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October 4, 2022

Brilliant blooms: Flower breeder showcases the latest trends in home gardening

The “future of work” has accelerated due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with many workers ditching the commute and instead setting up their home offices.

With people spending more time at home, many want their space to be more visually pleasant.

So, they turn to the brightness that only flowers can provide.

“The flower industry in general has seen a lot of growth and renewed interest because of people being at home,” said Ryan Hall, head of marketing at Syngenta Flowers, whose North America division is based in Gilroy. “They’re investing in their personal space.”

Syngenta Flowers held its annual California Spring Trials event at its Hecker Pass Road facility in early April, a weeklong event where flower companies and breeders across the state showcased the newest varieties that will hit stores next spring.

Syngenta, a global agribusiness company, breeds its flowers for North America in Gilroy.

The facility marks the first step in a process to get flowers to the consumers. Syngenta breeds the varieties, and then sells the seeds or cuttings to a grower, which in turn propagates the products.

Syngenta’s genetics can be found in flowers sold at countless big box stores, garden centers, florists and more, Hall said.

Syngenta is well-known for its geranium breeding, according to Hall, and its best-selling Calliope dark red geranium came from Gilroy.

“This deep, dark red color was innovative in the way it was bred,” he said. “It really brought a lot more garden performance and consumer value.”

Hall said Syngenta’s team of scientists are always looking to use genetics to not only make flowers more brilliant, but also last longer with minimal effort and resist disease.

The products are constantly evolving, which may not always be immediately obvious to the average customer.

“The geranium they bought 10 years ago is not the geranium you can buy today,” Hall said. “It’s always getting better.”

“Color walks” is a motto Syngenta’s salespeople are familiar with, Hall said. People are looking for the high-impact colors that exude happiness, as well as those that catch your eye even as you drive by at 50mph.

Blue is an elusive color that very few plants can achieve, but remains one of the most popular colors for consumers, according to Hall.

Syngenta recently entered into the hydrangea market. These flowers have a long shelf life and a wide range of colors, including bright blue.

“Hydrangea is one of the top five flowering shrubs on the market,” Hall said.

Zinnias, while always popular, are especially hot with consumers due to their drought tolerance and disease resistance.

“They do fantastic in summer landscapes because they can take the heat,” Hall said. “They do spectacular in our field trials here in Gilroy. This is the perfect addition for Gilroy gardens.”

Syngenta breeders are also fond of petunias, which have “amazing” genetic potential, Hall said, resulting in various color combinations that mix well with other varieties. 

While color trends don’t change much from year-to-year (Hall said anything that is bright with a high impact visually is a top performer), flowers that do more with less maintenance are currently driving the market.

“It’s more bang for your buck,” Hall said. “Crops with really tight seasonal windows that are only good for a month or two, we typically see them going out of favor. Products that look good longer with less effort are growing.”

In particular, Syngenta’s Madinia dipladenia, featuring blooms resembling a trumpet, flowers nearly all year long.

Hall said one such plant he has on his patio at home is going strong after four years with the occasional drop of water and fertilizer.

To view Syngenta’s flower varieties, visit syngentaflowers-us.com.

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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