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.
The most common question we heard from visitors was: are those real? The tissue paper like flowers on Amazing Grey are the most haunting purple-grey hue, similar in color to Nimbus sweet peas.
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.
In addition to conducting extensive variety trials, we have also been hard at work learning the in’s and out’s of commercial seed production. In the vegetable world, seed saving information is more widely available and shared freely amongst small scale, organic growers. But in the flower world, everything is very top secret and there are only a handful of experienced growers willing to share what they know.
I have so much that I want to say about this topic and have a much longer post about everything we discovered this past season coming soon. But for now, I am thrilled to share that we have two new incredible celosia varieties available in the shop that we produced here on the farm.
The original stock for these coveted celosias came from famed Texas flower farmers Pamela and Frank Arnosky. Years ago we were gifted the tiniest pinch of seed which we’ve slowly grown out and increased over time.
There are two mixes available in the shop. Texas Plume Summer Sherbet Mix is a blend of blush-apricot, vintage rose and the occasional soft lemon-yellow. Texas Plume Vintage Rose Mix is a blend of blush, pewter and sunbleached velvet set against striking dark foliage.
I am so excited to finally be able to share these treasured varieties with gardeners all over the world. There’s nothing else like them.
Zinnias are some of the easiest and most productive cut flowers you can grow. In addition to being free flowering, they are also heat tolerant and come in a dazzling rainbow of colors. This year, I am so excited to add Queen Lime Orange to the well loved Queen series.
Unlike other zinnias, this series includes the most unique array of unusual coloring including lime green, smokey apricot, dusty rose and limey blush. In addition to their special coloring, the Queen series also produces vigorous plants with sturdy stems and tough flowers, a welcomed improvement to the zinnia family.
Another summer bouquet staple are black eyed Susans. These easy to grow, hardworking plants produce an insane amount of flowers for the better part of summer. In addition to the chocolate colored beauties like Cherry Brandy, Chim Chiminee and Sahara, I’m thrilled to now include four golden favorites, most notably Macau.
Of all the black eyed Susan’s I’ve ever grown, this is my absolute favorite. By midsummer, this variety can easily reach up to 6 feet tall with individual plants producing up to 25 usable stems each. The miniature-sized flowers are borne in airy sprays, and when added to arrangements, they bring a happy uplifting quality. They have always been a customer favorite.
One of my favorite annual flowering vines to use in arrangements are nasturtiums. While they look so delicate, both their flowers and foliage last an extremely long time in the vase, often up to 10 days. This year we’ve added three new treasures to our collection including Cherry Rose and Salmon Mousse. Both have glowing tropical flowers and a semi mounding habit which makes them better suited for smaller gardens. And Ladybird Rose, a compact, mounding grower that has the most unusual smokey raspberry blooms that lighten over time to cream with purple veining. These strange and beautiful flowers are like none other and because of their size would make a terrific addition to pots and the patio.
Lastly, I don’t want to forget to mention two new favorites that might go unnoticed because they aren’t the showiest flowers in the lineup.
The first is Yarrow Summer Berries, which is the best yarrow mix I’ve ever grown. If seed is sown early, this perennial will flower its first year. Blooms come in shades of raspberry, peach, coral, blush, rose and buttercream. This versatile range of color is a dream to work with. We have a 100 foot row in the field and plan to double it next year.
The second is Poor Man’s Orchid Angel’s Wings Mix which was given to me by Frank Morton at Wild Garden Seed. This extremely easy to grow mix includes flowers in shades of violet, candy-pink, rose and appleblossom. Blooms look like miniature orchids and each has the most mesmerizing little lion-like face.
Plants are self cleaning and never look tattered – as older blooms fade, they drop from stems and new ones appear. This variety is fantastic for flower arranging and tall enough for mixed bouquets. It can be harvested at any stage and a vase life of 10 or more days in plain water is a regular occurrence.
This was such a fun growing year and we made so many new and wonderful discoveries. It’s hard to believe I thought there were no more treasures to be found. Our 2019 trial list has already eclipsed 400 varieties and I’m sure that number will grow before planting time in the spring.
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