PHOTO COURTESY OF NASA

In mid-January 2016, Scott Kelly, expedition commander on the International Space Station, tweeted a photo of a blooming zinnia at the International Space Station, 250 miles above earth. The blooming zinnia is a fantastic development for the future of cultivating flowers and vegetables in space. The #SpaceFlower, as Kelly tagged it in his twitter post, was none other than Sakata Seed’s Profusion Orange zinnia. Profusion Orange is a favorite from our extensive line-up of ornamental offerings and an All-America Selections Gold Medal Winner. The variety has continually received accolades and gained popularity in the industry throughout the years for its excellent series uniformity and extreme heat, drought and disease resistance, making it easy to grow.

International Space Station
PHOTO COURTESY OF NASA
Profusion zinnia thrives on Earth and in space.

The zinnia space cultivation began Nov. 16, 2015, by astronaut Kjell Lindgren as part of an experiment that tasked astronauts with the challenge of autonomous gardening in deep space. As part of what was known simply as the Veggie experiment, Lindgren activated rooted “pillows” of Profusion zinnia seeds. Come December, astronaut Kelly began to care for the young plants, but said they were “not looking too good.”

In response, the Veggie experiment team stationed on Earth quickly responded with the “Zinnia Care Guide for the On-Orbit Gardener.” Instead of an extensive, cryptic document, the guide provided a one-page list of cultivation suggestions to couple with an astronaut’s own personal judgment skills and instincts. The guide worked! Along with Kelly’s eye for gardening, the zinnias were quickly on the rebound, and the first bloom was reported shortly thereafter on Jan. 12, 2016. Over the course of the next few weeks, Kelly featured the zinnia on his Instagram feed and on Twitter many times, even posting a bouquet of Profusion zinnias floating over Earth in honor of Valentine’s Day!

Gardeners in all kinds of climates, even those in the most hot and humid locales, can have even more confidence in the performance of Profusion zinnias. Garden communicator Felder Rushing, a self-described hardcore, 10th-generation Southern gardener who resides in Mississippi, has been a fan of the plant since its “modest” beginnings, before Profusion zinnias became famous flora.

Scott Kelly, left, expedition commander on the International Space Station, and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, pose for a photo celebrating their 300th day in space. Kelly was part of the team that successfully grew Profusion zinnia, which he proudly displays in his right hand.
PHOTO COURTESY OF NASA

“Hurrah for American horticulture! For the very first time, a flower has been grown successfully from seed in the zero gravity of outer space. The botanic honor goes to Profusion zinnia, which for many years now I have touted as one of the best flowers for kids and flower newbies, really any earthling gardener, to plant,” Rushing says. “Profusions are covered with medium sized flowers non-stop, with fewer problems with diseases in our humid climate. This summer I will be extra proud of my little garden, knowing that my Profusion zinnias will look up with high hopes, knowing their kin have reached the stars.”

Sakata Seed is proud to have an industry-proven variety that is able to go from international success to intergalactic! The ability of Profusion to grow in the most extreme, unpredictable conditions is a true testament to the vigor and flower power of this amazing plant! Something to note… Kelly made his way back to earth on March 1. We wonder if he’ll be gardening with Profusion zinnias in his own backyard someday soon.

Learn more about Sakata’s Profusion zinnias and the company’s cut flower program in this video from the 2016 California Spring Trials: bit.ly/1WTeaCJ

Majorette: raising the bar for gerberas

Majorette has unrivaled uniformity, high germination and boasts a bright, bold white not seen in other series. Greg Gabrels, key account manager for Sakata, discusses these and other highlights of the 2017 introduction.

Bright White Dark Eye and Pink Halo

Q: I understand that for 2017, you’ve introduced a new gerbera series, Majorette. What makes this gerbera different from others on the market?

A: At the very beginning of this project, the breeder grew out all of the major commercial series to look for an opportunity. The opportunity he saw immediately was that there was no uniformity in the other series. Growers expect all the impatiens, petunias or begonia colors to be exactly the same height, to flower almost exactly the same day. With gerberas, the colors are all over the place. So that was his No. 1 goal, to make a uniform series.

Out of the gate, it is definitely the most uniform series on the market. We still have some work to do. It’s not 100 percent uniform like a petunia or a begonia, but it certainly is the most uniform on the market from a timing point of view and from a plant habit point of view.

Q: When you say it’s mostly uniform, are there certain colors that tend to be earlier, taller or shorter than others?

Sunset Orange

A: The red has huge flowers, but the plant is a little bit shorter and it’s early. The white is also a little bit early. But it’s the first true white gerbera on the market. Everything else is kind of ivory colored, so the white gerberas make up for it in that way. The rest of the colors are all pretty much the same size.

Q: Was the true, bright white color something the breeder tried to achieve in the breeding process or was it just a lucky accident?

A: He was looking for a good white, and as we all looked through his work, it became more apparent that the Bright White Majorette really stands out. White gerberas have never been a big part of a gerbera program, but this is truly a bright white.

We’re hoping that will increase the importance of white in gerbera because generally, people like to buy white flowers.

Q: One of the other key growing benefits listed, other than the uniformity, is that Majorette has the highest germination on the market.

A: The other series out there I’ve seen have a 90 percent standard. The Majorettes are 95 percent. They also come in a slick coat, which is the best coating on the market. Growers tell us it’s the easiest to sow. They love the placement and the accuracy that they get. A large grower told us that they take one person off of the end of the sowing line because they don’t have as many problems with doubles and skips. With the slick coat, they use one less person on the end of the sowing line.

Q: How many colors are available right now in the series?
Bright White Dark Eye

A: There are eight colors and a mix.

Q: Are there plans to expand that moving forward?

A: We will definitely expand it as we go forward.

Q: Do you have a favorite color?

A: I actually have several favorites. Majorette Yellow Dark Eye is just extremely floriferous.

It throws up a lot of flowers. I also like Sunset Orange. The back of the petal is yellow, and it bleeds through to the front, which is orange. So it gives it a bicolor effect and has a halo around the center. It’s one of those varieties that everywhere you see it, no matter what, it always looks good.

Q: What would you like growers to know about Majorette?

A: What sets it apart from other gerberas is the number of flowers that it throws up at one time. Growers can comfortably ship it to retail with many flowers and know that more flowers are coming. Once it starts flowering, there are just so many buds. It’s amazing.

Yellow Dark Eye

Q: What tips do you have for retailers?

A: They make great mixed container plants and standalone potted plants. Removing the old flowers is something that retailers should do with any gerbera. It helps the look of the plant, and it also helps the plant continue to flower. You don’t want it trying to set seed because that zaps the energy from the plant.

The way the Majorettes are built, quart-sized pots are the perfect size. However, they can also use three plants in a larger container, say an 8- or 10-inch container, and really get a lot of flowers. At retail, it’s hard to resist something like that.

See the bright, bold Majorette lineup in this video from the 2016 California Spring Trials: bit.ly/1Xkpq9w