Winter 2011: The 2010 California Spring Trials
Regional Report San Benito and Santa Clara Counties by Maria de la Fuente
Each year folks from the trade magazine Greenhouse Product News (GPN) head west for an intense week of visiting new-variety trials along the California coast. The trials for 2010 took place last April 10 to 17. I decided to take three days to make the 2010 Spring Trials trip, covering the northern part of the exhibits around the Monterey Bay. It could have been a bit hectic since I was driving from city to city and trial to trial, but since I went back home every night, it was possible for me to get relaxed and stay organized. GPN put together an excellent companion guide that helped me survive the visits. When I planned my trip I contacted the companies using the well-organized information provided on their websites, so it was a matter of keeping my appointments and following my own schedule. GPN and the companies’ staff were always ready to welcome me, and at every site they provided me with a name tag and nice refreshments, as well as information and useful tools. I was also invited to a couple of working lunches, so besides enjoying it a lot, I learned plenty.
The trials had many sponsors and several company sites in each area that I visited. In the Gilroy area, I visited trials featuring varieties from Danzinger, Oro Farms, Syngenta Flowers, Goldsmith Seeds, Goldfisch and Yoder. I learned that Goldsmith, Goldfisch and Yoder had merged with Syngenta, so they all showed at the same site and it was very impressive. In the San Juan Bautista area, I visited Speedling that hosted Greenex, Hem Genetics, Schoneveld Breeding, Thompson & Morgan and the incredible collection of labeling aids of MasterTag. In the Watsonville area, I toured Golden State Bulb Growers, Pacific Plug and Liner, and Agrexco (featuring Cohen Propagation Nurseries, Hishtil Nurseries, Isaacson Flowers, Jaldety Nursery and Scwartz Nursery). Lastly in Salinas, I visited the American Takii Company that was also celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.
If I had the time and resources, believe me, I would have traveled to the three remaining regions, which included the cities of San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Santa Paula, Oxnard, Bonsall, Vista and Encinitas.
The third day into my trip, I had the good fortune to ride along with our former UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) Santa Clara County Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Carole Frost, who certainly was a lot more knowledgeable than I regarding common and scientific names of the specimens on display. It’s going to take hard work for me to accumulate the knowledge that she has, so for that day, she was certainly instrumental in my learning process.
Most companies went through the first-ever retail idea center, featuring hundreds of ways to grow retailers’ businesses.
This was a completely new way to look at Spring Trials. Most companies went through the first-ever retail idea center, featuring hundreds of ways to grow retailers’ businesses. There were large outdoor crop displays, completely redesigned areas with aesthetically pleasant landscape displays and many varieties, breeders, and inspirational décor ideas. They included comprehensive culture research presentations and all the amenities to enjoy our stay. Some companies provided me with a research staff person that showed me programs and gave me presentations tailored to my research interest. Also the new post-show online scrapbook at www.ballhort.com/springtrials gave me the opportunity to check and enjoy the highlights, view photo galleries, and read reviews, especially for the places I missed.
Most companies of course, had their set of “goodies” to give away, but I was content to receive their catalogs that helped me during the tours with my steep learning curve regarding variety identification.
At American Takii, the ornamental cruciferous crops took my breath away.
It would be impossible to describe all that I learned and saw during my trip, but I will share some highlights, keeping in mind that the story begins with a breeder and ends with a happy gardener. At American Takii the ornamental cruciferous crops took my breath away; besides beautiful and top-of-the- line show greenhouses, they had a fantastic walking path showing annuals, ornamental grasses, perennials, pot crops, vegetables and trees. At Pacific Plug and Liner they displayed an in-depth comparative trial of morning glory and lavender, as well as a vegetative begonias trial. Agrexco group displayed an exciting array of vegetative annuals, perennials, geraniums, climbing vines and herbs; it was also a place where I heard many people speaking in Hebrew. I enjoyed Hem Genetics’ beautiful naturally dwarf petunias and Schoneveld Breeding’s impressive hanging ornamental strawberries.
A number of stops held personal interest for me, being from Mexico. Dahlia is the national flower of Mexico and Oro Farms had the largest collection of dahlia varieties I have ever seen. Being a “chilehead,” Greenex stole my heart with their display of ornamental chile peppers; Golden State Bulb Growers featured their beautiful calla lilies, including one variety that shared my name, 'Diva Maria'.
At Goldsmith (Syngenta), varieties were arranged in interesting architectural and aesthetic color studies.
I can’t finish the article without talking about Syngenta. Goldsmith is a place that I visit every year for its beautiful outdoor fields. The most striking part of their greenhouse display was the way they managed to arrange their varieties and the marketable name tags they group them with; also the interesting architectural and aesthetic color study, their theories and practices that were so new to my very scientific-guided mind. Yoder chrysanthemums grew fast into my heart since it was the first crop I did a research and education program on when I first came to California. The chrysanthemum growers in the San Francisco Bay Area (about 300 in the mid 90’s), have almost disappeared. This includes the mum growers I worked with in Santa Clara County (today, there are only 15 left in this area).
If you missed the2010 trials, GPN has extensive coverage in their magazine, but also is posting video reports of some of the breeders and exhibitors at HortTV@Spring Trials on www.gpnmag.com.
Spring is around the corner, so don’t miss the 2011 trials! This year’s dates are March 26 - April 2, 2011. For more information, visit the California Spring Trials website at http://www.ballpublishing.com/Ballpub/_SpringTrialsPlanner.aspx
All Pictures by Maria de la Fuente. The author wishes to express her thanks to Carole Frost, former UCCE Santa Clara County Master Gardener Program Coordinator, for her valuable input during this trip.