FCI magazine gladly accepted the invitation to attend their Open House event, which, pandemic or not, was filled to the brim with many spectacular new varieties, writes Ron van der Ploeg in FloraCulture International, July-August 2021.
Under normal circumstances, June is one of the most critical months of the year for everyone in the global ornamental horticulture industry. With summer around the corner, growers, plant buyers, plug producers, distributors, florists, garden centre retailers, journalists, and PR professionals flock into their thousands to trial grounds in Aalsmeer, Westland and Rheinland Westfalen (Germany) to attend the annual FlowerTrials. Not so this year. Due to the pandemic, the FlowerTrials primarily moved to a virtual environment, showcasing hundreds of existing varieties and even more new introductions of annuals, perennials and gourmet vegetables.
Syngenta Flowers, however, opted for a dual format. Next to its Blooming Brightly webinar, the company offered industry peers the possibility to view their newest plants in person in their greenhouses in De Lier. Here, tranquillity reigned supreme with, as you can guess, the most significant portion of visitors coming from the Netherlands and a handful of Germans and Belgians.
Commenting on the state of the European bedding plant trade, Martijn Kuiper, Head of Product Management Europe, said that despite this year’s challenging spring weather with just a handful of dry and milder days, prices have been high. He says, “While in some parts of Europe garden centres and florist shop remained closed in other countries sales outlets cautiously reopened with consumers willing to spend more money on gardening. Now that the summer vacation is around the corner and the hospitality and leisure industry reopening, prices will become more reasonable. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has lured in novice gardeners. Now the industry needs to ensure it holds on to these customers and continues to meet their needs. The answer to that is simple: a strong focus on plants for patio pots and containers, low maintenance plants and excellent garden performance.”
Syngenta’s Sunfinity ‘Yellow with Dark Centre’ suits every patio pot and container and delivers an excellent garden performance within open grounds too. Kuiper says the finishing time for this potted sunflower is between 8-10 weeks, with hard pinching required approximately two weeks after transplanting from tray to pot. Once six to seven nodes have developed on the stem, growers do a hard pinching leaving four nodes and eight leaves. Hard pruning will lead to a multi-branching and multi-flowering plant once it is ready for sale. Sunfinity ideally grows in 17 or 19cm pots and requires PGR’s in its finishing stage. Sunfinity produces continuous blooms all season long and is attractive to birds and butterflies. In terms of marketing, Sunfinity is ideal for late spring and early summer sales, allowing garden retailers to extend their sales season with a premium-priced product.
Also suited for early summer sales is cutting-raised pentas lanceolata ‘Starcluster White’, originally a semi-tropical shrub that does not withstand late frosts in spring. Clusters of snowy white flowers rise above beautifully contrasting green foliage. The plant is tailor-made for butterflies too.
Syngenta’s feature item this year was petunia Fun House. Kuiper stresses that the brand is not a series but a collection of petunias in vibrant colours and with stripes, spots, and hearts. As you can guess, Fun House petunias give a fun addition to any hanging basket and patio containers.
Among the most unusual varieties is petunia Fun House Amethyst Sunshine. This variety has deep purple flowers with a yellow centre and almost resembles calibrachoa blooms. Petunia Fun House Peach Melba in soft hues of cream and pink is sure to be a favourite among British gardeners. At the same time, the fiery colours of petunia Fun House Glowing Garnet would perfectly do in any Mediterranean garden. Another showstopper included the pink-veined petunia Fun House Vintage Lilac with a dark centre. Thus, Syngenta meets the consumer’s growing demand for extraordinary and rare plant varieties with its petunia Fun House collection.