Floranova trials highlight compact plants

At its new 6,000sq m trial grounds amid the backroads of Norfolk, Floranova put on a month-long lavish show of new and established product lines, which concluded today (21 August).

Britain's only large-scale ornamental seed breeder David Colegrave took what turned out to have been a smart punt on a consumer vegetable seed breeding programme five years ago.

The results are now in, and such is the importance the company places on it that this year that it has formed a separate daughter company, Vegetalis, to promote the programme.

"The plants are all compact enough for limited spaces such as patios, and visually appealing enough for mixed planting with ornamentals," explained Floranova marketing manager Kate Monaghan. "No one else is doing professional-grade vegetable seed for the ornamentals sector."

Production is mainly carried out in countries such as Chile and India.

Monaghan added: "Growers are looking for plants that are compact and early-flowering, but you have to consider the interests of the end customers too, otherwise they will give up and plant shrubs instead."

Further breeding is also taking place in Antirrhinum and sweetcorn.

Pelargonium peltatum is part of the Summertime series. New colours are: 'Rose', 'Carmine', 'Cherry Red', 'Lilac' and 'Pink & White Star'.

Pelargonium Dancer is an F2 series offering high performance without the cost of the more labour-intensive F1 seed. It is available in five colours.

Pelargonium Horizon F1 is a well-established sales line for Floranova, and the addition of 'Violet Picotee' brings the range up to 25 colours. Other picotee and ripple varieties are currently in development.

Nicotiana Whisper comes in 'Apple Blossom', 'Rose Shades' and 'Deep Pink'. Easy to grow and reaching 1m, they are scented, popular with insects and very striking as a mass planting

Impatiens Athena 'Apple Blossom', a semi-double vigorous form, brings the range up to six. "A great product for growers looking for a better-value vegetatively propagated Impatiens," said a representative.

Catheranthus roseus Boa is said to be "high-energy, ideal for instant colour later in the year". It is bred at the Floranova station in Costa Rica in five colours: 'Peach', 'Red with Eye', 'Rose', 'White' and 'Burgundy'.

Chive Gigantic is striking as an ornamental Allium. Globes of white flowers on stalks of up to 60cm appeal to bees. It can also be potted, where it has a stronger garlic flavour than most chives.

Basil Aristotle is a strongly scented, small-leaved Greek basil that will mound up to an attractively symmetrical ball of around 50cm across. It makes a flavoursome addition to Mediterranean dishes.

Tomato 'Sweet & Neat' is said to live up to its name - it remains compact while producing numerous trusses of sweet cherry tomatoes. The variety is available in Scarlet, Cherry Red and Yellow.

Aubergine Ivory illustrates why it is known as "eggplant" in the US. This eye-catching compact form can be partnered with deep-purple Ebony.

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