Joseph Tychonievich is an independent breeder and author, who also works currently as the nursery manager at Arrowhead Alpines in Fowlerville, Mich., a specialty rare plants nursery where he works daily with hundreds of genera.
Tychonievich has been a professional breeder for eight years, and holds a horticulture degree from the Ohio State University. He has been a passionate amateur plant breeder since his early teen years.
GG: What is one outlandish prediction you have for floriculture in the next 30 years?
Tychonievich: Rock gardening is going to be the next big thing. Exotic trillium hybrids will be the must have collector plant.
GG: As a young breeder, what direction do you feel breeding is headed?
Tychonievich: In recent years there has been a lot of very innovative, revolutionary breeding, which makes me hopeful and a lot of very dull, copy-cat breeding that makes me less hopeful. I think we’ll see more of both in the future – truly creative breeders pushing breakthroughs while other companies work to rapidly copy the successful introductions of their competitors.
GG: What crops do you feel will be relevant and important over the next 30 years?
Tychonievich: I don’t think anyone knows…30 years ago, who would have said heuchera or echinacea or calibrachoa? Or even roses, at the scale of Knock Out? Every time I make a new cross, I’m working my hardest to make that particular plant the answer to this question.
GG: Will the fervor for all new varieties continue in the industry or will breeders begin to focus on filling consumers’ needs?
Tychonievich: They had better. Focusing so much on traits that are useful for growers and retailers rather than breeding for gardeners is fundamentally short-sighted and will end up destroying this industry. If we don’t grow plants that gardeners love, it doesn’t matter a bit how easy they are to produce and ship.
GG: How will breeders address needs to reduce chemicals by increasing crop resistance to pests and diseases? How far away is this technology?
Tychonievich: This is totally doable, and the consumer is going to be increasingly demanding it, so breeders better get busy. The runaway success of Knock Out roses should convince anyone who is skeptical of the importance of breeding tough plants.
GG: What direction is your breeding career taking? What other crop areas are you interested in?
Tychonievich: My main interest is in perennials, with a growing interest in woody plants. Trees and shrubs often have such a long generation time I want to start working more with them now while I’m young enough to maybe make some progress with them. I breed vegetables non-professionally, just as a hobby, but I’m getting increasingly interested in them, as well.