Sounds glamorous, right? But imagine traveling nearly 300 miles up the coast of California, making 16 stops at flower and plant breeder’s greenhouses, seeing literally hundreds of beautiful varieties, and doing it all in just 4 days! Talk about a whirlwind, that’s the California Spring Trials (CAST).
This past March Steve Poppe, Horticulture Scientist and All-America Selections judge from the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), Morris, MN., did just that. Steve traveled with 3 other AAS judges: Mark Dwyer from Rotary Botanical Gardens, Mark Konlock from Green Bay Botanical Garden and Jeff Kuehny from LSU AgCenter Burden Botanical Garden seeing the best flowers the industry has to offer.
The trip started in Oxnard, CA and traveled north, ending in Watsonville, CA. At each of the 16 stops, designated tour guides gave excellent tours showcasing the individual characteristics of their top performing flower varieties. CAST is like Fashion Week for flowers, all the breeders display their best new and existing varieties for the horticultural industry to see.
With so many great varieties on display, it can be hard to narrow your choices down, but Steve rose to the challenge, outlining his top eight picks from CAST 2019. (note: some varieties mentioned will not be in your retailer until 2020.)
These cats won’t scratch!
Digitalis Pink Panther
Viola Cats Yellow
Viola Cats Yellow is an eye-catching viola with a unique vein pattern that appears to be whiskers on a cat. A low-growing plant that spreads to form an attractive ground cover about 8 to 10” tall.
Proven performers in my Trial garden
Geranium Big Eeze
Dianthus Supra Purple
I trialed Big Eeze Geraniums in 2018 and they proved themselves in our upper midwest gardens to be a vigorous grower with strong stems, big blooms, and excellent heat tolerance.
Dianthus Supra Purple, AAS Winner: The single flowers have highly fringed petal edges for an eye-catching experience. Plants remain under a foot in height, are very vigorous and will continuously flower under hot summer growing conditions.
You won’t be rolling the dice with these great plants!
Gerbera Bengal series
New Beacon Impatiens is a series of impatiens walleriana that are highly resistant to Powdery Mildew and are available in six colors: Bright Red, Violet Shades, Salmon, Orange, White, and Coral.
Bengal Series Gerbera are an outstanding series of Gerbera. In past years at WCROC, we have trialed other Gerbera varieties that have very little if any flowers all season long. In 2018 we planted the Bengal series Gerbera in a semi-shaded location and applied a fine mulch for moisture retention and adequate weed control. This proved to be a great spot to grow and display these Gerbera. They flowered continuously, looked healthy and were a real eye-catching annual flower in 2018.
New colors for classics!
Tomato Little Birdy Trio
Supertunia Raspberry Rush
An adorable and aptly named trio of compact determinate Little Birdy tomato plants all produce delicious cherry tomatoes in three colors.
Supertunia Raspberry Rush is a nice color addition to the Supertunia line of mounding petunias.