Developed by Sakata Seed Corporation, “Viking Explorer Rose on Green” begonia (photo) won the Gold Medal in the All-America Selections’*1 (AAS) container category. AAS is one of the world’s two largest new varieties testing organizations. Varieties entered to AAS are evaluated at trial locations throughout North America, which has a variety of climates, and high-scoring varieties are recognized for awards. Varieties with the highest scores are awarded the Gold Medal, but for many years there were no suitable candidates. In 2021, our “Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor” Zinnia was awarded the Gold Medal, which was the first time in 17 years that the prize was awarded by AAS. Sakata is deeply honored to have one of its varieties win a Gold Medal for the second year running, and this recognition demonstrates to the world our proficiency at developing new varieties.
The “Viking” series is an interspecific hybrid*2 of Begonia that we began selling primarily in Europe, North America and China in 2019. “Viking” Begonia is large, with a plant height of about one meter, depending on the container, and it is well regarded primarily in Europe and the US because it is highly tolerant to midsummer heat and drought and remain in bloom for a prolonged period. “Viking Explorer Rose on Green,” the variety that just won the Gold Medal, has features unique to the “Viking” series, such as heat tolerance. This variety has a trailing habit, which has not been seen in this type of Begonia before, and bright rose flowers with shiny green leaves.
Hanging baskets and window box decorations are quite popular in European and American gardening, and there is a high demand for plants with a trailing habit that cascades from a container. Begonia is normally not a leading candidate for those uses, but the “Viking Explorer” series should expand the uses of begonia, open up new markets, and thus increase the value of begonia itself.
We started selling “Viking Explorer Rose on Green” seeds in North America and Europe in 2021. In the future, we will successively expand our sales to areas such as Asia. That said, sales in Japan have yet to be decided.
The “Viking Explorer” series, trailing plants that are opening up new begonia markets
Hanging baskets are a major way to enjoy flowers in Europe and North America. Unlike a normal potted plant, plants with a trailing habit are preferred as ornamentation because they can be hung from a high place where they will cascade from a container. Plants with a trailing habit such as petunias and geraniums are typically used.
There were no varieties of this type of Begonia with a trailing habit until now, and begonia was not usually planted in hanging baskets. Now that we have developed the “Viking Explorer” series with a trailing habit, begonia can also be planted in hanging baskets, and the market should expand further. In addition to the “Rose on Green” that just won the Gold Medal from AAS, the “Viking Explorer” series also includes “Red on Green.”
*1 All-America Selections:
Founded in 1932, the AAS is a non-profit organization that selects and promotes exceptional new varieties of flowers and vegetables. The goals of the AAS are to introduce and promote new horticultural plants for the home gardeners in the US and Canada. AAS is the world preeminent authority in the horticultural industry, and leading seed companies around the world compete to enter new varieties to AAS. Universities, botanical gardens, and seed companies in North America grow varieties on a trial basis at several dozen locations. Varieties with exceptional results are awarded in what is known as the “Flower Olympics”. Entries are grouped into 4 categories - flowers from seed, flowers from cuttings, edibles/vegetables, and herbaceous perennials. Since 2021, entrants can choose to have their entries in 1 of 3 categories – flowers from seed, flowers from cuttings, and edibles/vegetables - grown the in-ground trial or (and) the container trial. Entries that perform well in a certain region are recognized as “Regional Winners” while those that perform well throughout North America are recognized as “National Winners”. Only the best entries from among the “National Winners” are selected to receive the Gold Medal, so many years there are no suitable candidates. There is also “Breeder’s Cup,” which is awarded to breeders who have bred noteworthy varieties that have won AAS awards and have made a significant impact in the horticultural industry.
*2. Interspecific hybrid:
Plants crossbred with two parents of different species within the same genus. Sakata breeding is done by conventional breeding methods.