Benef its in Bloom

An employee at Goldsmith Seeds waters flowers before a flower

– A flower two decades in the making

stole the show

at Goldsmith Seeds’ spring trials last week, when more than
1,200 industry buyers and experts converged on the company’s Hecker
Pass greenhouses.
Gilroy – A flower two decades in the making “stole the show” at Goldsmith Seeds’ spring trials last week, when more than 1,200 industry buyers and experts converged on the company’s Hecker Pass greenhouses.

Now residents have a chance to snag the Vinca Cora for their own gardens and support charity at the same time. On Saturday, Goldsmith Seeds will once again hold its annual spring flower sale. The event typically raises more than $35,000 annually to support the Gilroy Rotary Club’s scholarship and youth programs.

Without a doubt, the main attraction at this year’s flower sale is the Vinca Cora, said company president Joel Goldsmith.

“This is the hot thing because of its disease resistance,” Goldsmith explained. The bushy plant with round flower petals is normally susceptible to an air-born pathogen that attacks the stem and kills it from the inside out, he said.

A disease-resistant variety developed by the company required 18 years of research and relied on samples collected in 1987 by Joel Goldsmith’s parents. The couple gathered a more robust variety of the plant – resistant to the pathogen – during a visit to its native land of Madagascar.

The Vinca bears the name of Cora van Wingerden, matriarch of one of the most prominent and innovative families in the country’s plant industry. Van Wingerden was the matriarch of a family of 16, all of whom remain involved in the plant industry today.

John van Wingerden, owner of Express Seed Company, in Ohio, still does business with the Goldsmiths. His family was “tickled pink” by the honor, he said, especially since the flower “stole the show” at least week’s trials.

“The Vinca looks gorgeous,” van Wingerden said. “It’s a very hot weather plant that does beautifully until this disease comes along. There are some summers you’d have beautiful gardens, and within weeks they’d be gone. Their real beauty is their lasting effect in the gardens.”

The charity flower sale will also feature hundreds of traditional favorites such as geraniums, impatiens and petunias, as well as newer varieties under development by Goldsmith Seeds.

Rotary member Jeff Martin returns to the plant sale year after year. He prefers tried and true favorites like the impatiens, though he also plans to buy some newer varieties like the Columbine, a longer-stemmed plant with delicate petals that is a favorite of hummingbirds.

Average prices on the plants range from $3 to $5.

“They’ve brought those plants to the perfect stage of development for their field trials,” Martin said. “When you go out there, you’re getting a plant that’s fully mature, roots are fully developed and they’re well-maintained, which you don’t necessarily get at a Home Depot.”

For the past 17 years, the Goldsmith family has sold off the spoils from their spring flower trials to benefit charity. The event has raised between $35,000 and $50,000 in recent years. Half the funds go to area youth programs and the remainder supports horticultural scholarships for local students. A portion of Vinca Cora sales will support the van Wingerden family’s efforts to promote sustainable agriculture in Ethiopia and Haiti.

The event goes from 8am to 1pm, though the pick of the plants often goes to those who line up outside its greenhouses before dawn.

Goldsmith Seeds is located at 2280 Hecker Pass Highway (Highway 152 West) in Gilroy, CA. Visit for more information.