California Spring Trials wrap-up

May 1, 2010 -  By

The California Spring Trials showed off up-and-coming varieties and plant trends.

From Gilroy to Encinitas and all the stops in between, the new and yet-to-be-released cultivars were on display for a week in April during the 2010 California Spring Trials. Growers, retailers and landscapers who want to know what’s new and what’s next attend the annual event. This year’s displays didn’t disappoint.

Livescapes interviewed Stever Carver, manager, Technical Education at OFA — An Association of Floriculture Professionals,  Jennifer Neujahr, product marketing manager for PanAmerican Seed, Dean Bemis, broker account manager for Syngenta Flowers, and Faith Savage, retail account manager for Syngenta Flower about their experiences at the 2010 California Spring Trials.

Q: What varieties/programs received the most attention from attendees?
A: Carver—There has always been a heavy focus on new plant material, new cultivars, and species that offer better aesthetics, production characteristics, and/or postharvest (including landscape) properties. In other cases, the new cultivars add additional colors to existing lines. Two plant trends that continue to be strong are:

  • “Do it yourself” combo container/hanging basket programs. This takes the form of pelleted seed or plugs and liners that contain several species that grow well together.
  • Vegetable gardening and incorporation of vegetable plants in landscape plantings continues to be popular.
  • In the eight years that we have been going to the trials, we’ve seen increased attention given to marketing ideas and concepts that can help retailers. Proven Winners and the divisions of Ball Horticultural Co. are particularly adept at reaching consumers through various print, electronic, broadcast, and display venues, and creating within them a sense of excitement … pulling the product through the chain.

Two marketing messages that were strong this year were:

  • Sustainability: Plants that can grown with a smaller carbon footprint. For instance, some can be grown economically under cooler temperatures while others are less vigorous and do not require the use of plant growth regulators during production. Biodegradable pots and packaging materials for plugs, liners, and plants that reduces plastic waste.
  • Social causes: There were several companies that tied sales of a specific product to financial support of worthy causes.


Ball Horticultural Company’s Shoppes on Main concept.

A: Neujahr—At the Ball Horticultural Company spring trials in Santa Paula, CA, we presented our Shoppes on Main concept, which brings our seed and vegetative offerings together at one stop. Displaying at this year’s trials were seed brands PanAmerican Seed and Kieft-Pro-Seeds, as well as vegetative brands Ball FloraPlant and Selecta First Class. Our Retail Idea Center also featured Ball’s consumer-facing brands: Burpee Home Gardens, Simply Beautiful, and the Wave petunia Ultimate Garden Center program.

Highlighted varieties from our brands this year that caused a lot of stir with visitors included: PanAmerican Seed’s PlentiFall Pansies, Gryphon Begonia, Wave Purple improved, Easy Wave Opposites Attract mix, Divine New Guinea Impatiens, and also PanAmerican Seed’s All-America Selections winners Echinacea PowWow and Zinnia Zahara Double; Ball FloraPlant Black Velvet Petunia, Patchwork Impatiens, and Voltage Yellow Osteospermum; Selecta TrixiLiners, MiniFamous iGeneration series Calibrachoa, and Bonfire Choc Red/Pink Begonia; and Kieft-Pro-Seeds’ New Dimension Salvia, Ellagance Lavandula, and Blue Note Scabiosa.

A: Bemis—TigerEye rudbeckia and the Picobella milliflora petunia got lots of attention along with the Calliope Dark Red geranium and the Cora vinca. Volumia begonia and Jaguar gerbera were also crowd pleasers. Our display of Yoder brand mums scored high marks with visitors as well.

Q: What special events/programs did you host/attend and where?
A: Carver—We started at the north end of the trial circuit. While we didn’t hit every stop on the trail, we stopped at many, including:

  1. American Takii – They have developed a number of excellent plants and forms for fall plantings. They also had excellent field trials and a growing display garden.
  2. Agrexco – Along with several other companies, displayed a wide array of annuals and perennials, along with a number of plastic and biodegradable pots.
  3. Syngenta Flowers – An amazing stop. From the wide collection of plant material and growing media options to the color-based, emotion-evoking marketing ideas that can readily be adopted by independent garden centers and retail growers, they are always a must-see stop.
  4. Dummen USA – Of particular note is their Confetti series of liners. Each liner has multiple cuttings of different plants. Perfect for hanging baskets and containers.
  5. Greenheart Farms – Displayed a wide selection of cyclamen and miniature roses.
  6. Floranova – Along with extensive floral breeding program, they have created an excellent line of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and other vegetables and small fruit that fit very nicely into landscape and container plantings.
  7. Imagination Canyon – Where we visited with John Henry Co., Jiffy Products, and Skagit Gardens, among others. John Henry, a major supplier of tags and signs, also displayed a “Bee – Friendly” social-cause program, and a program that would allow iPhone owners to scan symbols on the tags of vegetables and herbs, and pull up recipes and instructions from allrecipes.com. Jiffy Products displayed several products that would minimize plastic waste when planting liners and plants in the landscape. Skagit Gardens displayed a range of excellent plant material including an arresting group of euphorbias.
  8. Ball Horticultural Companies – Another must see stop. Ball is a premiere marketer with national campaigns to promote their Burpee vegetables and Simply Beautiful plants. They also have extensive programs to promote organics, sustainability, and buy local efforts. In addition, they have extensive lines of annuals (including a new truly black-flowered petunia) and perennials for any situation.
  9. Fides North America – A breeder; they displayed their material in imaginative ways.
  10. Green Fuse Botanicals – Is a new company where breeding/genetics trends and new varieties were highlighted.
  11. Suntory and Plug Connection – Both companies have outstanding plant material. Suntory heavily showcased the Sun Parasol mandevilla hybrid, while Plug Connection displayed an organic program and other material. It is one of the few sites that still has trials where they grow similar material from different breeders and suppliers side by side.
  12. 12. Proven Winners – Another must see site. They are a consummate marketer, reaching the consumer through various print, online, and broadcast media. They have effectively created a “pull-through market” for their plants. Their vegetatively produced product line is outstanding and is artfully displayed in the largest landscaped garden of the trials.
  13. 13. Paul Ecke Ranch – An outstanding stop. They showcased the social marketing programs, Polar Bear poinsettia and pink euphorbias for bear ecology and breast cancer awareness. A retail design center was also highlighted, showing ideas for decorating and adding value to plants.
LM Staff

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