The Last Heliconia Cultivars of Mark Collins
Throughout his 30+ year career, Mark Collins introduced and registered nearly 70 Heliconia varieties with the HSI Heliconia cultivar register program. Several of his more popular introductions were H. orthotricha ‘Eden Pink’, H. aemygdiana ‘Lavender Storm’, H. vellerigera ‘Root Beer’, H. longissima ‘Red Wings’, H. penduloides ‘Perfect Darling’ and H. gloriosa ‘Satin Glory’. With his health preventing him from collecting for several years before his unfortunate and untimely passing, some wonder what more he could have introduced if he were alive and well. Although we will never know the answer to “what could have been,” there are several cultivars that he never got around to introducing and registering. These cultivars are a combination of spontaneous hybrids and seedling variations grown at his farms in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Hilo, Hawaii. Hopefully with care and maintenance his collection will continue to produce interesting collectibles. As of now, here are his last Heliconia cultivars.
Heliconia vellerigera hyb. ‘Red Carpet’
‘Red Carpet’ is a spontaneous seedling from Mark’s farm in Chiang Mai. This cultivar originated in 2010 and is believed to be a cross between H. vellerigera and an unknown parent. The inflorescence of ‘Red Carpet’ is pendent, spiral, and contains up to eight bracts. Bracts are bright red with light brown hairs at the base and gradually fewer to no hairs towards the tips. The rachis is also red with light brown pubescence while sepals are yellow with fine hairs. Vegetation type is musoid with green leaves and red margins. ‘Red Carpet’ is a clumping Heliconia that grows up to 10 feet tall. What makes ‘Red Carpet’ different from other H. vellerigera cultivars are its bright red and less hairy bracts. It took Mark and his wife Bee a while to come up with a name for this cultivar. Ultimately, the name was inspired by Hollywood's red carpet. The name elegantly refers to the color, texture, and glamour of this Heliconia.
‘Red Carpet’ is great for cut flower production. It is easy to grow, cut flowers last two to three weeks, and bract tips do not succumb to necrosis as easily as other H. vellerigera and H. regalis cultivars. Blooming period is year-round with a peak from November to February.
Heliconia vellerigera hyb. 'Queen Bee'
This Heliconia is another spontaneous seedling from Mark’s farm in Chiang Mai. This cultivar originated in 2014 and is believed to be another cross between H. vellerigera and an unknown parent. The inflorescence of this Heliconia is pendent, spiral, and contains up to 11 bracts. Bracts are red with golden lips and are covered evenly with light brown hairs. The rachis is red with light brown pubescence while sepals are yellow with fine hairs. Vegetation type is musoid with green leaves. This is a clumping Heliconia that grows up to 12 feet tall. This spontaneous seedling appeared after Mark’s passing so he never had the opportunity to see it. I have named this hybrid 'Queen Bee'. With its unique bicolor bracts, it is the 'Queen' of all H. vellerigera. The name also pays homage to Bee which I think Mark would have appreciated.
This Heliconia has not been assessed for cut flower production but judging by its early onset of necrosis there are cleaner and longer lasting alternatives. Regardless of its cut flower potential the brilliant bicolor bracts of this H. vellerigera are worthy of a home in any Heliconia garden.
Heliconia stricta hyb. ‘Heart of Gold’
‘Heart of Gold’ is yet another spontaneous seedling from Mark’s farm in Chiang Mai. This cultivar also originated in 2010 and is believed to be a cross between H. stricta and an unknown parent. The inflorescence is upright, distichous, and contains up to 9 bracts. Bracts are fiery red and gold with fine light green margins. The rachis is primarily red while sepals are dark green with white tips. Vegetation type is musoid with green leaves. ‘Heart of Gold’ grows six to 10 feet tall in full sun. Mark named this cultivar after the song, 'Heart of Gold'; a classic by Neil Young. In this song Neil describes an aged traveler who is searching for his 'Heart of Gold'. Perhaps when Mark spent his time traveling he was searching for more than just plants.
‘Heart of Gold’ can be grown as a cut flower. It produces nice tight clumps and is a prolific winter bloomer. However, the inflorescence of this cultivar is thick and heavy like H. stricta ‘Slash and Burn’. For home growers or producers with local buyers that may not be a problem but for those who ship their flowers, ‘Heart of Gold’ will add additional shipping cost.
Heliconia griggsiana ‘New Moon’
‘New Moon’ is a seedling variation believed to be from Mark’s farm in Chiang Mai. This H. griggsiana variation originated around 2010. The inflorescence is pendent, spiral, and contains up to seven bracts. Bracts are similar to ‘Blue Moon’. They are green but with thicker yellow margins; the rachis is bright red resembling that of 'Harvest Moon' and 'Angry Moon'. Vegetation type is musoid with rich green leaves accompanied by maroon midribs. ‘New Moon’ grows 10 to 16 feet tall in full sun. The name ‘New Moon’ is a play off the H. griggsiana moons originated by David Carli with ‘Angry Moon' and 'Blue Moon’ and continued by Mark with ‘Full Moon', Harvest Moon’ and now ‘New Moon’.
‘New Moon’ is best suited for display gardens and landscaping. It grows in tight clumps and the luxurious foliage can be appreciated when the showy inflorescences are not in bloom.
Heliconia orthotricha (To be named varieties)
In the early 90’s Mark made two trips to Ecuador with Roy Yamakawa and Roger Peckenpaugh. These trips were an attempt by Hawaiian growers to search out varieties which would help Hawaii compete better in the year-round flower market – an industry that was dominated by D. Carli’s Costa Flores farm. During their trip, the three came across one unique location along the road from Baeza to Coca. They nick-named this location “the field of dreams” as it was populated with dozens of pastel H. orthotricha variations. They each collected thousands of seeds. Roy recalled being like “kids in a candy store.”
Many of these pastel H. orthotricha are still growing on Mark's farm in Hilo, Hawaii. However, for some reason he never took the time to name his favorite selections and make them available for sale. Perhaps it was because his primary purpose for them was cut-flowers or maybe he just never made the time for it. Whatever his reason, with a little work and creativity we hope to name and introduce the very best from “the field of dreams.”