The 2018 trial field was one of our best ones yet. Every year we grow hundreds of new varieties looking for treasures that meet our strict set of grading criteria, including long stems, disease resistance, unique coloring, good vase life and a delicate appearance or fragrance.
At the start of last year’s trial plans, I was actually worried that I had grown everything out there.
To my delight, there were still hundreds of new discoveries to be made and some very exciting new groups of plants that were not on my radar. I thought it would be fun to recap some of our discoveries and introduce you to some of my new favorites that we added to the Floret seed line this year. In total, there are 92 new additions!
Annual phlox is a newcomer to the cut flower scene. I’ve only been growing it for a handful of years now but can’t imagine a season without it. This year, we trialed every tall phlox variety we could get our hands on and now offer 7 incredible beauties, including the new additions of Dulce de Leche, Creme Brulee and Whipped Cream. These three showstoppers all have the most soft, romantic coloring and produce abundantly even in hot weather.
Their scented flowers make a great bouquet addition and floral designers are quickly becoming huge fans.
Cosmos are one of the easiest and most productive cut flowers you can grow and are the perfect training wheels if you’re just getting started. The more you cut them, the more they bloom. My favorites list includes 16 glorious varieties with 2 notable new additions featuring spectacular coloring.
While Apricot Lemonade is on the shorter side (plants are between 2-3 feet) their unique coloring makes them a must grow. Resembling Distant Drums roses, plants boast soft apricot, lavender dusted flowers, with many of the blooms having a mauve ring around their throat. Petals look as if they were trimmed with pinking shears.
Xsenia has fast become a new favorite and flowers are the most unusual mix of magenta, purple and raspberry which have an iridescent quality and age with an apricot cast. Both are like nothing I’ve seen before.
There are so many incredible poppies to discover once you start digging around. We grow four main types in abundance: Iceland, breadseed, Shirley and California. We added new varieties to each category, but by far the most notable discovery was Shirley poppy Amazing Grey.
They possess a metallic quality that is hard to fathom and are truly one of a kind. I’m developing a Poppy Primer in order share more about the main types and how to grow them, so keep an eye out for this new resource later this month.
Finding long stemmed, old fashioned carnations that can be grown from seed has long been one of my quests. Over the last two years, we’ve grown nearly 20 varieties and have narrowed those down to 5 must grows for wedding and design work.
In addition to being easy to grow and free flowering, they are also some of the most fragrant flowers in our field. Our newest addition, Chabaud Aurora, joins a line up of 4 other sweetly scented favorites. You can read more about the full carnation trial here.
Another extensive trial that has spanned the last two seasons and nearly 80 varieties are China asters. These beautiful, hardworking flowers are a great addition to the late summer cutting garden.
When the rest of the garden starts to fade, China asters take center stage and along with dahlias help finish the season strong. There are so many wonderful things to say about this crop. Read our full China aster trial report here.
Second to tomatoes, the pansy trial was our favorite this past season. We grew over 40 varieties looking for those that had unique coloring and long enough stems for cutting. We tested two separate growing methods, both with positive, albeit slightly different, results.
In addition to being easy to grow, cold tolerant and suitable for small spaces and containers, pansies and violas make wonderful, unexpected cut flowers and many of them are even fragrant. Read more about these cheerful bloomers here.
We also explored edibles. This season we grew a massive ornamental squash patch looking for long lasting gems that had an old world, antique quality to their fruit. We made some great discoveries and while we couldn’t source seed for all the varieties that made the final cut, we were able to add 5 beauties to our offerings, including the buff colored Long Island Cheese, Musquee de Provence and Speckled Hound, pink skinned Moranga and the icy blue-grey clover shaped Triamble.
Probably our most fun trial to date was the tomato trial. We grew over 50 varieties looking for those that were beautiful, had long trusses suitable for arranging and great flavor to boot. While our favorites list hovered around a dozen, sadly we were only able to find seed for 4 of our favorites including Chocolate Cherry, Currant Red, Indigo Rose and Sunpeach.
Next year, we are determined to include the rest of our favorites list and I can’t wait to show you all of the strange and delicious beauties we discovered.