Thursday, June 13, 2024
Attention-grabbing new Fuchsia ‘Electric Lights’ (Image: John Fitzsimmons)
Grower Trials

Colour and wow in 2023

By John Fitzsimmons

Trade visitors to Ball Australia’s 2022 Grower Trials were surely engaged and inspired by the dozens of new lines added to the company’s already hundreds-strong catalogue for 2023 and beyond. Colour and form were keynotes plus some new categories.

Colour, especially at the warmer end of the colour spectrum really grabbed the idea. Look for Calibrochoa ‘Double Orange Flame’, Bracteantha ‘Jumbo Red Ember’, SunPatiens® ‘Red Candy’ and ‘Dahlia Mango’ and Dalina® ‘Fireball’ as examples.

Dahlia ‘Dalina Mango’ (Image: John Fitzsimmons)
Dahlia ‘Dalina Mango’ (Image: John Fitzsimmons)
Colour colour colour! Calibrochoa ‘Starjump Hot Pink’ (Image: John Fitzsimmons)
Colour colour colour! Calibrochoa ‘Starjump Hot Pink’ (Image: John Fitzsimmons)

Cooler hues were not ignored. Consider new vegetative Petunia ‘Lavender Sky’ which is  significantly lighter in colour than the familiar ‘Night Sky’. In Ball’s experimental section sat Petunia ‘Pink Sky’ on a more conventional wavelength. But if it’s bicolour contrast you want, look to the new Petunia ‘Cherry Banana’ featuring cherry hearts around a yellow star.

For immediate colour impact however, it was hard to miss the new Calibrachoa ‘Starjump Hot Pink’ or ‘Orange’. Both were strong standouts. Not to be overlooked were the new Petunia ‘Bee’s Knees’ and Osteospermum ‘Purple Sun’. The latter was joined by ‘Sunshine Beauty’ and ‘Voltage Yellow’ in the new promo list of Osteospurmums.

While petunias and osteospermums are important lines for Ball, so are Argyranthemums and the range nearly doubled at the 2022 trials with the addition of Suntory’s ‘Madeira’ selections – red, violet, white and yellow singles, ‘Blush Pink’, ‘Red Doubles’, and ‘Pink Crested’.

These, and two new Gaura selections, ‘Bantam Pink’ (Greenfuse) and ‘Grace Compact Pink (Danziger), led visitor interest, especially their compact (H 30-45cm) forms.

Ticking two boxes, ornamental and edible Ipomoea (Image: John Fitzsimmons)
Ticking two boxes, ornamental and edible Ipomoea
(Image: John Fitzsimmons)
New succulent Gasteria ‘Aveo’ (Image: John Fitzsimmons)
New succulent Gasteria ‘Aveo’ (Image: John Fitzsimmons)

Colour contrasts and striking forms are hallmarks of the succulents category and more than ten new entrants to Ball’s lists this year from breeder James Fisk, certainly caught the eye. Start with Gasteria ‘Aveo’ then consider the likes of:

  • Cotyledon ‘Karoo’ (grey-green leaves with a silver powdery bloom and purple-pink margins. Foliage colour takes on pink tints in cooler temperatures)
  • Echeveria ‘Rider’ (bronze-burgundy foliage, intensifying in cooler weather)
  • Aloe ‘Umzala’ (Bright chartreuse-yellow leaves with pale yellow bumps and light orange margins; colour intensifies to bright golden orange in cooler temperatures)

Trend demands have seen Ball’s indoor plant offering expand dramatically, with examples of Alocasia, Diffenbachia, Draceana, Epipremnum, Ficus, Maranta and Syngonium complementing the current listings.

However, let’s finish with three more really interesting new introductions.

Firstly (in no particular order) consider Ipomoea batatas ‘Treasure Island Kaukura’, ‘Treasure Island Maktea’, Treasure Island Manihi’. These are dual purpose ornamental and food plants from the largest genus in the family Convolvulaceae. ‘Manihi’, for example, has deep purple, maple leaf foliage, and orange skin and orange flesh roots which are extremely flavoursome with enhanced health benefits because of the beta-carotene-rich flesh. More is written about this genus elsewhere in Hort Journal Australia but it is fair to say their ornamental and dual purpose roles attracted great interest at Ball Australia’s trials.

Begonia ‘Dragonwings’ White - large blooms, highly branched, fast fill-in and spectacular in hanging baskets (Image: John Fitzsimmons)
Begonia ‘Dragonwings’ White – large blooms, highly branched, fast fill-in and spectacular in hanging baskets (Image: John Fitzsimmons)

Then let’s look at the new Begonias, especially Pan American Seed’s Dragon Wing series. Best perhaps to refer to Ball’s notes:

  • Angel-wing leaves and large blooms give Dragon Wing a dramatically different look. Arching, pendulous habit is spectacular in hanging baskets, large containers and commercial landscaping plantings.
  • It surpasses vegetative varieties for branching, vigour and flower power.
  • “Bullet-proof” performance, fast fill-in and an easy-care nature.

Say no more, except (obviously) great for hanging baskets.

These begonias ranked alongside the new Salvia ‘Mirage Rose Bicolour’ from Darwin Perennials for grower trials visitor interest. This heat-tolerant series features intense flower colours, early-season and summer-long blooming, and a self-branching, mounded habit that resists breaking.

Rose Zapeti(R) ready for 2023
Rose Zapeti(R) ready for 2023

There was even more to discover at this significant grower opportunity. This included the Zepeti® rose (Meilland through Corporate Roses) of which Ball Australia is the major propagator. Zepeti®, a compact rose with glossy dark green foliage and bright red blooms and remarkable disease resistance, should really reach its stride this year. Plus, several experimental Buddleias boasting a more compact form and less invasive habit than the old-school type gardeners and landscapers might be more familiar with. While the shape of the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show (MIFGS) is still emerging, Ball Australia plans to create consumer interest and demand at the event, via its Cool Wave series of Pansies that will now be more actively marketed following conclusion of commercial discussions.

Main photo: Attention grabbing new Fuchsia Electric Lights (Image John Fitzsimmons)

Gaura ‘Grace’ Compact Pink (Image: John Fitzsimmons)
Gaura ‘Grace’ Compact Pink
(Image: John Fitzsimmons)
Striking new Begonia Hula Red (Image Ball Auastralia)
Striking new Begonia Hula Red (Image Ball Australia)
New Sunpatiens® Compact ‘Lavender Splash’ (Image John Fitzsimmons).
New Sunpatiens® Compact ‘Lavender Splash’ (Image John Fitzsimmons).

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