Plant highlights from the Australian Horticultural Trials

By Gabrielle Stannus

NGIV recently partnered with some of Australia’s top breeders and growers to deliver the annual Australian Horticultural Trials across thirteen different sites in south-eastern Melbourne. By viewing plants in situ in these trials, growers and retailers can assess the habits and performance of a wide selection of plants, good or bad, in a real garden setting. Participating growers included Ball Australia, Greenhills Propagation and Majestic Young Plants.

Ball Australia
Ball Australia attracted more than 300 people to their display featuring flowers, vegetables, herbs and cut flowers propagated from tissue culture, seed and vegetative cuttings.

Kate Grant, Ball Australia’s Marketing Manager, says their display was mainly targeted to their traditional customers, i.e. wholesale growers. “Gardens were planted to showcase new, existing and experimental varieties so our customers can see the habit, colour and performance first hand”, says Kate. “Also, some varieties are old favourites that we have had for some time and it is good for growers to see them again and the improvements that the breeding has contributed to their resurgence of interest at a retail-consumer level”.

Ball Australia featured two new carnations: ‘Early Love’ and ‘Pink Kisses’. Kate says that these compact, long-lasting carnations with very floriferous habits provide a gift line focus that is great for decorating or dressing up an area or to say something special. This line is being marketed to young women.

Later this year, Ball Australia will be releasing new indoor plant varieties to satisfy growing consumer demand. “The indoor category is a big growth area as consumers are responding strongly to indoor plants, they like having greenery around and the care of looking after a living plant and see it grow and develop is nurturing, soulful and healthy” says Kate.

Greenhills Propagation Nursery
At Greenhills Propagation Nursery, ‘PlantFest 2018’ saw more than 150 people walk through the doors with guests traveling from overseas, interstate and locally. This nursery specialises in new release and promotional lines, typically growing trees, shrubs and perennials and supplying them as plugs or tubes to their predominately wholesale grower customers.

Visitors were from many industry sectors, including a mix of wholesale growers, retailers, chain store buyers, media, council, landscape architects and botanic gardens. Over fifty new products were on display, including trees, shrubs, shade plants, natives and ‘high impact’ colour.

Mark Harrison, Director at Greenhills Propagation Nursery commented “It is great to see this week is gaining more interest with each year. Not only are we seeing increasing numbers of visitors from around Australia, but also from around the world. Growers have been really excited about the new products we have shown this year, it has been another very successful PlantFest”.

Leah Opie, Director, says that Acacia ‘Sterling Silver’ and Salvia ‘Blue Bouquetta’ received a great deal of attention during the trials. “Acacia ‘Sterling Silver’ is unique as it is a mounding form of Acacia binervia which is usually a tree. Its velvety bright silver foliage provides a wonderful contrast. Salvia ‘Blue Bouquetta’ is superior to its competitors. This plant was bred to produce a more compact plant with plentiful large flowers, repeat blooming qualities and it features the most intense purple-blue flowers’, says Leah.

Majestic Young Plants
Matt Curtis, Operations Manager, says that the Majestic Young Plants trial site featured a Festival of Colour theme, showcasing the best of its lines grown from seed, tissue culture and vegetative cuttings.

Lavendula 'Castilliano', grown by seed and marketed by Syngenta as Castilliano 2.0 Rose is a Spanish lavender available in rose, white and blue flowers. Argyranthemum ‘Sassy’ also featured. “We are growing the Syngenta Sassy Series and are producing them from tissue culture. It is not a brand-new series, but a new way of propagating them. They branch more naturally and therefore require very little to no plant growth regulators to grow them”, says Matt.

Calibrachoa ‘Tropical Sunrise’ receiv ed a lot of interest for its bi-coloured pink and yellow flowers. Produced from tissue culture, not vegetative cuttings, this plant has a reduced risk of virus or disease. However, the standout was probably Begonia ‘Exotica’ with its stunning iridescent purple, green foliage.

Matt says that there was also plenty of interest in the indoor plants and succulents on display, especially those displaying variegation. “We are trying to make those rare collectables more accessible to the home gardener”, says Matt. Echeveria ‘Afterglow’, Echeveria ‘Ebony’ and Echeveria ‘Romeo’ were very popular, as were collectable alocasias, including Alocasia sarian, Alocasia ‘Stingray’ and Alocasia ‘Silver Dragon’. Philodendron ‘Silver Sword’, Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’ and Philodendron ‘White Princess’ also featured.

Majestic Young Plants are currently working with fifteen different labs around the world to bring new products to Australia. Matt says that plenty of indoor plants are coming through, with a new philodendron to be released later in 2019.

If you would like further details of some of the plants highlighted in this article (in alphabetical order), continue reading …
NB. Plant information is provided here as a general guide only. Consult with the plant’s producer before purchasing to ensure it meets your needs.

Acacia ‘Sterling Silver’
Botanical name : Acacia binervia ‘Sterling Silver’
Dimensions at maturity: Height = 1.5m, width = 2m
Flowering colour and timing: Large bright yellow rod flowers in spring
Cultivation and maintenance notes: Prefers a sunny position in free draining soil, can be kept smaller with pruning, prune as desired
Landscape uses: Perfect for coastal areas, commercial plantings and general landscape.
Other interesting features/notes: Useful as cut foliage
Available from: Greenhills Propagation Nursery

Begonia ‘Exotica’
Botanical name : Begonia brevirimosa subsp. exotica
Dimensions at maturity: Height = 0.6-0.9m
Flowering colour and timing: Grown as a foliage plant for landscape purposes, it produces small, pink flowers throughout the year in its natural habitat
Cultivation and maintenance notes: Grows best in part shade. Requires high humidity to do well, i.e. lots of water and occasional misting.
Landscape uses: Small gardens, interiorscape/indoor plant, container planting
Other interesting features/notes: Large, metallic-looking leaves sport bright-pink variegation. Grown from tissue culture.
Available from: Majestic Young Plants

Carnation ‘Early Love’
Botanical name: Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Early Love’
Dimensions at maturity: Height = 30-40cm, width = 25-35cm
Flowering colour and timing: Crimson pink-red flowers from spring to autumn
Cultivation and maintenance notes: Remove spent flowers to encourage repeat flowering
Landscape uses: Small containers, mixed containers, hanging baskets
Other interesting features/notes: This is a perfect gift giving line to dress up or say something special. You can add you own decorative pot to add appeal. This variety has large, double flowers on short stems, growing out in a distinctly rounded form. In a pot, this variety resembles a bouquet of flowers. Flower shelf life is long lasting. A hardy variety that is suitable for any pot size.
Available from: Ball Australia

Carnation ‘Pink Kisses’
Botanical name: Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Pink Kisses’
Dimensions at maturity: Height = 15-20cm, width = 20-25cm
Flowering colour and timing: Two tone pink from spring to autumn
Cultivation and maintenance notes: Remove spent flowers to encourage repeat flowering
Landscape uses: Small containers, mixed containers, hanging baskets
Other interesting features/notes: As for Carnation ‘Early Love’
Available from: Ball Australia

Echeveria ‘Romeo’
Botanical name: Echeveria agavoides ‘Romeo’
Dimensions at maturity: Height = 0.2 m, width = 0.3m
Flowering colour and timing: Small red flowers in summer
Cultivation and maintenance notes: Use a free draining medium and keep humidity to a minimum. Being dark red, this variety requires bright light
Landscape uses: Container planting, indoor plant
Other interesting features/notes: With stunning red leaves, this usually rare collectable generally commands a high dollar value. Grown from tissue culture.
Available from: Majestic Young Plants

Philodendron ‘Silver Sword’
Botanical name: Philodendron hastatum ‘Silver Sword’
Dimensions at maturity: Height = 1m+
Flowering colour and timing: Creamy white
Cultivation and maintenance notes: Hardy plant with upright growth habit which prefers to be supported by a pole or totem. Position in bright, indirect sunlight.
Landscape uses: Container planting, interior/indoor plant
Other interesting features/notes: Featuring silver or metallic looking foliage. Also known as Philodendron ‘Gray’. Grown from tissue culture.
Available from: Majestic Young Plants

Phlox Gisele ‘Hot Pink’
Botanical name: Phlox drummondii
Dimensions at maturity: Height = 25-30cm, width = 35-45cm
Flowering colour and timing: Hot pink flowers throughout spring to autumn
Cultivation and maintenance notes: Remove spent flowers to encourage repeat flowering
Landscape uses: Containers, mixed containers, hanging baskets, garden beds, landscapes
Other interesting features/notes: “Phlox Gisele ‘Hot Pink’ is unbeatable with blooms of rich pink against fresh green foliage. They jump out at you”, says Kate Grant. ”Phlox Gisele ‘Hot Pink’ is suited to full sun and part shade conditions and will bloom from spring through to summer. In support of the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Available from: Ball Australia

Salvia ‘Blue Bouquetta’
Botanical name: Salvia nemorosa ‘Blue Bouquetta’
Dimensions at maturity: Height = 0.2m, width = 0.2m
Flowering colour and timing: Intense purple/blue flowers from spring, through summer and in to autumn.
Cultivation and maintenance notes: Prefers a sunny position in free draining soil, prune spent flowers as they end to encourage rebloom.
Landscape uses: ‘Blue Bouquetta’ is a great choice for perennial borders, as a decorative pot on balconies and outdoor areas and mixed plantings.
Other interesting features/notes: “Trials have shown that one 200mm pot can have more than 50 flowers” says Leah Opie.
Available from: Greenhills Propagation Nursery