Gerberas go back quite a long way: the father of botanical nomenclature Carolus Linnaeus named the genus in 1737, the name honouring his friend Dr Traugott Gerber. A century and a half later, in 1889, Robert Jameson identified and gave his name to the best known species, Gerbera Jamesonii, discovered in the Barberton area of South Africa, hence the common names of Barberton daisy or Transvaal daisy.
Gerberas make for great cut flowers, so you will see them a lot in florists’ bouquets, and as summer bedding, and they will be seen in serried and colourful ranks in the garden centres as a result. But, lovely as they are, these gerberas are not hardy enough to take the vicissitudes of the British winter and come back for more the following year. So, back in the early years of the twentyfirst century, the Dutch gerbera specialist nursery Florist Holland set about doing something to change this.
The old favourite Gerbera Jamesonii wasn’t by itself suitable for their purposes, and quite a bit of hybridisation of various species of gerbera went into the development of what was to be named the Garvinea series, which was introduced to the world in 2009. In that year it won the prestigious Hortifair Innovation Award as the first gerbera to prove itself properly hardy and followed that up with the Golden Floral Award in 2010. The new breed of gerberas was something of a game changer. A number of varieties, mostly carrying girls’ names, were introduced in a range of vibrant colours, including some spider types with that bad hair day look that challenges conventional notions of floral beauty.
More recent breeding saw the introduction of the Garvinea Sweet series which not only promises improved weather resistance but, most importantly, larger bloom size relative to the original Garvinea varieties. As the saying goes, bigger and better. There are now several varieties available in the Sweet series, and this time they aren’t all called after girls.
So how hardy are they in the real world? Well, the breeders, or their marketing department, claim hardiness down to US hardiness zone 7, which correlates to an average winter miniumum of -17C to -12C, so, even given a dose of healthy scepticism, that means you could reasonably expect your little darlings to get through a winter getting down to at least -10C, and that’s most winters for the majority of us here in the UK. I know we are pampered weather-wise here in the deep south of England, but -10C covers a lot of territory and a lot of seasonal variation. The key, however, is to treat them like echinaceas, which means (1) ensuring the soil or medium in which they are planted is well drained, particularly in winter, and (2) planting them what we call ‘crown high’ to make sure the heart of the plant doesn’t get waterlogged, which will quickly cause it to rot. Do that, and your hardy gerberas should prove just that.
As this post is focused on the Garvinea Sweet series, you might expect us to grow and sell some of those. And we do. Currently we have just the two, both of which sold well in 2017, but we may add more to the range in future. Gerbera Sweet Glow is an in your face shade of orange (very apt for a plant bred in the Netherlands) and will give you three seasons of flowering (spring, summer and autumn), which is what we call value for money. We have found Gerbera Sweet Dreams a little slower to get off the mark in terms of flowering, but when it does, it’s an absolute cracker, possessed of a pink as shocking as an electric eel, and forming nice robust plants. We like these new hardy gerberas: treat them right, and they’ll just keep on giving.
Rob and Joanna – November 2017