Plant Breeder Brent Horvath: Grasses Are A Breeding Focus

Brent Horvath Owner, Intrinsic Perennial Gardens
Brent Horvath
Owner, Intrinsic Perennial Gardens

Brent Horvath is the owner of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens, Inc., headquartered in Hebron, Ill. Horvath grew up in the industry, working at his parents’ garden center and florist shop.

He holds a degree in ornamental horticulture from Oregon State University and today, he grows a wide range of perennials and ornamental grasses.

GG: How long have you been a breeder or studying to be a breeder?
Horvath: I started in the mid ’90s. After I read Alan Bloom’s Hardy Perennials book, where he talked about how many of his introductions came about, I really started becoming more interested in selecting and breeding.

GG: What direction is your breeding career taking?
Horvath:
As a perennial grower with ornamental grasses being a big part of our production and sales, I focus on those plants that sell well for me. Half of my business is to landscapers and around 20 percent to retailers. Grasses are definitely my focus. Some of my selections have been picked up by Proven Winners, including Leucanthemum ‘Daisy Duke,’ sold under the trade name ‘Daisy May’ and Sedum ‘Pure Joy.’

GG: What direction do you feel breeding is headed?
Horvath: I think the industry as a whole is too focused on the big box stores. We still need to breed plants that don’t fit that model, too.

GG: What crops do you feel will be relevant and important over the next 30 years?
Horvath: For me primarily ornamental grasses, geums and sedums.

GG: Will the fervor for all new varieties continue in the industry or will breeders begin to focus on filling consumers’ needs?
Horvath: To a lesser degree, the more a plant gets bred, the harder it is to introduce as many unique plants and traits.

GG: How will breeders address needs to reduce chemicals by increasing crop resistance to pests and diseases? 
Horvath: I think this is always a focus. Sometimes it is just about introducing a new species to get that resistance; other times it just comes with hybrid vigor.

GG: What is one outlandish prediction you have for floriculture in the next 30 years?
Horvath: I see a lot fewer companies either because they can’t make a profit due to high costs, especially taxes, or they can’t compete, and because of less demand for the wide variety that has been offered in the past.

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