Kerley promotes latest varieties

Power Daisy, petunias and pansies among new plants.

 Friends: plants labelled as ideal for out-of-season sales - image: HW
Friends: plants labelled as ideal for out-of-season sales - image: HW

Kerley & Co has held its spring trials, promoting new plants such as the Power Daisy to growers. Next season will be the 20th for Kerley-bred Petunia Priscilla, still Kerley's biggest-selling variety, having sold tens of millions of plants.

This year Kerley had more than 400 basket petunias in trial, including many experimentals as well as commercial varieties. In addition, there were more than 200 compact varieties for tubs and window boxes including a new series of early mounding types that initiate flower buds in short days.

The Tim Kerley-bred Power Daisy has new colours in development. Because it is hardy, it can be sold from March onwards in Western Europe. August-to-September sales will give flowers almost up until Christmas. Power Daisy is hardy to -10 degsC, drought-tolerant and designed for earlyand late-season sales. Channel Island Plants and Kientzler are among the growers of the plant and Thompson & Morgan is listing Power Daisy among retail mail-order sellers.

The plant was long-listed among 40 new varieties for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show's plant of the year competition, which was due to be judged on 23 May. Peter Seabrook also included Power Daisy among his 40 new plants featured in an industry-backed The Sun Flower Square exhibit at Chelsea. Kerley said the RHS could consider splitting the plant of the year award into trees, shrubs and bedding to make plants easier to judge.

At Kerley's spring trials there were also four new colours of Balconita trailing pansies and new upright frilly types for commercial testing next winter. Petunia Tumbelina 'Anna', a pink double with rose rim, will be available from Ball Colegrave in 2016 and was introduced at Chelsea this year on the Peter Seabrook/HTA exhibit.

Petunia Short Day Mounding Ovation initiates flowers in short days, which David Kerley said "is what a lot of people around the world now want". The Florida market wants to plant in winter to flower in February ahead of the hot summer, he added. New for 2017 is 'Fireglow', a red which has better weather tolerance than most reds. There were five colours launched in the series in 2016.

Tumbelinas 'Francesca', a raspberry-veined early variety, and sky-blue 'Maria' are both new for 2017. The Petunia Presto series of short-day flowering singles has a new colour, 'Purple Velvet', following two new colours in 2016. Petunia Fanfare is exclusive to Ball Colegrave in the UK. The Veranda series is available in the UK through Proven Winners - Kernock Park Plants.

The Begonia Sweet Spice series is a new class of vegetatively propagated begonias with a free-branching, semi-trailing habit and strong fragrance. New in 2016 was 'Citrus' and 'English Rose', with Sweet Cascade 'Coral' in test production for a possible 2018 release via Ball Colegrave.

There are three plants in the Felici series new for 2017 and listed by Channel Island Plants. 'Bellicia', 'Friends Azure Blue' and 'Friends Pure White' are ideal for out-of-season sales, according to Kerley.

David Kerley, who was at Unwins for 25 years until 1999, said an introduction needs to sell 150,000 to cover its costs. He introduces about 10 plants a year from 100,000 grown. Two-thirds of business is overseas.

On the EU referendum, Kerley said: "Whatever happens, it won't make any difference to us because our customers will still want our varieties." One of the secrets to the company's success is being "sensitive to growers' requirements" in areas such as habit, performance and earliness, he revealed. The RHS awarded Petunia 'Priscilla' an Award of Garden Merit this year.

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