Spring 2015


Three New Peppers

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‘Melrose’ is Chicago’s favorite heirloom cooking Pepper

Hot Peppers have been getting most of the hype in recent years but today we’d like to talk about our new sweet varieties. We’re stepping outside the Bell box a bit to expand the flavor palette without turning up the heat. Each of these Peppers brings its own unique character from the garden to the kitchen: Central American ‘Costa Rican Sweet’, Chicago’s famous heirloom ‘Melrose’, and the popular mini Lunchbox Mix.


The Garvinea Gerberas

GER Sweet Smile 09bGarvinea Sweet Smile’ delivers the Gerbera look for ground plantings

Gerbera is highly popular at the florist for obvious reasons: big, vibrant daisy-like flowers with strong thick stems. It makes a good cut flower, but standard florist varieties are bred more for protected spaces inside high-volume greenhouses. What we need is the same great look with a tougher, more seasoned plant underneath for landscapes and containers. That would be the Garvinea series from Florist Holland, bred to be The Garden Gerbera. Let’s take a look at it.


The New Vista Petunia

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Believe it or not, Petunia ‘Vista Paradise’ is a rare occurrence

“Another pink Petunia,” is what you’re probably saying but you’d be wrong. ‘Vista Paradise’ is an important Petunia. It took nine years for Proven Winners to release it. We need this Petunia and we’ll tell you why.

To understand ‘Paradise’ you need to understand ‘Vista’ and for that you need to realize that in our industry, the Petunia is a bikini. Like a trendy bathing suit, we buy it in the spring, enjoy it all summer, and throw it out in the fall; next year another new variety will be all the rage. Petunias are fashion-driven.

Vista is not. Until this year the series had just three colors with the last change occurring almost a decade ago. In this fact, we have the first clue as to why Vista is so successful and why ‘Paradise’ is so important.


Coleus ‘Pineapple Splash’

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Coleus ‘Pineapple Splash’ pairs well with Pepper ‘Black Pearl’

What’s the hot take on Coleus ‘Pineapple Splash’? Bright lemon yellow foliage has a jagged red stripe on the leaf. It loves hot summer and does not fade under the brutal sun. Plants grow lush and low for Coleus and pair well with dark varieties—important features we look for in a solid, dependable pro-quality Coleus.

But this is not the full story. ‘Pineapple Splash’ comes from a Coleus dynasty, bred by the University of Florida along with many important cultivars like ‘Redhead’ (2008), ‘Wasabi’ (2011), ‘Electric Lime’ (2016), ‘Ruby Slipper’ (2016), and ‘French Quarter’ (2016). In fact, a full one-third of the 50+ Coleus varieties we sell come from U of F, although we did not know it at the time. Why, then, do so many important Coleus come out of this one place? 


Tomato ‘Big Rainbow’

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Heritage Tomato ‘Big Rainbow’—multicolor skin and a light red streak inside

For beauty on the plate, few Tomatoes can surpass the heritage variety ‘Big Rainbow’. Sometimes it looks mostly yellow and sometimes it has green shoulders with a waistcoat of yellow and orange—when ripe, streaks of red appear toward the blossom end. Try not to judge this beefsteak by its flat, lumpy exterior. Slicing into it reveals wisps and whorls of red and orange streaked through the yellow meat—ah, the prize inside. ‘Big Rainbow’ is a classic eating Tomato: juicy and sweet with fruity overtones and a low-acid bite.

We like to call this a New American Heritage because it came out of Minnesota during the 1980s, grown by the families in and around Polk County. One woman, Dorothy Beiswenger, had the foresight to register it with Seed Savers Exchange and blessed its name. ‘Big Rainbow’s’ history is unclear as far as heritage goes; no one knows much about its early days, its ethnic background, or its parents. What we do know is that it became a hit.