Monday, April 6, 2009

"Pack Trials" - a showcase of new varieties

Last week was the "Pack Trials" week throughout California. This is an annual event where all the American seed producing companies and many from abroad as well, grow out and showcase all their new flower varieties in greenhouse settings to introduce them to their customers and the media.There are several dozen locations to visit up and down the coast that have these official greenhouse open days and many folks spend a whole week traveling from one to another.

pack trials showcaseAt our office, I take a group to visit some of our favorite vendors that are drivable in one day from Felton where we are located. It's always a fascinating tour with lots of plant material presented in their most alluring fashion given the constraints of greenhouse growing. We see both varieties that we are interested in trialing as well as lots of the varieties that will end up being massmarketed in the next two years by large growers.
Our job is to pick and choose what works best for our customers. Then we make a list, get sample seeds of all our choices and grow them out to see what we think of the varieties grown in our own trial garden from seed. For me, the best part of Pack Trials is not just seeing the flower varieties, but having time to spend with the breeders and developers of these new cultivars which I always find fascinating. Here are a few pictures:
takii seeds linariaTrial garden manager Lindsay admires the new " Fantasy" series of linaria from Japanese flower breeders Takii seeds . We decided to make a mix of all the pastel colors. Next up will be to grow them out from seed in both California and Vermont to see how they do.

sahin seeds stevia plantKnowledgeable and delightful Elizabeth Sahin of the extraordinarily talented breeding company, Sahin Seeds , shows off her new fragrant dwarf stock to us. We thought it was very sweet smelling, but prefer the taller one we already sell from another company. She had many other great new selections though, including seed for Stevia, the sweet tasting herb which we will trial this spring and also a Korean mint whose edible flowers attract butterflies and taste like root beer.

takii seeds dreamland series Takii seeds product manager Jessica and I consider whether this dwarf red colored Zinnia in their "Dreamland" series is more crimson or scarlet in hue. In the end, I decided to try the whole lovely mix of colors!

greenhouse at the pack trialsOur East Coast trials manager, Jay Leshinsky, was visiting from still cold and snowy Vermont for this event and you can see him how pleased he is to be enjoying this comfortable warm greenhouse surrounded by gorgeous flowers.
kieft's armeria My favorite seedsmen Sjaak Ros, from major Dutch supplier Kieft, seeds shows off their new Armeria to Lindsay. We love the color combination of brick and white and plan to try it from seed this spring. This perennial blooms the first year from seed and is extremely weather tolerant.

five foot tall snapdragons Beth Benjamin, major Renee's Garden inspiration and our horticultural advisor, and I enjoy the 5 foot tall snapdragon bred for single cuts -- these are very special and wouldn't grow this way at home gardens, but they are spectacular in this greenhouse setting.

viola cultivars The Renee's Garden crew each picked out their favorite new Viola cultivar for this picture and grabbed a sixpack from the display so we could memorialize the choices here for fun. There were about 30 different colors and forms to choose from!

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