Breeders play with color in new CAST varieties

It’s a wrap, the California Spring Trials 2019 are officially over. From March 23-27, tons of new exciting and even experimental varieties were shining at different locations throughout the state. Every grower has their own novelties and varieties, one can notice general trends. Below we listed some.

Variegated leaves
Let's start with the leaves. Variegated leaves seem to be a hit this year. Many novelties that are introduced have these bi-coloured leaves. It is being received well by the consumer and this is probably because it adds ornamental value to the plant, even when it is not flowing.

Alstroemeria Colorita Katiana from Royal Van Zanten was, according to Nico Laan, the company's Sales Manager, one of the most photographed products at their booth. Accroding to Nico, the variegated leaf is what makes this variety so special.

Changing flower colours
In general, and traditionally speaking, the US consumer is fond of large and strong coloured large flowers. Now, however, we also see smaller flowers - only as long as the plant is filled with it - that are bi-colored and/or change color throughout the season. Particularly this latter habit of the flower seems to be popular. On top of that, breeders are constantly working on extending the flowering times of their varieties.

Aramis Lemon & Pink by Benary+. This Argyranthemum fruescens has bi-colored flowers of which some change when they mature.

Contrast leaves and flowers
When looking at the plant as a whole, we see that contrasting color of the leaves and flowers attract a lot of attention as well. Dark or chocolate brown leaves with bright orange or pink flower, for example, are a big hit.

Bossa Nova Night Fever Papaya from Flora Nova (sold by Syngenta in North America), for example. It is claimed to be the first begonia boliviensis from seed with dark leaves. The dark leaves and bright flowers result in a large color contrast.

And one plant is often not enough for the US consumer: they love to use it in mixes. So for breeders, it is important to let their flowers behave in a mix. This means they should not take over the container, but they should suit the mix.

Manfred Mehring-Lemper of Westhoff, presenting one of his own bred Didelta varieties, named Silver Strand, in the FanciFillers collection. This variety looks like a succulent, but grows taller in combinations without growing over.

But the consumer isn’t the only one the breeder is focusing on. In order to present a perfect variety, it needs to fit all the needs in the chain. "Easy" seems to be the key word here. And ease is often achieved by turning the variety's weakness into a strength.

For the grower habits like early flowering, disease resistance, uniform growing and slowing and natural compactness are important. Regarding disease resistance, one of the major breakthroughs presented at the CAST, for example, were the Impatiens Downy Mildew resistant Impatiens series Beacon from PanAmerican Seed and the Impatiens Downy Mildew resistant Impatiens series Imara XDR series from Syngenta.

On the left: Ruud Brinkkemper and Lisa Lacy of PanAmerican Seed presenting the series Beacon and comparing it with Super Effin XP. On the right, Brandon Willis of Syngenta presenting the new Imara XDR Rose.

For retail, sturdy, so-called fool proof plants and plants that flower or shine in the shelves are essential. "The plant needs to show its uniqueness early to attract the attention of the consumer in the store", many say.

Jason Twaddell of Ball FloraPlant holding the Calibrachoa hybrida Caberet Good Night Kiss, a new variety added to the Caberet series. It is well-branched with full centers and it is claimed that most varieties flower with an 11 hour day length and stay open an in flower under low ligth conditions - a big plus for retail.

And finally, the end consumer. They are looking for good looking and low maintenance products. With the lowest effort, they need to keep their plants flowering and alive.

Verbena Vanessa Compact by Danziger, for example. It is a heat tolerant series and all in the series are mildew resistant. They flower continuously and stay compact

Photo Report
On Monday, April 1, we will publish the photo report of the CAST. Later on, in separate articles, we will highlight several varieties of each breeder.

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