Inclement conditions at many of this summer's flower trials created a challenging environment for growers. But customers who braved conditions at trial sites were rewarded with displays of innovative breeding and marketing to put to use next season.
The poor weather highlighted the robustness of Begonia, which was featured by several growers, and traditional bedding plants were at the forefront at many sites. Moles Seeds launched its own range, the Pax series of pansies, which offers uniform early production. Two new Petunia series also reflect advances in modern plant breeding.
Pentland Plants partner David Spray urged customers to consider more economic ways to plant areas. He pointed out that choosing bulkier varieties could cut costs per square metre of planting by more than half.
Ball Colegrave, Oxfordshire
Ball Colegrave has introduced more than 300 plant varieties for 2009. Most notably, the firm has several new begonias and petunias.
The firm filled its show grounds at West Adderbury with 50,000 plants. The company used new ways to display its products, including a plant catwalk, a Fantastic Foliage section and a Made in the Shade pergola.
A vertical planting system for consumers, growers and retailers is being developed by LBS Group director Ian Wolfenden on behalf of KinderGarden. The Vertigro wall panels have built-in irrigation and 16 planting holes for young plants. The modular nature of the system means retailers could use them to create planted display walls.
- Petunia Tumbelina 'Susanna' (1)
Bred by David Kerley, this variety has a pale green, double flower. It has a cascading habit and is medium-early flowering. The plant is said to have excellent weather resistance and to be compact in small pots. Recommended for hanging baskets and tubs.
- Petunia Fanfare 'Lime' (2)
This is one of three new colours in the large-flowered Fanfare series from David Kerley. It tolerates varied weather conditions and powdery mildew. This trailing Petunia has a tight ball habit and flowers throughout the summer.
- Begonia Million Kisses 'Devotion' (3)
This red variety along with the off-white 'Elegance' are two additions to the popular small-flowered series. It is a semi-trailing, cascading, clean-looking plant which tolerates heat.
- Coleus 'Dark Chocolate' (4)
This variety has dark-purple leaves and lilac spikes of flowers. Said to do well in shade or semi-shade and to grow more strongly than plants in the C. Wizard series but not as vigorously as C. Kong.
Mr Fothergill's, Suffolk
Mr Fothergill's trials were delayed a week until 20 August because of poor weather this summer. However, that did not stop the trial ground site in Kentford being ablaze with colourful new flowers.
- Begonia 'Fragrance Elfie'
The star launch with a rose fragrance. Found by plant product manager Tom Stimpson in Belgium. It is the highlight of Mr Fothergill's bedding and container collection.
- Echinacea 'Dreamcoat' (1)
An exclusive, first coloured mixture that can be raised from seed. Plant in large clumps in the garden for best effect.
- Antirrhinum 'Snappy Tongue' (2)
An exclusive snapdragon with one in six flowers having a "tongue".
- (Campanula) Canterbury Bells 'Chelsea Mixed'
Exclusive dwarf annual plants that flower in the same year.
Moles Seeds, Essex
With introductions flooding the market from Moles Seeds, flower seed manager Stuart Donders says it is not just about offering the latest plant, but creating a strong marketing advantage and point of difference when it comes to sales. For example, Moles will be featuring a new range of musically themed sweet-pea mixes together with a range of eye-catching labels.
Elsewhere, the company's range reflects improved breeding in favourites such as pansies and petunias.
- Lathyrus odoratus Sweet Music 'Tango' (1)
Part of the new Sweet Music series of mixed, distinctly scented sweet peas. The series also contains 'The Blues', 'Cadenza' and 'Jazz', and comes with colourful bespoke labelling.
- Petunia grandiflora F1 Limbo 'Rose Morn' (2)
An introduction to this 15-strong series of naturally dwarf petunias, 'Rose Morn' remains 15-20cm in height without the need for chemical growth regulation. Mounding blooms of 8-12cm width appear early in the season.
- Petunia Milliflora Picobella (3)
This is a new series of Milliflora petunias selected by Goldsmith for its much-improved garden performance. The five-strong series includes 'White', 'Blue', 'Carmine', 'Rose' and 'Light Lavender', and will eventually replace the Fantasy series.
- Dianthus 'Elegance Pink' (4)
A taller variety offering bushy growth on well-branched stems, this Dianthus is 45-60cm tall, yet strong enough not to need support. It adds height to the garden and makes for a long-lasting cut flower.
- Pansy Pax (5)
This is a new series of 11 shades that has been selected in the UK from a variety of breeders' Viola genetics for pack and garden performance. Colours include 'Yellow with Blotch', 'Blue with Blotch' and 'Redwing'.
Suttons operates a trial ground just outside Newton Abbot, where it evaluates the potential of new varieties. Suttons' umbrella encompasses the Dobies brand and the Alan Titchmarsh and Eden Project seed ranges.
Suttons says the ornamentals market is expanding despite the growth of edible varieties. Its trial ground experienced heavy rainfall this summer, and varieties with strong weather resistance and sales potential were featured.
- Helianthus 'Aslan' (1)
'Aslan' is a semi-dwarf type compact sunflower, reaching a height of 75-90cm. This Helianthus has good weather resistance with golden blooms held on strong stems and is suitable for large pots and containers.
- Lathyrus odoratus 'Madame Butterfly' (2)
Suttons evaluated more than 350 sweet-pea varieties and worked alongside breeders in a bid to tap into a growing market for old-fashioned flowers. All the colours in this flecked and striped grandiflora mix have been reselected for fragrance and large flowers. It includes shades of blue, purple and chocolate, as well as bicolours.
- Cistanthe 'Twinky Pinky' (3)
Suttons believes is has hit on a real novelty with this Cistanthe (pussypaws). 'Twinky Pinky' carries hot-pink flowers on 30-40cm high stems, above unusual semi-succulent foliage. Plants are flori-ferous and flower from June until frosts.
- Ipomoea 'Kiss Me Quick' (4)
Suttons' trial produced a vigorous climber in 'Kiss Me Quick', with plants reaching 2.5m. Its 5cm-wide flowers are distinctive with a splashed, striped effect in bright colours.
- Alonsoa 'Pink Shrimps' (5)
'Pink Shrimps' flowers in salmon-orange but, following a reselection programme, it now comes in shades of apricot to contrast with its dark foliage. This summer's trial has seen the variety thrive in wet and windy conditions, with plants of 45cm high.
Thompson & Morgan, Suffolk
Black plants, in-house and eastern European breeding, grow-your-own, eating raw and year-round colour were the themes at the launch of Thompson & Morgan's (T&M) plants for 2009.
Top launches were the Duchy range, in association with Prince Charles' charitable food company (see HW, 31 July, p13) and a children's range that has 10 vegetable and seven flower varieties.
- Dahlia variabilis 'Black Beauty' (1)
The first black Dahlia from seed is available to growers and gardeners for 2009. T&M-bred, the plant is a follow-up to D. 'Double Extreme' and 'Fireworks'. The plant flowers until autumn.
- Antirrhinum 'Bronze Dragon' (2)
This cultivar has one of the darkest shades of foliage for an Antirrhinum. The plant follows A. 'Jamaican Mist', 'Tequila Sunrise' and 'Frosted Flames'. 'Bronze Dragon' has purple and white bicolour blooms, can be sown from January until March and flowers from June. The plant is rust-resistant.
- Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy' (3)
The first red-flowered Rudbeckia from seed, 'Cherry Brandy', follows the T&M-bred R. 'Cherokee Sunset', which was an All-American Selections Winner. Growing to 60cm, this Rudbeckia flowers from July to autumn and copes well with sun, rain and hail.
- Nasturtium majus 'Cobra' (4)
'Cobra' won a Fleuroselect Novelty Mark Award in 1999 but it has taken until now for this Nasturtium to produce enough seed to make the dark-foliaged, red-bloomed plant commercially viable. Sow from March to May for transplanting after the risk of frost has passed.
- Begonia x tuberhybrida 'Scentsation Mixed' F1 Hybrid (5)
T&M has introduced a fragrant variety of Begonia from seed, the B. 'Scentsation Mixed' F1 Hybrid. Sow from January to March and 50cm plants will flower during the summer. Produces semi-double and double blooms in pastel shades from lemon to rose.
Young Plants, Warwickshire
The Stratford-upon-Avon based firm has introduced more than 60 varieties. The Fuchsia Celebrity series continues to expand with the general release of the pale pink and vermillion-coloured F. 'Jonny Wilkinson'. A new F. Mojo series is available and is said to flower all summer long on well-branched, upright and compact plants. As with other bedding plant producers this summer, Petunia and Begonia varieties feature highly. Several forms of Begonia are being trialled, from the small-flowered B. Martha series to the B. Big series, bred by Benary, which look set to be added to the Young Plants catalogue.
- Bacopa Scopia 'Great Pink Ring' (1)
This white-flowered variety with a pink ring at the base of the petals is another new colour, expanding the series. It is said to be a strong performer and to flower abundantly. The series is recommended for baskets and containers.
- Fuchsia Mojo 'Dark and Delicious' (2)
Produced from breeding work into the Fuchsia Mojo series, this upright variety, along with 'Salmon Surprise', was felt strong enough to stand alone. It bears vibrant burgundy sepals and aubergine petals from early April. Recommended for a one-litre pot, basket or container.
- Bacopa Scopia 'Gulliver Blue Sensation' (3)
The Scopia series breeding programme is beginning to show its potential. This cultivar carries abundant flowers with a trailing habit. Recommended for baskets and containers, this pale blue variety manages to create great impact even at distance.
- Verbena Gin and Tonic 'Tonic Peach' (4)
An addition to the Verbena Gin and Tonic series, this variety is compact and tolerant of powdery mildew.
- Petunia Tumbelina 'Joanna' (5)
Breeder David Kerley has developed this double Petunia series with pastel shades such as this pale pink and pale green 'Susanna' and white 'Melissa'. 'Joanna' is said to have a good pot habit with excellent weather tolerance.
Midlothian-based Pentland Plants allows visitors to compare the performance of similar varieties from rival breeders. "We take everyone's breeding, and like to think we are fair to each of them at the trials," says partner David Spray. "What then goes in the catalogue is a consensus between ourselves and visitors to the site."
- Begonia x benariensis F1 Big (1)
This new seed-raised series from Benary is proving popular with parks managers, says Spray. Suitably named, fewer of the plants are needed to fill a given area, reducing costs, he explains. It comes in three varieties, 'Red with Green Leaf', 'Red with Bronze Leaf' and 'Rose with Bronze Leaf', each with 5-8cm flowers from mid-April to first frost.
- Rudbeckia hirta F1 'Tiger Eye' (2)
'Tiger Eye' is a vigorous and upright form, even flowering from outer shoots as inner blooms fade. Its height is more uniform than with open-pollinated forms, creating a striking effect in mass plantings. The plant offers reduced sensitivity to powdery mildew.
- Strobilanthes dyerianus (3)
This plant features dark, metallic-purple foliage and provides a striking contrast in mixed planting. Although it is known as Persian shield, this annual plant comes originally from Burma. It is hardy enough for the British summer, though it prefers partial shade, and produces small, blue flowers. It attracted a good deal of interest from visitors to Pentland's trials.
Four Oaks/Channel Island Plants, Cheshire
Late spring/early summer is not an ideal time to assess members of the Viola family, but just the same, the award-winning Friolina (1) was making a splendid show. As well as its trailing habit in seven colours, continuous flowering and perfume, it also has the advantage of having a minimal heating requirement.
Mimulus (2) is another subject with minimal heating requirement. Vortex Yellow is the first of a new cutting-raised series bred by Floranova that flowers very early and stays compact even in warm conditions.
Surfinia (3) has made its name in the singles but its doubles have not had too much impact so far. However, the new Blue Star will certainly impress - a vast number of medium-sized flowers of a good colour and, like so many doubles, it also a powerful scent.
Bacopa (4) keeps getting larger flowers and ever more colours but the Copa series also has double flowers. The Double White is a bit more of a semi-double but the new Double Pink and Double Blue are definitely fully double. The series is said to be a charming and unusual product.