new MixMasters combos for 2022, including Oh Beehave featuring Double Petunia Midnight Gold.
Marigold Xochi Orange from BloomStudios Strong stems and rich color make this cut flower the best for bouquets and grower bunches. An excellent option for summer and fall cut flower programs, Xochi offers uniformity, good shipability and durability to meet the increasing consumer demand for Día de los Muertos and Halloween celebrations.
The compact Buddleia Chrysalis series from Darwin Perennials was bred and selected for its profusion of flowers that attract butterflies. Gardeners will enjoy continuous blooming from spring through late summer. Plants are root hardy to USDA Zone 5 and stem hardy in warmer locations. Available in five colors for its 2022 debut.
Complete your seed shasta daisy package with the new White Lion Leucanthemum from Kieft Seed. With a critical daylength of only 10 hours, it’s ideal for early-spring sales from overwintered production (previously only possible with vegetative varieties) and spring sales from annual production.
A new color for 2022 launches in the Beacon series from PanAmerican Seed of high disease-resistant impatiens. Rose is well-branched with medium vigor and clear rose flowers. Pair long-lasting Beacon impatiens with other shade-loving annuals for upscale mixes at retail.
The Sky Family of petunias from Selecta One continues to expand in 2022 with an exciting new pattern for the Sky assortment. Enchanted Sky features both a hazy white star and sky pattern backed in a cheery pink flower color. The Headliner series is known for its mounded, medium vigor habit perfect for impactful hanging baskets and mixes.
It’s Early; it’s Efficient; it’s the Evolution of Easy Wave. E3 is a brand-new Wave series that flowers at 10 hours daylength so it’s ready to kick off spreading petunia sales even earlier at retail. It has a manageable, uniform shape and vigor, and offers simple production to save on labor costs. In the garden, it fulfills the Wave promise of easy, spreading color.

 Dümmen Orange

The Rainbow Calibrachoa series is the newest lineup to the Dümmen Orange portfolio. These vigorous varieties have a unique characteristic that causes the bloom color to change based on temperature, light level, and day length when the bud is initiated, giving a constantly changing tricolor effect to the plants. The overall tones will be richer and deeper colors in the early spring and autumn seasons and brighter, more vibrant tones in the summer months. Rainbow varieties are extremely heat-tolerant, making them a top performer in summer baskets, large containers, and even in-ground plantings.
Big EEZE Geraniums are aptly named for their BIG blooms and EEZE production performance. This interspecific series appears as a traditional zonal type at retail that more consumers are confident in purchasing, but with oversized blooms for a dramatic presentation. The breeding gives these plants a resilient dose of performance through the hottest summer months. It has a has a cherry-blossom-like color.
The new Heartland Lantana series is bred to be the heart of the landscape. These varieties come from the award-winning Havana series but with 30% more vigor for maximum landscape impact. Heartland varieties have extremely low seed set, allowing for continuous flower power throughout the summer months.  
The new Hummingbird Falls Salvia is the industry’s first trailing S. guaranitica for hanging baskets and cascading garden beds. It puts off a profusion of inky purple calyces with vibrant, indigo blue blooms. It is an exceptional addition to summer programs.
Deck’d Out Kalanchoe is the newest series for easy outdoor performance.These varieties are designed for easy container performance on decks and patios, providing months of vibrant flower color on low-water, easy-to-maintain, pollinator-friendly plants.
The new La Diva Lavender program from Dümmen Orange is about creating a portfolio of species and series, allowing growers to continuously produce luxury-quality plants from early spring through autumn. The new La Diva Eternal Elegance is a complete breakthrough for angustifolia types with months earlier flowering, allowing extremely early season sales.
The Better Together combination program from Dümmen Orange makes an easy and flexible solution for growers and retailers. It combines the exciting tricolor foliage of the trailing Great Falls coleus with three top-performing summer series: Big EEZE Geranium, Magnum New Guinea Impatiens, and I’Conia Garden Begonias. These series have perfectly matched vigor, allowing growers to mix and match between any varieties. And the Great Falls coleus’ adaptability to both sun and shade make it an easy anchor to tie the program together.

Hem Genetics

Rudbeckia hirta Arania is one of two new Rudbeckias being introduced by Hem Genetics. This variety has large yellow flowers with a dark brown center and grows to 12-14” tall and 10-12” wide. Seed to flower is 14-17 weeks, depending on the season. Hardy USDA Zones 7-11 but can be used as an annual where not winter hardy. Rudbeckia hirta Kokardia is the sister variety to Arania, with bold yellow and chocolate bicolored blooms with dark centers. Hardy in USDA Zones 7-11, but often used as an annual, 14-17 weeks from seed, depending on the season.
Petunia grandiflora Limbo Yellow Lime is a beautiful new light greenish-yellow color added to the top-selling series of genetically dwarf petunias. It generally doesn’t require PGRs in production. Because of their compact habit, they require less maintenance in landscape beds or hanging baskets and are great in containers. Ball Seed exclusive for the introductory year. Also added to the Limbo series is Silver Blue.
A new addition to the Corina series, Viola Corina White with Blotch which brings the total number in the series to 28. It features a pure white bloom with an almost black center. This series of small-flowered violas is extremely uniform between colors, and the mounded plants will literally cover themselves in flowers. They are much more weather tolerant than pansies.
The Pansy Cello Ocean is a new color addition to the Cello series of large-flowered pansies, and are shades or light through mid-blue, with large, almost black blotches or faces. The series branches freely, and is highly productive of large blooms, and performs equally well as a Spring or Fall pansy.
Two new colors are added to the very popular Snappy series of dwarf snapdragon, Rose Flame, a beautiful pink with rose highlights on the lip, and Scarlet, a bold scarlet red. Growers are very impressed by the uniformity and flower power of this series, and it was deemed the best overall series of dwarf snapdragons by the Dallas Arboretum.

Sakata

Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor is the AAS award-winning, new addition to the winningest series on the market! Outstanding garden performance, even in the high heat of summer. A stunning, bright bicolor of red and yellow is a true eye-catcher in any planting! High impact in large containers and landscape plantings.
The all-weather petunia! When it comes to garden performance, SuperCal® and SuperCal® Premium deliver intensely colorful, long-lasting, large flowers that bloom early and extend into the fall season! Five new introductions include Pink Improved, Premium Pearl White, Premium Purple Dawn, Premium Sunset Orange and Premium Yellow Sun!
This all-weather begonia has high-impact color and a unique trailing habit with flowers covering tops and sides! Early flowering and matches the Viking series with an abundance of extra large flowers. Viking Explorer is all-weather resistant and great for landscapes and containers. New series includesRed on Green and Rose on Green.
SunPatiens is trusted by growers, retailers and landscapers for flourishing blooms in both sun and shade, spring through fall. With over 14 years of proven market performance, no other annual brings more reliable flower power across a wider range of conditions. The new introductions includeCompact Deep Red, Vigorous Sweetheart White and Vigorous White Improved.

Suntory

Suntory Flowers introduces Sunbeam, the first yellow in Sun Parasol mandevillas. This new variety fits the original group. Plants have a bushy habit for hanging baskets and containers. Rich buttery yellow blooms have darker throats. Sunbeam is loaded with buds that bloom 2-3 weeks earlier than older varieties.
XXL Taffy Pink marks the beginning of a new Surfinia series that’s big on blooms! Growth habit is upright and more controlled than Surfinia Sumo but the flowers span 4 inches. You don’t see many grandiflora vegetative petunias. This variety is also daylength neutral and will bloom as soon as week 8 in the South. Your customers will love the bright taffy pink color.
Heavenly Cabernet now joins the Surfinia petunias line. Like a glass of fine Burgundy, blooms are a gorgeous burgundy/purple with dark throats. Habit is semi-trailing, like the top-selling Surfinia Heavenly Blue. Surfinia petunias are known globally for outstanding garden performance and weather tolerance. Perfect for premium hanging baskets.