After two years that seemed like forever, it was great to attend California Annual Spring Trials (CAST) in person during its normal early spring schedule. It was a little chilly, as it always is that time of year — brrr, sunny CA can be a myth, especially when starting in Gilroy. The travel schedule was more condensed, but the Eason group hit most all the stops. I still got in my favorite sunset at Pismo. It wouldn’t be Cali without it!
I always look forward to getting that first look at the new introductions and improvements for the coming year, before the catalogs and field trails hit. CAST lets me know what to expect and look for through the summer trials. No matter how good the catalogs are and the Zoom conferences that filled the gap the past two years, there is no substitute for eyes on the real plants. Now CAST is more of a breeder showcase and less of a comparison than it was 20 years ago. But it is still a great opportunity to actually see and evaluate plants in person, including the little nuances you just don’t get from a picture. First impressions count!
The presenting breeding companies didn’t disappoint. Lots of new color intros in all the usual categories – Pelargonium, Petunia, Calibrachoa – along with new innovations in disease resistant plants and sustainable production, and a few nice surprises, like Dianthus Sunflor Harper which no doubt was named after my new Grandniece, Harper Mae, born only days before I left for California. Both the flower and the child are adorable.
Besides the new intros for 2023 there were quite a few 2022 intros to refresh those of us who didn’t make it last year, and some fun future experimentals which I appreciated. No summer trial has everything from every breeder, so seeing them at each stop allows for the eyes to take in everything.
One of the under talked about, but greatly valued aspects of CAST, is the opportunity to talk with breeder representatives, to ask questions and get information that is hard to glean from a Zoom presentation. Human contact beats a computer screen every time. It’s really a joy to renew those friendly connections that you may only get 1 or 2 times a year. I can’t overstate the importance of that.
I look forward to CAST each spring as a renewal, the beginning of the next season with fresh new ideas and plants to take with me as I travel the intermountain states.