As a lifelong gardener, I’ve always enjoyed growing new and different plants in my garden. That’s why I jumped at the chance to be one of the judges at the trial gardens of Costa Farms in Homestead, Florida. Last week, I spent a full day walking up and down their trial beds grading hundreds of new plant introductions. Judging categories included: growth/uniformity, foliage appeal, flower power/size, and consumer appeal. Plants in the trials included entries from all the big plant companies including Ball, Syngenta, Dummen, Sakata, Ecke, Proven Winners, Benary, Fafard, Gro Link and more. There were three other judges also hard at work in the Florida sun: Delilah Onofrey from Greenhouse Grower
magazine, Heather Will-Browne from Disney, and Jim Barrett from the Environmental Horticulture Department at the University of Florida. Each one of us was chosen because we could bring a particular point of view to the results. Some of my favorite newcomers included the Bandana series of lantana from Syngenta, ‘Wendy’s Wish’ salvia from Gro Link, ‘Sunbathers Gold Coast’ gazania from Ecke, the Arctic series of lobelia, the ‘Sweetunia Soft Pink Morning’ petunia, and the Empress series of verbena from Dummen, the ‘Shock Wave Coconut’ petunia and ‘Breathless White’ euphorbia from Ball, ‘Siam Moon’ and ‘Pink Heart’ caladiums from the Foremost Co., the Sunpatiens series of impatiens from Sakata, ‘Snow Princess’ alyssum and ‘Emerald Lace’ ornamental sweet potato from Proven Winners, and an assortment of new and exciting succulents from Costa Farms. And these are just the ones that stand out in my memory. Frankly, the majority of new plants we viewed performed well, so choosing the very best wasn’t too easy. Now, I can’t wait for them to show up at my local garden centers.