The Green Light
Who says you can’t learn something new? Horticulturally, you can!
Strawberries haven’t been much more than a tasty fruit we love to eat, but that is changing now with an impressive new breeding program from ABZ Seed in the Netherlands.
Then And Now
Strawberry plants have been around for so long because they are easy to grow over a broad range of climates and conditions.
Professional fruit growers generally plant the June-bearing forms and generate a giant harvest of the sweetest fruit over a 5-week period.
Homeowners, on the other hand, usually grow the ever-bearing types that feature a much longer harvest window, but sacrifice some of the sweetness in the crop.
Neither June-bearers nor ever-bearers feature show-stopping beauty; although pretty in their first flush of flowers, the rapidly growing leaves cover the blooms in a short period of time, and all that is visible are the large, deep-green leaves.
The folks at ABZ Seed have been working for years to develop varieties of ever-bearing strawberries that will display their blooms above the leaves all season long. Now the plants will be ”ever-flowering,” too!
Also improved in this breeding program is the flavor of the ever-bearing forms, making them as sweet as the June-bearing types.
The best new variety of the 11 introduced as landscape plants is Toscana, winner of the prestigious FleuroStar Award as the best new bedding plant in Europe for 2011/2012.
With large, deep rose-red flowers from May through the summer, and juicy, sweet, cone-shaped fruit following each flower, Toscana provides a perfect blend of form and function to the landscape.
If the spot you’re filling would look better with a soft-pink bloom, consider using Merlan. Fruits are deep-red, sweet and tasty, and the plant habit is more compact, with almost no runners.
In The Landscape
Strawberries make outstanding ground cover in sunny locations, with many varieties developing runners that help plants spread quickly. Imagine a broad swath of these exciting new forms with brilliant flowers held above the leaves throughout the summer.
My personal favorite use for these new cultivars is as filler plants in large, mixed containers. Bright blossoms make excellent accents to other flowering plants, and there is the added bonus of the attractive and wonderfully tasty fruit right out on the patio.
And perhaps the easiest way to enjoy all of the great features of these multi-faceted wonders is growing them in hanging baskets. You can enjoy the beautiful blooms as you pick the tasty fruit dangling right in front of your face!
The plant business is evolving, and so is the way plant material is being used. It isn’t always easy to change the way we look at plants, but with this exciting new development in strawberries, this is a good place to start.
Jesse Hensen is the Vendor Relations/Customer Service Manager for Eason Horticultural Resources, a wholesale plant-broker company. He can be reached at 859-578-3535 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.