The 2021 California Summer Trials tour, scheduled for June 23-27, marks a few changes with the annual trek for growers, brokers and breeders. To begin, there’s the obvious one: when it’s happening.
The 2021 event is scheduled for June for specific reasons. One was the threat of COVID-19. Another was the hopes of allowing 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 2019 when Proven Winners announced it would not be participating in the 2020 tour. Citing declining attendance and a desire to “broaden the pool of horticulture industry members who can learn about its plant introductions,” according to Jeanine Standard, who handles media and public relations for Proven Winners. 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 some changes. Instead of limiting visitors to the official five-day window of CAST 2021, its gardens are open through Aug. 31 to anyone who wants to book a visit ahead of time. Their plan is to include industry members 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. Please note that all visits are appointment only.
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 offers strong stems and rich color, which 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 includes Red 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 - Last Look | Bonus takeaways to keep you thinking
Check out these statistics on new homeowners, which are a growing customer base.
According to new data released by the Census Bureau and analyzed by the Pew Research Center, there has been a growth in homeownership since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. In fact, 2020 welcomed in 2.1 million new homeowners — an annual increase of 2.6%. As many garden centers know, homeowners make up a large percentage of customers, and it’s important to take note of this growing trend.
Tiptoe through the tulips
Departments - Spotted! | Notable products and ideas from garden centers + more
At Sloat Garden Center, spring is in full swing. Check out what's on display.
At Sloat Garden Center, spring is in full swing and the IGC is more than happy to usher in the crowds of eager gardeners ready to kick off the growing season. Founded in 1958, it now has 13 locations scattered throughout the Bay Area of California. Take a look at their red-hot tulips, ruffled anemones, vibrant dahlias and more to get you in that cheerful, springtime mindset!
Relax…and let it grow!
Departments - Straight Talk | Honest insights from an IGC expert
Take a step back and reassess the highs and lows of 2020 to prepare for 2021 and beyond.
Feeling uncertain about how the IGC business is going to fare over the coming months? Not sure how best to plan for fall sales and beyond? You are not alone. The ups and downs of the pandemic pressure on the industry have left many with mixed feelings about how to meet consumer demand and expectations, weather, potential plant shortages and hang on to the recent upswing in gardening interest. While many of us have taken hard hits to our businesses over the last year, we have also seen some new highs with consumer interest and fresh opportunities for innovation and growth. I would say, latch on to the latter, relax a bit and let it grow!
Put people first
First, let’s talk about infrastructure. There is no more important infrastructure to a garden center business than its people. Customer service through the pandemic, especially this spring, has been tough on IGC employees. While it is wonderful that many garden centers have seen unprecedented growth over the past year, the increased demand and necessary safety protocols have left many of your customer service staff worn thin. If you expect to carry positive momentum into the fall and 2022, then a staff health assessment is probably in order. To best plan for a great fall season, plan time to sit down with your staff and review how new protocols are working — or not working — how they are feeling, and what they need personally to feel refreshed and energized for fall.
I do not know about you, but I worked double-time through the entire pandemic. It was not a relaxing time for me in any way shape or form, nor did I get the opportunity to “step back and take stock” through 2020. It is only now that I can downshift and reassess my business priorities and strategies moving into the new year. In other words, maybe relax a little? I suspect many of you are in the same boat. As owners, it is just as important to assess how we are doing, mentally and emotionally through this tough time, so that we can be good leaders and provide the support our employees need. If you have not invested any time in some self-care lately, I would highly recommend doing so. Recharging your batteries for fall 2021 and spring 2022 preparations is crucial to your success.
In terms of customer enthusiasm and sales potential, I would say the sky’s the limit right now. Problem is, plant and product supply issues may limit your sales potential through this year and into the next; as they are limiting many IGCs right now. Planning for fall this year may look much different than it has in the past. You may not be able to secure the types or quantities of plants you would normally book, or at least not at the levels you will need to meet increased consumer demand.
So, what can you do? You can be more strategic about marketing what you can and will have and controlling your messaging; all with the goal of managing customer expectations. Native species as alternatives to commodity cultivars in low supply, habitat-friendly perennials and waterwise plants are prime for a push. When you look at gardening trends for 2021, it is easy to see that growing edibles and indoor plants are top of the list for many of our new gardening customers. If you can go deeper in your bookings for these plants and associated products, you will have an easy marketing target to hit for fall and spring 2022.
Tiny is big in 2021. By tiny I mean gardening in smaller spaces and with smaller plants. Balcony and patio gardening for those without yards, and smaller-scale houseplants, vegetables and herbs for the indoor garden. Stuck at home, many homeowners — even those with itty bitty outdoor spaces — are creating tiny gardens in which they can find some mental respite from day-to-day stress. Consider catering to outdoor and indoor container gardeners across your customer demographics. Tiny gardening is also a great way for beginners to get an easier start in the hobby with a better initial experience of success. As far as I am concerned, if you have one plant and one pot, you’re gardening.
If possible, consider expanding your educational opportunities and workshops — be they in-person or online. Cannot get quite enough vegetable transplants to meet demand? Charge for extra workshops on seed starting or veggie garden care to help sell a bevy of associated hardgoods. Cannot find as much indoor plant inventory as you need to hit sales goals? Charge for houseplant care workshops to help you sell lots of extra pottery and plant care tools. With many of us (hopefully) fully vaccinated come summer, it will be safer for us to get back to in-person events and gatherings this fall. You may still provide better distancing options for your classes or limit registrations, but I suspect gardeners are eager to re-join their community of fellow plant lovers and are ready to get their hands dirty.
Keep working on your digital infrastructure as well. Many IGCs were forced to make leaps and bounds in the realm of online sales and coordinating pick-ups and deliveries. Do not abandon these efforts. Rather, keep expanding them. If you still have not updated to a modern responsive website with some e-commerce capacity, do it ASAP.
All challenges aside, I would say the gardening industry has an amazing opportunity right now on which it can capitalize. That’s going to take clear minds. If you have not yet taken a step back to reassess, refresh and reprioritize for fall, now’s a good time to relax…and let it grow! That is probably good advice for our customers as well.
Top of the charts
Features - GIFTS & DÉCOR
See what online shoppers are snatching up this spring to brighten up their garden with accessories.
Just like indoor décor, outdoor ornament trends continue to evolve. Way back in 1995, we reported that concrete or stone geese were heating up, but 25 years later, things are certainly different in the market. Just five years ago, glass globes were seeing an uptick at IGCs, as were fairy gardens. We dug into the numbers of online options from Amazon and Etsy to see what’s been selling well in 2021.