Meet Suntory's Breeders
We are pleased to present Japanese flower breeder Suntory with our Industry Achievement Award as part of our Medal of Excellence program. Now we take you behind the scenes to meet the breeders behind Suntory's revolutionary genetics.
June 25, 2009
Dr. Yasuyuki Murakami, breeder of Million Bells
You could consider Yasuyuki Murakami the father of the entire calibrachoa genus for global commercial flower production. "I still can't forget the first impression of Million Bells (calibrachoas), when I discovered them for the first time," he says. Their ability to produce endless blooms attracted me to this plant and my desire was to make this a better plant for garden use, which consumers would love. That was the time the company started a new project which included flowers. We were short of staff but I started to study Million Bells as one of the new projects and my goal was to make it into a commercial product."
He was encouraged by Suntory's success with Surfinia petunias bred by Shinzo Tuda. "Originally, the calibrachoa was late flowering with the flowers closing easily and a high susceptibility to disease," Murakami says. "Calibrachoa species has a large number of types and I began crossing them to make improvements. Calibrachoa was a new garden plant and had fewer colors at first, so I felt sure of myself it would be classified as a new category and am still convinced that is now well established."
Today, the Million Bells color range spans reds, blues, oranges and yellows and the splashy, popular terra cotta colors. "They are incomparable plants because Million Bells are selected and cultivated under the tough and very harsh environment in Japan," he says. "Even in such an environment, it shows excellent garden performance, disease and heat tolerance. As a pioneer of the species brought to consumers world wide, I would like to complete the plants that can fulfill the merit of all the dealers, growers and not least, the gardeners. I will go on to develop calibrachoas further to attract more interest from growers and consumers. Please look out for what is coming in the future."
Dr. Kiyoshi Miyazaki, breeder of Senetti cinerarias
Already a huge hit in the United Kingdom, the Senetti cinerarias are versatile plants that offer gorgeous color in cool-weather landscapes and containers. "The big differences between ordinary cineraria and Senettis are reblooming, numerous blooms, excellent weather tolerance, particularly low temperatures outside, and of luxury appearance," Kiyoshi Miyazaki says. "When flowering is finished, cut back the plant and it will grow back and rebloom."
Senettis are interspecific hybrids with a smaller leaf and slightly silver grey foliage, longer flower stems and slim, tapered petals. "Senetti grows bigger and has a better branching habit to fill bigger containers," Miyazaki says. "It's unique reblooming, weather tolerance and bloom count, plus its gorgeous look of strong, deep colors have been very much appreciated. Senetti wins the hearts and minds of consumers and is starting to spread around the world."
Tomoya Misato, breeder of Sun Parasol Mandevillas
Sun Parasol mandevillas have been a tropical delight in the Suntory Collection. Breeder Tomoya Misato has been breeding plants for vigor, earliness and unique colors. He had previously worked on the Surfinia petunia and Million Bells calibrachoa lines.
"The plant caught my attention with the possibility to develop flowers that can evoke a tropical image for pot plants," he says about the Sun Parasol mandevillas. "We've created mandevillas with unprecedented vigor by cross breeding and produced a novelty plant that has never been in the market place before."
The Sun Parasol series includes many types or subseries, including Pretty, Giant and the Original group. "Consumers can enjoy growing tropical flowers, with vines climbing up a trellis or filling out hanging baskets or pots," Misato says. "I would like to develop this new collection further and create the advantages of the Sun Parasols and keep recommending this species to consumers."