Favorites From the First Day of California Spring Trials 2024

The Greenhouse Grower team kicked off California Spring Trials at Ball Horticultural and Green Fuse. Here are their top picks.

Dr. Allan Armitage’s Picks, Day 1

Phlox ‘Spring Splash’ (Darwin Perennials)

The genus Phlox has a ton of landscape-worthy members, but ones that are always in demand are the early spring flowering forms like moss phlox, P. subulata. It is a wonderful plant and while it flowers early, it also goes out of flower early. I saw this new series of phlox from Darwin Perennials and it was obviously a hybrid with some moss phlox in it and at least one or two other early flowering species in its parentage. Low to the ground, but taller than moss phlox, it looks to me like it would be an exceptional perennial for sunny gardens. Two colors, pink and lilac.

Angelonia Guardian series (Ball FloraPlant)

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A dozen series of fine angelonias have been introduced in the last ten years and all have had their moments. I liked the strong, bullish stems of plants in this series; they were not going to be pushed around by rain or wind. They are tall, and useful for a backdrop behind other plants. Perhaps I am being optimistic, but I also believe they are strong and tall enough to be used as a cut flower. The flowers are large and close together on the flower stems. Two colors, Berry Sparkler and Blue.

Hydrangea Game Changer series (Green Fuse Botanicals)

I have had it up to my eyeballs with mophead and lace-cap hydrangeas (H. macrophylla). Too much water, die back with late freezes, need shade or they wilt, need sun or they flower poorly. It is no wonder that panicle hydrangeas have taken over the hydrangea market in many areas of the country. Even with remontant hydrangeas like the Endless Summer series, they are often fleeting and poor of flowering. If what Steve Jones tells me is so, then this lace-cap hydrangea series will be a gamechanger. Here is a hydrangea that blooms on new wood and keeps on blooming all season. I looked at the inside of the plant and two new stems, each with a potential flower head were waiting in each leaf axil. Colors were stunning.

Top Picks From Greenhouse Grower Senior Editor Julie Hullett

Calibrachoa Cielo Series (Green Fuse Botanicals)

In most cases, when breeding calibrachoa, breeders are looking for a short and compact plant. Jim Devereux says Green Fuse Botanicals did the opposite. They developed a series of more aggressive calibrachoa with large flowers and most importantly, pH tolerance. Since calibrachoa is pH intolerant, it needs pH between 5.8 and 6.2. The Cielo Series can handle pH between 5.5 and 7.2. The Cielo series comes in various colors, including Firecracker, Yellow, Orange Delicious, and Grape Delicious.

Vinca Titan-ium Series (PanAmerican Seed)

Everyone knows vinca are susceptible to Phytophthora aerial blight. PanAmerican Seed is working to address this challenge with a new series called Vinca Titan-ium. They are offering a new and improved version of the Titan series currently on the market. Titan-ium is resistant to some strains of aerial phytophthora, as demonstrated in a side-by-side comparison at California Spring Trials. Titan-ium would be available in the same colors as Titan, making an easy transition for growers. The growth habit and vigor for Titan and Titan-ium are nearly identical, offering a seamless switch for growers looking for disease-resistant crops.

Kitchen Minis Basil Bonsai (PanAmerican Seed)

PanAmerican Seed has another offering for apartment dwellers and people looking forward to container gardening. The latest introduction, the first herb in the Kitchen Minis Collection, is Basil Bonsai. This compact, quick uniform basil crop would pair nicely with Italian meals, says Josh Kirschenbaum, Business and Portfolio Manager. Bonsai is a fine-leaf basil, so no chopping required as part of your meal prep.

Interspecific Geranium Solera Series (Ball FloraPlant)

Ball FloraPlant introduced its first vegetative interspecific geranium, Solera. This series has dark foliage with uniform timing and vigor, according to Katie Rotella, Senior Public Relations and Digital Manager for Ball Horticultural Company. She says Solera has an easy-to-control medium greenhouse habit.



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