The 2021 California Summer Trials, scheduled for June 23-27, mark a few changes with the annual California pilgrimage for growers, brokers and breeders.
To begin, there’s the obvious one: when it’s happening.
Historically, the acronym CAST has stood for the California Spring Trials with the event taking place sometime in the early spring over the course of a week. In 2020, the event just so happened to coincide with the beginning of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the event did not happen with the various stops across the state shuttered. By virtue of unfortunate timing, CAST 2020 was the first horticulture industry event directly impacted by the pandemic. Each stop canceled its showcase and long-booked plans largely fell by the wayside. Some breeders, however, were able to pivot to digital and host webinars to showcase new varieties, but others were left with no real outlet to market their plants.
The 2021 event is scheduled for June for specific reasons. One is COVID-19 and the hope that the event wouldn’t have to be canceled again due to the virus. At the time of this publication, that appears to be a winning bet. The idea was to, in theory, allow more people to attend during a slower time of the year instead of the peak spring. And, as an added bonus, early summer means a larger diversity of crops — such as perennials and annuals that perform well in the heat — to be spotlighted in a more normal growing climate.
CAST 2021 also sees a different shape to the event with the number of participating breeders dropping. This shift actually began in 2020 when Proven Winners declined to participate, even before COVID-19 was a concern. (Proven Winners announced its decision not to participate in CAST 2020 in July 2019.) Citing declining attendance and a desire to “broaden the pool” of industry members who were able to participate, Proven Winners went digital while still planning to showcase its varieties at other industry events. For 2021, Danziger and Terra Nova Nurseries are among the breeders declining to participate, and it’s unclear if any will re-join the event in the future.
Benary, which is participating in the event, also made changes. Instead of limiting visitors to the official five-day window of CAST 2021, its gardens are open through Aug. 31 to anyone who books a visit ahead of time. The idea here is to not exclude a grower or someone else who maybe can’t make it in June, but could come later on in the summer.
In this preview, you’ll find information on all of the stops, as well as some of the new varieties that will be on display at CAST 2021. And if you’re planning on attending or are just planning to observe from afar, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. – Chris Manning
Take the Bee’s Knees petunia from Ball FloraPlant to the next level by using it in combos for premium retail containers and baskets. Bee’s Knees puts on a high-impact show all season long in the most intense yellow color. Check out several new MixMasters combos for 2022, including Oh Beehave featuring Double Petunia Midnight Gold.Marigold Xochi Orange from BloomStudios Strong stems and rich color make this cut flower the best for bouquets and grower bunches. An excellent option for summer and fall cut flower programs, Xochi offers uniformity, good shipability and durability to meet the increasing consumer demand for Día de los Muertos and Halloween celebrations. The compact Buddleia Chrysalis series from Darwin Perennials was bred and selected for its profusion of flowers that attract butterflies. Gardeners will enjoy continuous blooming from spring through late summer. Plants are root hardy to USDA Zone 5 and stem hardy in warmer locations. Available in five colors for its 2022 debut.Complete your seed shasta daisy package with the new White Lion Leucanthemum from Kieft Seed. With a critical daylength of only 10 hours, it’s ideal for early-spring sales from overwintered production (previously only possible with vegetative varieties) and spring sales from annual production.A new color for 2022 launches in the Beacon series from PanAmerican Seed of high disease-resistant impatiens. Rose is well-branched with medium vigor and clear rose flowers. Pair long-lasting Beacon impatiens with other shade-loving annuals for upscale mixes at retail.The Sky Family of petunias from Selecta One continues to expand in 2022 with an exciting new pattern for the Sky assortment. Enchanted Sky features both a hazy white star and sky pattern backed in a cheery pink flower color. The Headliner series is known for its mounded, medium vigor habit perfect for impactful hanging baskets and mixes.It’s Early; it’s Efficient; it’s the Evolution of Easy Wave. E3 is a brand-new Wave series that flowers at 10 hours daylength so it’s ready to kick off spreading petunia sales even earlier at retail. It has a manageable, uniform shape and vigor, and offers simple production to save on labor costs. In the garden, it fulfills the Wave promise of easy, spreading color.
The Rainbow Calibrachoa series is the newest lineup to the Dümmen Orange portfolio. These vigorous varieties have a unique characteristic that causes the bloom color to change based on temperature, light level, and day length when the bud is initiated, giving a constantly changing tricolor effect to the plants. The overall tones will be richer and deeper colors in the early spring and autumn seasons and brighter, more vibrant tones in the summer months. Rainbow varieties are extremely heat-tolerant, making them a top performer in summer baskets, large containers, and even in-ground plantings.Big EEZE Geraniums are aptly named for their BIG blooms and EEZE production performance. This interspecific series appears as a traditional zonal type at retail that more consumers are confident in purchasing, but with oversized blooms for a dramatic presentation. The breeding gives these plants a resilient dose of performance through the hottest summer months. It has a has a cherry-blossom-like color.The new Heartland Lantana series is bred to be the heart of the landscape. These varieties come from the award-winning Havana series but with 30% more vigor for maximum landscape impact. Heartland varieties have extremely low seed set, allowing for continuous flower power throughout the summer months. The new Hummingbird Falls Salvia is the industry’s first trailing S. guaranitica for hanging baskets and cascading garden beds. It puts off a profusion of inky purple calyces with vibrant, indigo blue blooms. It is an exceptional addition to summer programs. Deck’d Out Kalanchoe is the newest series for easy outdoor performance.These varieties are designed for easy container performance on decks and patios, providing months of vibrant flower color on low-water, easy-to-maintain, pollinator-friendly plants.The new La Diva Lavender program from Dümmen Orange is about creating a portfolio of species and series, allowing growers to continuously produce luxury-quality plants from early spring through autumn. The new La Diva Eternal Elegance is a complete breakthrough for angustifolia types with months earlier flowering, allowing extremely early season sales.The Better Together combination program from Dümmen Orange makes an easy and flexible solution for growers and retailers. It combines the exciting tricolor foliage of the trailing Great Falls coleus with three top-performing summer series: Big EEZE Geranium, Magnum New Guinea Impatiens, and I’Conia Garden Begonias. These series have perfectly matched vigor, allowing growers to mix and match between any varieties. And the Great Falls coleus’ adaptability to both sun and shade make it an easy anchor to tie the program together.
Rudbeckia hirta Arania is one of two new Rudbeckias being introduced by Hem Genetics. This variety has large yellow flowers with a dark brown center and grows to 12-14” tall and 10-12” wide. Seed to flower is 14-17 weeks, depending on the season. Hardy USDA Zones 7-11 but can be used as an annual where not winter hardy. Rudbeckia hirta Kokardia is the sister variety to Arania, with bold yellow and chocolate bicolored blooms with dark centers. Hardy in USDA Zones 7-11, but often used as an annual, 14-17 weeks from seed, depending on the season.Petunia grandiflora Limbo Yellow Lime is a beautiful new light greenish-yellow color added to the top-selling series of genetically dwarf petunias. It generally doesn’t require PGRs in production. Because of their compact habit, they require less maintenance in landscape beds or hanging baskets and are great in containers. Ball Seed exclusive for the introductory year. Also added to the Limbo series is Silver Blue.A new addition to the Corina series, Viola Corina White with Blotch which brings the total number in the series to 28. It features a pure white bloom with an almost black center. This series of small-flowered violas is extremely uniform between colors, and the mounded plants will literally cover themselves in flowers. They are much more weather tolerant than pansies.The Pansy Cello Ocean is a new color addition to the Cello series of large-flowered pansies, and are shades or light through mid-blue, with large, almost black blotches or faces. The series branches freely, and is highly productive of large blooms, and performs equally well as a Spring or Fall pansy.Two new colors are added to the very popular Snappy series of dwarf snapdragon, Rose Flame, a beautiful pink with rose highlights on the lip, and Scarlet, a bold scarlet red. Growers are very impressed by the uniformity and flower power of this series, and it was deemed the best overall series of dwarf snapdragons by the Dallas Arboretum.
Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor is the AAS award-winning, new addition to the winningest series on the market! Outstanding garden performance, even in the high heat of summer. A stunning, bright bicolor of red and yellow is a true eye-catcher in any planting! High impact in large containers and landscape plantings.The all-weather petunia! When it comes to garden performance, SuperCal® and SuperCal® Premium deliver intensely colorful, long-lasting, large flowers that bloom early and extend into the fall season! Five new introductions include Pink Improved, Premium Pearl White, Premium Purple Dawn, Premium Sunset Orange and Premium Yellow Sun!This all-weather begonia has high-impact color and a unique trailing habit with flowers covering tops and sides! Early flowering and matches the Viking series with an abundance of extra large flowers. Viking Explorer is all-weather resistant and great for landscapes and containers. New series includesRed on Green and Rose on Green.SunPatiens is trusted by growers, retailers and landscapers for flourishing blooms in both sun and shade, spring through fall. With over 14 years of proven market performance, no other annual brings more reliable flower power across a wider range of conditions. The new introductions includeCompact Deep Red, Vigorous Sweetheart White and Vigorous White Improved.
Suntory Flowers introduces Sunbeam, the first yellow in Sun Parasol mandevillas. This new variety fits the original group. Plants have a bushy habit for hanging baskets and containers. Rich buttery yellow blooms have darker throats. Sunbeam is loaded with buds that bloom 2-3 weeks earlier than older varieties.XXL Taffy Pink marks the beginning of a new Surfinia series that’s big on blooms! Growth habit is upright and more controlled than Surfinia Sumo but the flowers span 4 inches. You don’t see many grandiflora vegetative petunias. This variety is also daylength neutral and will bloom as soon as week 8 in the South. Your customers will love the bright taffy pink color.Heavenly Cabernet now joins the Surfinia petunias line. Like a glass of fine Burgundy, blooms are a gorgeous burgundy/purple with dark throats. Habit is semi-trailing, like the top-selling Surfinia Heavenly Blue. Surfinia petunias are known globally for outstanding garden performance and weather tolerance. Perfect for premium hanging baskets.
Departments - Three Questions
Hoffman Nursery’s Senior Director of Sales and Operations discusses plant supply issues, doing substitutes and pivoting when needed.
Greenhouse Management: Has Hoffman Nursery felt the impact of the plant supply issues coming out of the Texas winter storms?
David Hoffman: Yes. Some of our customers I know are sending material down. And that’s from North Carolina all the way up to New Jersey. I’ve talked to a few people that are sending material down, so I imagine that we will as time goes on. I don’t know if we’ve directly seen anything — honestly, a lot our material has been sold out — but there is, across the industry, a lot of truck loads going from all over down to Texas ... I don’t know if it really changed much of what we do. It just diverts plants to different areas, right? We might see effects down the road. We sell a lot to finished growers and if they switch their production plans based on that pull into Texas, that might affect us. But it’ll probably be more of a ripple effect for us.
GM: How do things like booming business, supply chain adjustments and other changes that have come up in the past year affect you in real time? And is it easy to pivot in real time?
DH: If the stock is out there, we can do it. The big inputs in there are stock and labor and I would say that stock, I’ve heard with seed that it’s a little easier to jump and grow fast with. But in some cases, we are looking at two years to grow plants. It’s not as easy to get young plants that way. Sometimes with tissue culture, they can have the ability to ramp up. But if those plants aren’t initiated, that can be difficult, too. Trying to pivot or ramp up specifically for certain items is not as easy as it might seem or sound ... If you don’t have the resources in labor or even soil or plastics, it’s a problem. A soil supplier told me that they were just having problems getting trucks to deliver material. It’s not even that they don’t have the material.
GM: What is the substitution process like at Hoffman?
DH: I would say that you won’t always have a sub for some of these orders that come in. I think it’s an important point. We may have a selection of species, but they might not be functionally fit or have the right look or whatever the customer is looking for to satisfy their needs. Making sure that they have the right plants so they are successful, so they don’t have to go redo their job or can just provide plants to their customers is what’s most important. And that all comes back to communication both internally or with the customers to make sure they know what’s going on.
Capture soil-bound nutrients, limit stress
Ask the Experts - Hemp
Beneficial soil microbes from Mycorrhizal Applications can empower your plants to push through stress events and achieve higher yields.
Greenhouse Management: Can hemp growers utilize mycorrhizae, and if so, which strains should they be using?
Blair Busenbark: First of all, I think hemp growers have been using mycorrhizae for many years. It is important that hemp growers use endo-mycorrhizae strains because they are endo plants.
Scott Inman: Hemp and other plants in that genus utilize arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which are a very generalist mycorrhizae. They colonize over 80% of the world’s plants, and there are roughly 400 identified isolates. One associates with a lot of different plants, but it’s also driven by environment, plant type and soil type, as well as the conditions under which the microbes develop. The plant is the driver of this relationship. It’s a true symbiotic relationship so the plant is the one turning on and off the mycorrhizae. That’s a key component of this association for growers to keep in mind.
GM: What benefits do most hemp plants receive from mycorrhizal fungi?
SI: It depends on the conditions. If you look at the different hemp growing segments and what those growers are doing, the big one is nutrient availability. A lot of nutrients are tied up in the soil and require some level of microbial activity. And it’s also a stress mitigation — it allows the plants to have better access to water and nutrients to help mitigate stress.
BB: I would add that it is important to realize that the stresses the crops can undergo themselves are different. It will experience different stressors whether the crop is grown in Texas or Kentucky or even in New York State. And so, the plant is driving what benefits it is getting from the mycorrhizae, and then you throw on top of that the different production protocols and variables — how they are irrigating, how they are fertigating and all the different varieties — you throw all those variables together and really the overall benefit is that it helps the plant be more successful in a wider variety of situations.
GM: What are some tips for growers in how they can incorporate mycorrhizae into their production system?
BB: When you look at how hemp is produced for the high CBD markets, most of those crops are being started in greenhouses and then transplanted outdoors. All of those crops can have a drench as well as a soil incorporation to add the mycorrhizae, that’s a simple way to do it. And then keep in mind that mycorrhizae only need to be applied once during the production cycle, so if you apply it during propagation it will stay with the plant through transplant, and it will continue to benefit the plant throughout its life cycle.
Customizable and versatile
Ask the Experts - Water-Soluble Fertilizer
Ian Bateman, manager — technical services at Hawthorne Gardening Company (HGC), shares insights on water-soluble fertilizer options and what makes them ideal for greenhouse production.
Greenhouse Management: What factors should growers keep in mind when selecting a water-soluble fertilizer?
IB: Crop specificity is the first one. Experienced growers know that crops like tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce require different proportions and concentrations of essential plant nutrients to thrive. Photoperiodic crops like chrysanthemums or poinsettias prefer lower levels of nitrogen during flower, where phosphorus and potassium management is critical.
The next factor to focus on would be product purity. Nutrient salts are predominantly mined from the earth. The mineral deposits are then purified and graded. For producers growing edible or medicinal crops, the purity of inputs is critical to ensure hazardous heavy metals are not making their way into the finished product.
And lastly, consistent product performance should be emphasized in the product selection process. None of the above matters if your fertilizers are not mixed, proportioned and manufactured to the highest of standards. This is critical because growers spend considerable time and effort perfecting their nutrient recipes to best support their crops growth and development.
“Experienced growers know that crops like tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce require different proportions and concentrations of essential plant nutrients to thrive.” -Ian Bateman
GM: How do growers dilute/concentrate water-soluble fertilizers?
IB: Water-soluble fertilizers must first be dissolved in water prior to applying to your crops. There’s two primary methods growers use to prepare a dilute, ready-to-use nutrient solution using water soluble fertilizers.
For growers using reservoirs, start by filling water to the final volume in your reservoir and measure out the appropriate amounts of water-soluble fertilizer. Begin adding fertilizer(s) to your reservoir one at a time, while stirring or agitating the water. For multi-part fertilizers, always add the fertilizer that contains calcium first.
To prepare a concentrated nutrient stock solution for use with fertilizer injectors, start by filling water levels to 80% of the desired volume in your clean stock tank. Always use Reverse Osmosis (RO) or low Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) water. Next, measure out the appropriate amounts of water-soluble fertilizer and add it to the stock tank. Generally, it is best practice to allow for each water-soluble fertilizer to occupy its own stock tank.
It is important that you never combine calcium containing fertilizers with sulfate or phosphate containing fertilizers in the same concentrated stock tank, as precipitation will likely occur. Mix with a paint mixer or paddle style mixer for best results, hot water will greatly speed up the dissolution process.
Ridding root diseases
Ask the Experts - Rooting Infectious Diseases
Joe Lara, director of marketing at BioWorks, discusses root infecting diseases and their impact on plant health and production.
Greenhouse Management: Why is it important to combat root infecting diseases early on?
Joe Lara: Root diseases require a lot of attention because when the plants are at a young age and are just getting started, they are very susceptible to diseases. When growers start these plants, they have from thousands and up to millions of dollars invested. If they can’t get that crop going early on, they end up with low yields, poor quality plants and significant setbacks. Because of this, growers are really working hard to advance their approaches to disease control in general, utilizing all the tools available to them with integrated pest management. BioWorks has been a leader in developing these high-quality biological control approaches, with root diseases especially. And we’re focused on helping growers establish the best plant quality early on.
GM: What products would you recommend from BioWorks?
JL: We have a number of products, but the most popular and well-known are the biofungicides under the RootShield brand. We have RootShield and RootShield PLUS+ and they work at the root level to protect the young plants right from the start and over several weeks. An additional product that is also well-known is Cease, which is a beneficial bacterium that works in a similar fashion. It offers biological control protection of young plants, as well as when it’s transplanted up into finished sizes.
GM: How do these solutions attack root infecting diseases?
JL: Under the RootShield brand, we have strains of beneficial fungi that essentially work collaboratively with the plant. What they do is, they populate the plant root system, but not only does it provide a protective shield of microbial growth — which is friendly to the plant roots and inhibits other pathogens from infecting these root tissues — it also provides what we call a collaborative or symbiotic system at the root zone where plants can improve nutrient uptake with these microbes existing in the root zone. So there’s a dual approach going on with these beneficial fungi. It’s a similar mode of action when it comes to Cease as well. These products also make a lot of sense when it comes to utilizing living organisms. They are friendly to plants and provide a lot of additional benefits besides protection against disease pathogens.