Plant Preview at the 2007 California Pack Trials

I Love This Plant

Plant Preview at the 2007 California Pack Trials

May 7, 2007
Photo by: Chelsea Stickel

The search for great plants for Garden Design's Way Hot 100 list is an ongoing quest and we are already gearing up for 2008. Managing editor Jenny Andrews and photo editor Chelsea Stickel were on the hunt at this year's California Pack Trials.

For over 25 years growers have trotted out their latest plants each spring to entice retailers, plant brokers and industry insiders at the Pack Trials, held along the coast of California. The main emphasis for most vendors is annuals, but there are also plenty of perennials and other goodies. This year's event included over 30 companies, displaying their choicest plants, from Gilroy in the northern part of the state to Encinitas in the south.

Eager for a chance to go behind the scenes and take a peek at what's coming up in 2008, the Garden Design team decided to focus on the Santa Barbara area and hobnob with several of the heavy hitters who have brought us plenty of hot plants in past years, as well as some growers we want to know better. And we found plenty of Way-Hot-worthies:

  • At Floranova we saw a tall nicotiana covered with nodding wine-red flowers called 'Babybella' and the pink-veined, giant-flowered petunia 'Prism Raspberry Sundae'.
  • At GroLink we found a cute torenia with yellow petals and a purple throat, and a frilly brown acalypha called 'Bronze'.
  • Suntory showed us the teeny-tiny blue flowers of Scoparia Ilumina? Powder Blue. (
  • A big Salvia patens called 'Blue Angel' with an electric blue flower like a bird's beak and the shrubby, lavender pentas 'Northern Lights Lavender' attracted us at Benary.
  • At Ball/PanAmerican we really liked Talinum 'Limón' (and I was thrilled when they shipped me some sample plants to try in my garden). (
  • Fides wowed us with the paprika colored Kalanchoe 'Mayon' and a cross between calibrachoa and bacopa called Mini Calibrachoa Milky Way® that takes the heat.
  • At Sahin we were crazy about a tiny dianthus called 'Black Adder' and the luscious 'Summertime Cranberry' and 'Summertime Blueberry' osteospermums.
  • Bodger's pale chartreuse-white Salvia 'Stampede Citron' is a lovely and unusual color.
  • Plant Haven had a new dwarf gaura with wine tinted leaves called 'Passionate Rainbow'.
  • Ball FloraPlant had several choice offerings, including the colorful foliage of 'Blazin' Lime' iresine and the fireworks flowers of 'Radiance' black-eyed Susan.

And along the way we saw some of our old friends from past Way Hot issues  — 'Black Pearl' ornamental pepper, 'Pesto Perpetuo' basil, 'Angelina' sedum, 'Yalaha' coleus, 'Blazin' Rose' iresine. Sorbet? Antique Shades viola, 'Little Prince' banana and a plant that will always make me weak in the knees, Giant Spinners? gerbera daisy.

The hunt continues!