This year’s FlowerTrials® took place June 12-15 in the Westland and Aalsmeer regions in the Netherlands and the Rheinland Westfalen region in Germany. A record 60 breeding companies launched thousands of novelty pot and bedding plants and merchandising programmes and concepts. In attendance were growers (37% of total visitors) followed by import/export specialists (21%), breeders/young plant producers (12%), retailers (6%) and auction representatives (1%). Here’s our take on the biggest stories from FlowerTrials 2018.
Founded in 2003 by a group of visionary entrepreneurs in the pot and bedding plant industry, Flower Trials has quickly established itself as one of the top ornamental plant events providing a platform for relatively young companies in plant breeding as well as established brands and supports retail businesses throughout the world.
June is one of the most important months of the year for everyone in the ornamental horticulture industry. With summer around the corner, growers, plant buyers, plug producers, distributors, florists, garden centre retailers, journalists and PR professionals kick into high gear with the start of FlowerTrials.
Industry professionals spend hours each day discovering the latest breeding breakthroughs, attending seminars, award ceremonies and talking shop, marketing programmes and trends.
FlowerTrials has developed over a number of years and become a spectacular international event providing a comprehensive overview of existing, new and future assortments of cut flowers, pot and bedding plants. Since 2003, attendance at the annual showcase has grown with guests visiting from five continents to the four-day show.
This year, the exciting and creative open house attracted 7,300 visitors (an increase of 2.3% over last year). FlowerTrials organisers noted a strong increase in visitors from Southern Europe, with 34% more visitors from Italy, without doubt thanks in part to first time exhibitor Gruppo Padana. FlowerTrials also saw significant more visitors from Spain (up 12%) and France (up 12 and 6% to last year respectively).
Meanwhile, the 2018 edition of FlowerTrials welcomed more visitors from Eastern Europe with a strong contingent of Polish, Russian, Ukranian, Slovak, Czech and Estonian trade visitors. The number of visitors from Turkey and Iran decreased significantly, most likely due to the Ramadan and sugar feast which fell this year in week 24.
Selecta One’s Osteospermum ‘Purple Sun’ scooped up the FleuroStar Award 2018/2019 in recognition of its overall excellence. According to Selecta’s clever marketing minds, ‘Purple Sun’ conjures up images of spectacular sunsets on the beach. However, most Flower Trial goers were more interested in the multi-branching character of the plant and the masses of flowers it produces than the romantic description. ‘Purple Sun’ blooms come in different shades of orange accentuated by a luminous purple ring around the dark centre. The cultivar fits any existing Osteospermum production scheme and is backed by a ‘Purple Sun Takes You To The Summer’ campaign that comes with POP material.
The FleuroStar Award winner was presented as a stand-alone variety but it is officially part of the SummerHero series which, according to the breeders, produces flowers all summer. Not bad for a bedding plant that usually stops blooming for a while mid-summer.
Building on the success of Pink Kisses are Selecta One’s new pot carnation concepts Dianthus Peach Party®, Dianthus Purple Wedding® and Dianthus Early Love®. Peach Party features apricot blooms in spring and a red ring around the white centre once summer arrives. Purple Wedding bears masses of flowers in hues of pink and crimson red that rise above nicely contrasting dark foliage. Early Love stands out for its double flowers on short stems and its rounded plant habit.
In Pelargonium, the biggest hit was Moonlight® ‘Tumbao’ , with the looks of an interspecific but officially ranged into the zonale category. It has dark leaves zoned with maroon and single blood-red flowers. Its compact growth habit suits high-density production. Like the other 15 members of the Moonlight series, the upright plants have an early blooming stage and are eye-catching on retail shelves.
Appearing to have had bleach (or white wash) spilled on their petals, Petunia BabyDoll®, Lighting Sky and Glacier Sky find their roots in different series. Cultivation- wise Baby Doll should be grown as a member of the Bonnie® series. Cultivation of Lighting Sky and Glacier Sky follows the Famous and AlpeTunia® series, respectively.
Danziger’s showcase at Royal Van Zanten’s headquarters in Rijsenhout is not to be missed. Visitors from around the world flocked to the company’s sumptuous display of single-season bedding and container plants.
The giant ‘Rubik’s Cube’ of flowering Bidens in yellows, pinks and oranges stole the show of the outdoor display. The Bidens Timeless™ Collection was definitely the highlight of this year with as many as 10 different varieties of yellow, red-yellow, lemon, pink or white flowers including compact and more vigorously growing varieties. The series suits patio pots, window boxes, balcony planters and beds. Officially a member of the Timeless™ collection and unofficially a standalone variety Bidens Golden Empire has been going strong since its debut in 2016. Danziger’s Sales Manager for Europe, Ms. Ayala Zilberman, said the product has proven a great success. “Growers appreciate it for being a trouble-free plant, standing out for its upright and compact growth habit and large flowers. Also consumers love its giant blooms and the plant’s great performance in the garden.”
Zilberman explained how the wooden bridge “decked out” with Bidens Golden Empire at the entrance of the indoor show symbolizes the unity between growers and end consumers.
Another recent outcome of Danziger’s extensive breeding programmes is Capella. Launched last year Capella is a series of five Petunia hybrida varieties including Capella™ Pink Lace. They initially grow upright and compactly and finish as a mounding, floriferous ball of color.
Capella™ is a prime example of bedding plants that appeal to the modern-day city dweller. People that have a small garden, patio or balcony are an important target audience for breeders, growers and garden retailers.
Lia™ , a brand new series of Calibrachoa hybrida, was another showstopper. “This series of five cultivars perfectly fits urban garden trends too,” said Zilberman, whose favourite variety is ‘White’ (white flowers with a yellow centre). Lia™ has huge retail appeal as it stays compact and produces masses of comparatively large flowers.
“Busy, colourful and an upbeat mood are some of the things that come to mind if we look at FlowerTrials 2018,” said PanAmerican Seed’s Marketing Specialist for Europe, Denise van Kampen. She is happy that the company received so many compliments on the presentation of the Pansy Cool Wave and Petunia Wave series. “Visitors appreciated that you could look on top of each plant and really see the differences in plant habit of the Wave, Tidal Wave and Easy Wave petunias.”
Highlights of the show included the new Petunia Easy Wave Red Improved (more blood red and less prone to Botrytis) and Violet Improved (improved mounding habit), Coreopsis Double the Sun, new additions to the Zinnia Double Zahara and Dianthus Corona series. With its exceptional flower form and palette of colour choices, Corona gives its best performance in cool weather along with other cool-season annuals such as pansies. Dianthus Corona is available in White, Cherry Red, Rose and Strawberry.
Worthy of an honorable mention is the Vinca Tattoo series. Heat tolerant, durable flowering and bold colours, Vinca Tattoo (also known as Catharanthus roseus) is truly a hassle-free and visually appealing flower. PanAmerican Seed says each petal looks like it’s inked, but for that you definitely need to use your imagination. The traditional Vinca roseus is crowded and tends to look messy as they grow to their full size. But Tattoo maintains its compact growth habit. Available in four colours: Tangerine, Black Cherry, Papaya and Raspberry.
The new series of cut Celosias, Celosia Neo, Sunday and Celway, were absolute showstoppers.
Europe’s oldest seed company was celebrating its 175th anniversary at the Flower Trials. Equally remarkable, it is still in the hands of the founder’s family, for the sixth generation.
Begonias have for decades been a very important genus for Benary, and took pride of place in their Trials display. Variety series – all seed-raised – ranged from the newest addition, the double-flowered semi-trailing Funky, to the longstanding success stories, Begonia semperflorens Sprint Plus and B x tuberhybrida Nonstop. Funky was introduced in 2016 and is deep pink but orange and white, both of them in the Trials display, are potential sister colours. Sales evidence is that Funky is proving highly competitive against comparable vegetatively-propagated varieties.
The Sun Cities series of B.boliviensis hybrids launched by the introduction of Santa Cruz is now in three colours. It also competes effectively against vegetatively-propagated series.
The BIG series, the Illumination and Sprint series, and the Nonstop series with the Joy varieties its most recent development, were all shown at the Trials.
Also very prominently displayed were Benary’s new dwarf sunflower Bert, and their new three-colour Platycodon series Pop Star. Recent breeding has seen the introduction of Petunia and French marigold series, challenging long-established competition in these highly important plant groups. The semi-trailing Petunia series Success, originally a multiflora, is now available as Success 360, a grandiflora sub-series, and Success HD, a genetically compact version.
The new French marigold Super Hero series is available in 8 colours. The plants have a compact plant habit, blood red flowers with a deep yellow centre and finish one week earlier than comparable varieties. All colours show a very good and stable flower pattern.
The seed-raised canna series Cannova made the biggest splash of colour on the Takii stand at the Trials. The newest variety seen by visitors was the dark-leaved Cannova Bronze Orange, introduced last year. Cannova Bronze Scarlet was the 2014 FleuroStar Award winner. Two Cannova colours are All America Selection award winners.
Takii was also showing a current AAS winner, the trailing petunia Evening Scentsation. Flower colour is blue, but its principal appeal is its very strong fragrance, the feature that most impressed the AAS judges. Yet another Takii winner on show was the double-flowered Begonia semperflorens Fiona Red, awarded a 2019 Fleuroselect Gold Medal following international trialling last year. There is a sister variety, Fiona Rose, claimed to be closely matched in habit and performance.
There was a strong forward-looking element in Takii’s choice of plants for its stand. A new zinnia series, Preciosa, was on pre-introduction display. The full commercial launch will be in 2020. It is in effect an upgraded version of the well-regarded Dreamland series, with basal branching notably improved.
Pink Panther is a new stand-alone Digitalis variety, also provisionally scheduled for 2020 release. And Takii was showing Smiley Orange, an experimental pot sunflower. In this plant the company has an international reputation for its cut flower varieties, with Sunrich Orange holding pride of place for many years.
Rosa Eskelund’s FlowerTrials debut was just like her: generous and brimming with exuberance. Eskelund exhibited at MNP Flowers in Leimuiderbrug, close to Schiphol airport, Amsterdam and the coinciding GreenTech trade exhibition. Capturing a fair share of attention were large-flowered Infinity miniature roses, finger-licking gourmet roses, Plant’n’cut DIY kits and roses that bloom like crazy.
The complete family of Infinity miniature roses took centre stage at the Roses Forever exhibit. The line includes potted roses with extra-large flowers, extra-long shelf life and now available in white (Infinity White), soft pink (Infinity Princess), pink (Pink Infinity) two toned pink and bourbon shaped (Infinity Evergreen), orange (Jinfinity) and red (King of Infinity).
Roses Forever also put on show Gourmet Roses. Eskelund said that over the past five years the company has invested vast amounts of time and money into researching the best species for culinary use. Small-scale production of Gourmet Roses were setup at two horticultural operations. In Denmark, a specialty grower of salad and fresh herbs added Eskelund’s edible roses to the product range using his existing partnerships with chefs, caterers and wholesale markets. Eskelund explained that Danish grown Gourmet Roses are handpicked, meticulously packed and ready to be used as an ingredient or simply a garnish. The roses are grown in pots and part of the crop is sold as potted miniature roses when they rebloom. In Holland, Rodewijk Roses from Valkenburg, a company which has earned a name in dyed Vendela roses, grows a selection of gourmet roses in a separate greenhouse section and sells them to caterers and restaurants.
Gourmet Roses are available in eight different colours and the rose buds have a long shelf life when cold-stored.
Also very prominently displayed was the merchandising concept Plant’n’cut® , which was developed for hobbyists who would like to grow their own bouquet roses. With her keen eye for beauty, Eskelund selected varieties with Bourbon-shaped flowers. So far the brand includes two cultivars: ‘With Heart and Soul’ and ‘Tender’ featuring pink petals with an apricot centre and pink flowers with shades of green respectively.
The set comes with a bare-rooted rose and includes care instructions.
In keeping with tradition, Syngenta FloriPro Services, the distribution organisation serving commercial growers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, showcased its newest varieties at its young plant production facilities in De Lier.
At Syngenta FloriPro Services, a prominent spot had been reserved for Impatiens walleriana Imara®, a brand new series (white, red, rose, violet, orange, orange star) that are resilient to Impatiens Downy Mildew (IDM). Imara is the result of a joint IDM taskforce which was set up in 2012 in partnership with Syngenta Jealott’s Hill Research Centre and Stockbridge Technology Centre in the UK. Also involved is B&Q (owned by Kingfisher). Teaming up with the British retailer has been a logical step as Impatiens walleriana is the quintessential English cottage style garden flower, a firm favourite of British garden lovers for decades.
Syngenta carried out intensive, large-scale, side-by-side trialling with Imara® out-performing other varieties even when exposed to the disease. “We found a natural source for disease-resistant plants and started a program for classical breeding. Imara have been tested for performance in gardens and greenhouses so consumers and growers benefit from this next generation of Impatiens walleriana”, said Joost Kos, head of research & development at Syngenta Flower.
Imara have proven to offer compact, long-blooming periods and exceptional colour at retail, in addition to strong resilience to downy mildew. The team at Syngenta evaluated over 5,000 seedlings to find genetics that would not succumb to downy mildew. “The trials were heavily infected with obligate biotrophic Plasmopara obducens,” said John Gordon, technical specialist at Syngenta Flowers. “Only Imara displayed a significant level of tolerance to severe levels of infection.”
If the FleuroStar Award is all about the wow-factor and creating impact in the garden, this year’s list of nominees was pretty uninspiring. It was mostly the same genera and the same companies one is familiar with getting nominated for the same things. International press members asked themselves why Petunia Miss Marvelous did not deserve a spot on the FleuroStar stage, though the flower was already presented at the 2017 FlowerTrials.
Officially joining the Dümmen Orange Sweetunia series and unofficially a standalone variety the vegetatively reproduced Petunia Miss Marvelous has been going strong since its debut. Like other members of the Sweetunia series, the plants are easy to grow, have an early blooming stage and are eye-catching on retail shelves. This semi-trailing, subtly veined plant bears plum-coloured flowers with pure white edges. Miss Marvelous is well-suited for large containers, where they will gently cascade over the sides. A single-flowered petunias, Miss Marvelous is self-cleaning and doesn’t need deadheading.
SunStanding hybrid New Guinea Impatiens are heat-and humidity-tolerant and thrive in both full sun and shade. SunStanding offers growers a compact growth habit and an early blooming stage. In Europe, the series offers eight colours and is available in QuickTurn™ cutting. The cuttings are ideal for direct-stick applications.
SunStanding cuttings have been used to test Dümmen Orange’s Basewell technology which allows young plant producers to move the costly, time consuming sticking and rooting process overseas. Basewell’s rooting technology features bare-rooted starter plants that arrive
directly from the production farm in Africa and South America, readily available for transplanting and, thus, decreasing order lead times. To ensure premium quality, cuttings are placed in gel rather than soil and shipped in full strips or individual cells that fit automated sticking methods. Individual cells can also be used for manual transplanting.
Genetic dwarfness in Petunias, bedding salvias and zonal pelargonium is the signature breeding activity of Hem Genetics. Its two petunia series, the multiflora Mambo and the grandiflora Limbo were the first of their kind, enabling production without the use of PGR’s.
Arrays of these and of the newer versions Mambo GP and Limbo GP featured prominently on the company’s stand. GP means Garden Performance, and these series offer dwarfness on the nursery during plant raising but after planting the development of a more ordinary growth habit. Varieties on display included recently introduced colours like Mambo GP Burgundy and Limbo GP Blue Veined.
Dianthus is an important genus for the company, and was very prominent on the stand. The range goes from the China Pinks series Diana to the interspecific first year flowering perennial Supra and the semi-tall Elegance.
Twinny is the first series of F1 hybrid dwarf double-flowered antirrhinums. Their potential as showy plants in large containers was demonstrated on the stand. There are now seven colours, and it is planned to extend the range in this series.
Hem Genetics was showing its recently introduced Gazania series Enorma. This has uniformly compact habit across the colour range. The series already has six colours, and the introduction of a red will be in the near future.