Perennials gaining attention at Spring Trials

Features - New Perennials

June 23, 2011

While new annuals take up the majority of display space at the California Spring Trials, an increasing number of companies are showing new perennials. Here are just a few of the new varieties that were shown this year.

Israeli breeder Danziger continues to expand its perennial offerings. This is the second year that the company displayed new perennials. Its Kira heuchera series contains more than a dozen varieties of mounding plants that have a medium to vigorous growth habit. Leaf color ranges from light green to black-crimson.

Partnering with Walters Gardens, Proven Winners introduced 28 perennials, eight of which are brand new to the market. Leucanthemum superbum ‘Banana Cream’ produces 4- to 5-inch lemon yellow flowers that lighten to creamy white as they mature. An extra row of ray petals makes the flowers appear fuller than other single-flowered varieties. The disease-resistant, strong growing plants bloom all summer.

Iberis Masterpiece is a Pacific Plug & Liner exclusive. Bred in the United Kingdom, this hybrid starts flowering at the end of March or first part of April. It produces 3-inch diameter inflorescences with creamy-white flowers with a contrasting burgundy eye. It finishes quicker and flowers longer than traditional varieties. It finishes well in 1-gallon containers. It is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 6.

Light Blue is the newest color to Syngenta Flowers’ Audrey aubrieta series. It is the first F1 hybrid aubrieta series from seed. It is one of the earliest flowering perennials making it ideal for early spring sales. Very cold hardy, it can be grown outside or in a cold frame. Plants in the series are extremely long blooming, offering better shelf life and garden color. Hardy to Zone 4.

1) Hydrangea macrophylla Passion. 2) Heuchera Kira series. 3) Leucanthemum superbum ‘Banana Cream’. 4) Aubrieta Audrey Light Blue.

Gaillardia × grandiflora ‘Arizona Apricot’ from Benary is a 2100 All-America Selections award winner. This FastraX perennial flowers the first year without vernalization. The heat-tolerant plants produce a mass of apricot-colored flowers. This compact, well-branched variety expands the Arizona series to three colors. It is hardy in Zones 2-10.

Green Fuse Botanicals introduced the Salvia nemorosa Sensation series, including Deep Blue, Deep Rose, Sky Blue and White. Bred by Florensis, the compact plants reach a height and width of about 12 inches. Plants flower the first year without vernalization, although cold temperatures are beneficial.

Cosmic Evolution is an addition to the Big Bang coreopsis series from Skagit Gardens. It produces large creamy-white flowers with magenta striping, which is more predominant in cooler temperatures. Bred by Darrell Probst, the plants are hardy to Zone 5 and possibly Zone 4. The well-branched plants reach a height of 30 inches and spread of 24 inches. They flower from June through October. They can be used in landscape beds, borders and large containers. They also make excellent fresh cut flowers.

Hydrangea macrophylla Passion (‘RIE 4’) from PlantHaven has a sturdy upright growth habit and produces soft pink double blooms from summer through fall. For pink flowers, treat with superphosphate and maintain a pH of 6.0-6.2 to prevent aluminum uptake. For deep blue flowers, treat with aluminum sulfate and maintain a pH of 5.2-5.5. It has deciduous, glossy dark foliage. It is best grown in partial shade and moist soils. Passion can be used as an indoor and outdoor pot plant, as a specimen plant and in landscape plantings. From a 4-inch liner, a 2-gallon container finishes in 12 months.

Florist de Kwakel has introduced additions (Vivian, Romy, Valeria and Linsey) to its Garvinea hardy perennial gerbera, which are available from Northern Innovators. Outdoors the plants’ small flowers provide a tremendous amount of color until winter. The strong plants with compact foliage can take cold temperatures. Hardy in Zone 7.

Bright Bicolor is the newest addition to PanAmerican Seed’s F1 Mesa gaillardia series. Yellow, which was released in 2010, was an All-America Selection and Fleuroselect Gold Medal winner. Its clean seed makes for easier and faster sowing. These first year flowering plants produce red flowers with a bright yellow band. The band width varies depending on environmental conditions. The well-branched upright plants do not flop over and fill in a gallon container quickly.

5) Salvia nemorosa Sensation Deep Rose. 6) Iberis Masterpiece. 7) Gerbera Garvinea Romy. 8) Gaillardia Mesa Bright Bicolor. 9) Coreopsis Big Bang Cosmic Evolution. 10) Gaillardia × grandiflora ‘Arizona Apricot’.

David Kuack is editor of Greenhouse Management.