There is so much excitement and energy in the air when you enter the Costa Trial in early spring to observe and evaluate new annual and perennial introductions for the coming year.
Captivating Annual Introductions for 2023
Premier is an appropriate adjective to describe this outstanding trial. It is the first trial of the season, and it is comprehensive, organized, well-labeled, and comprises hundreds of varieties representing more than 15 international flower breeders.
The quart size trial varieties are planted in weeks 50-51 in row beds with subsequent plantings in baskets, landscape beds, and designer recipe containers. I attended trial week 8 this spring following 10 weeks of growth, development, and fluorescence. The criteria I used in highlighting specific varieties in this article were color vibrancy, brightness, plant vigor, earliness, unique color patterns, and floriferousness. Obviously, heat tolerance was not a factor in my evaluation this early in the season; however, I will return in late April when the trial has matured and the plant material has been impacted by weeks of extreme temperatures, high humidity, and frequent rains. I will submit future articles on the performance results of the basket and bed trials from that April visit.
Many of these new introductions will be entered in regional trials throughout the country and Canada this summer. As the weather becomes more extreme, these trials offer the industry and consumers salient information on what I call summer hardiness. I believe the goal of this entire trialing program is to discover and introduce to the consumer sustainable and durable annuals and perennials that result in success and ultimate satisfaction. In my opinion, a new plant introduction has to justify its existence in many areas, including ease of production application, visual impact in the retail setting, rapid sell-through, and environmental adaptability. There were many impressive new annual varieties that I will highlight in a second article next month.
Celosia Plumosa, "Flama Orange"
I saw this series for the first time at the Mast and Raker-Roberta’s trials late last August. The flower colors were stunning, and the size and profusion of plumes were extraordinary. The series has five colors: Bright Red, Orange, Rose, Golden, and Red, as well as a Mix. In the Costa trial beds, the performance was consistent with what I saw in Michigan in containers and field trials. This seed series is heavily branched, uniform, and upright inhabit. What is particularly impressive is the color stability and retention. Orange received the prestigious AAS national award from trial judges throughout the country for its summer performance under extreme conditions of heat, humidity, and rain.
Based on my evaluations in three different locations, many colors in the series performed well enough to receive this award. The series matures at 9 to 12 inches, is day length neutral, uniform, and has production application in packs, quarts, and mixed containers. For the consumer, it will offer an outstanding series of landscape beds and thrillers in patio containers.
Begonia Interspecific, "Bionic Series"
We have many dynamic and successful interspecific begonia series from seed in the market from multiple breeders, and the new Bionic series offers another viable option for that vigorous and large flowering begonia class for landscape and container application. It is comprised of four colors: Bronze Leaf Red and Rose and Green Leaf Red and Pink. The varieties were a sweep of vivacious color in the Syngenta landscape beds. The colors were well matched for height, timing, and flower count.
The series offers extra-large flowers that manifest a colorful presentation above the foliage canopy, which makes it a stunning series for landscape application. The series is more vigorous than Tophat and will flower 7 to 10 days later but is similar in flower timing to competing interspecific begonia series. The Bionics are adaptable in sun or shade and production programs include quarts, gallons, and large patio containers. The series will have multiple applications for the consumer and landscaper in beds and assorted combination containers.
Coleus, "Premium Sun Ruby Heart"
The breeding, introduction, and marketing of coleus for the past 15 years have focused primarily on vegetatively produced series and stand-alone varieties. The result of this breeding emphasis is a multitude of outstanding coleus varieties for spring production with wide-ranging versatility. In my opinion, the Premium Sun Coleus collection does not receive the attention or the utilization it deserves. It comprises 10 varieties, including the new Ruby Heart for 2023 with its well-defined chartreuse serrated margin and ruby red center. The attributes of this series are colorful leaf patterns, late flowering, non-fading, vigor, shade, and sun tolerance.
It has proven successful in spring production programs and landscape applications. This is considered a Pro Landscape Performer by the Ball Seed Co. with a proven track record. PanAmerican’s breeding goal is the introduction of new and unique seed varieties as a cost-efficient alternative that provides the industry and consumers with innovative annuals and perennials that provide diverse applications and exceptional performance. The Coleus Premium Sun collection achieves those goals, and in selecting a coleus program for spring production this series should receive serious consideration.
Lantana, "Bandolista Pineapple"
Syngenta offers a formidable Lantana portfolio with a series for every production program and consumer application. The Bandito, Bandana, Landscape Bandana, and Bandolero offer a wide diversity in flower size, color, vigor, and growth habit. The new Bandolista series, comprised of Coconut, Mango, Pineapple, and Red Chili, is quite different from the current varieties in the program offering a mounded and, most importantly, a semi-trailing habit for large containers and basket production. The Bandolista series is sterile except for Coconut and will provide the grower and consumer with an early flowering series with exceptional summer performance. The Bandolista varieties in the trial bed were uniform and vigorous, had larger flower clusters, a prolific flower count, and a semi-trailing habit that will characterize this series. I was impressed with the brightness, cluster size, and vigor of the Pineapple, as depicted in the enclosed photo.
Dianthus Chinesis, "Coronet White & Purple Eye"
Any grower producing the Coronet Chinensis series will be excited by the two new colors for 2023: Purple and White Purple Eye. What sets this series apart from other Chinensis types is the large flowers with a wide assortment of colors. I was enamored by the striking bicolor White Purple Eye, with its prolific flower canopy and compact habit. This series is used in cool-season programs for early sales and offers a colorful presentation in color bowls and mixed with pansies. The series, now comprised of six colors and a mix, matures at 8 to 10 inches and, with this mix of solid and bicolor flowers, offers a striking color palette with sales appeal for the spring and fall seasons.
Calibrachoa, "Colibri Dark Lavender"
I am continually attracted to new calibrachoa varieties in field or container trials that are attention grabbers, and ‘Colibri Dark Lavender’ was one of my favorites for many reasons. The dark lavender flowers manifested brightness, richness, high color saturation, and vibrancy. This variety displayed the compactness, uniformity, and early flowering, which is indicative of the series. This color is at the cool end of the temperature spectrum and offers an important component for analogous and complementary mixed containers and baskets. This is a versatile series with a wide range of unusual colors, day length neutrality, and spring production application in quarts, patio containers, and baskets. Danziger offers one of the most diverse calibrachoa portfolios in the industry with five series and a multitude of flower patterns.
Petunia, "Smartunia Windmill Hot Pink"
Dümmen Orange offers nine series or collections of petunias with a wide diversity of flower patterns and habits for multiple production programs. They began the Intrinsa Breeding program over 14 years ago, which is a trait and technology breeding pipeline to introduce to the market groundbreaking varieties with sustainable attributes. The fruit of this labor is the Smartunia petunia series, the first TMV-resistant petunia series for 2023.
There is a wide range of solid and bicolor flowers in this series: Neon, Coral, Violet, Purple Vein, Hot Pink, Red, White, Burgundy, Windmill Purple, and Windmill Pink, and they were all in the trial bed. The series is day-length neutral and possesses a mounded, trailing habit. The color pattern is similar to the Peppy series and the vigor is similar to the Petunia Plus series. I chose Windmill Pink to highlight because it manifested floriferousness and well-defined bicolor flowers with outstanding vigor. It is my understanding that any future Dümmen Orange Petunia varieties will be powered by the Intrinsa breeding initiative with the goal of sustainable and economically viable plants.
Dahlia, "Mystic Flare Dynamite"
The breeding, trialing, and introduction of dahlias are rapid, competitive, and creative. The distinctive Mystic series, with eight varieties of diverse and distinctive color patterns, stands tall in stature, heat tolerance, durability, and summer performance. The varieties display an upright habit, dark foliage, strong peduncles, large single flowers with a dark disc floret, and solid and bicolor petals. The ‘Mystic Flare Dynamite’ was flowering profusely with large single transitional flowers of pink and rose. This series has proven its versatility for many years with application in patio containers and landscape beds. This variety matures at 20 to 30 inches and will be available in URC and liner form in 2023.
Begonia Interspecific, "Hula Series"
This new seed series is comprised of four colors: Bicolor Red+White, Blush, Pink, and Red. It offers a visual display unlike other interspecific begonias in the market. What sets it apart is the abundance of small flowers that cover the entire plant and project a mass of color. This, to me, was the most important attribute of the series in the trial. It manifested this prolific flowering in the trial row and landscape beds. This is a semi-spreading series that matures at 6 to 10 inches and is heavily branched with tight internodes. It is an early flowering series similar to Baby Wing. This series is recommended for basket and container production and will have an outstanding application for landscapers and homeowners for beds and larger patio containers.
Calibrachoa, "Minifamous Uno White & Gold"
This new calibrachoa variety with the wide-spreading yellow center and white petals was bright, and vibrant and produced a prolific flower canopy in the trial bed. White, with its powerful reflective qualities, is a powerful component in mixed containers and combinations. This new introduction will be an important addition to the Uno series that is comprised of diverse core-, double- and star-type flowers. It is a uniform, durable, early to flower, medium-compacted variety that matches the series in habit and flower timing. I will cover new nemesia, petunia, salvia, Sunpatiens, verbena, vinca, and zinnia in my June article.