Kelly Norris Dishes on New Plants, Going to Seed, and Bootleg Petunias

Thalictrum Nimbus White (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Thalictrum ‘Nimbus White’ from Terra Nova Nurseries has cloud-like masses of white blooms over multiple dark stems.

I try to keep notes about what catches my eye each spring season — the first impressions of new varieties that might evolve into an over-the-top endorsement or a shrug of disinterest.

In the perennials with wood category, Spring Meadow Nursery has outdone itself with a host of new releases destined for retail in 2018. The Czechmark series of weigela proves that this old dog shrub still has new tricks, chiefly bevies of multi-colored (in the case of Trilogy) and white-marked-gold blooms (Sunny Side Up).

Terra Nova Nurseries has released improved spring-flowering thalictrum in two colors, white and purple, marketed as the Nimbus series. These were handsome, full plants for spring sales. The promise of clouds of flowering stems in stark contrast to the skimpy and minimal stems of the ordinary species is enough to make me salivate.

As I’ve previously gushed, the dozen or so new xMangave from Walters Gardens may be some of the more eclectic newcomers to the specialty scene this year. Their vigor is as initially reported — a 72-cell plug heftily filled a quart container in a little more than a month.

In Seed We Trust?

Weeding is a good exercise for accumulating deep thoughts, even if most of them lack profundity. As I pulled out handfuls of seedling Penstemon digitalis ‘Dark Towers’ at Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, I couldn’t help but think why I was so bothered by them. First, as a curator, it does (should) bother me. As a botanical garden, we have a vested interest in preserving accessions, particularly those clonally propagated, from interlopers that might contaminate them over time. If it sounds puritanical, it should. However, the argument outside of an institution like ours becomes diluted. Does a gardener/consumer care much if the plants in her garden, three years post-planting, are genetically dissimilar to those she originally installed? Should she?

Weigela Czechmark (Spring Meadow Nursery)
Czechmark weigela from Spring Meadow Nursery has red, pink, and white blooms that put on a show in the spring.

I recently revamped a 4,000-square-foot pocket park in my hometown with a naturalistic design. The big debate as I sketched out the planting plan was who would pull the errant seedlings of various penstemon cultivars when they started to muddy their own waters? The project has a stable of dedicated volunteers with varying skills and interests in gardening. Will they know or care to remove them? I included this footnote in my planting notes:

“Avoid the temptation to pull seedlings if they seem to have a purpose. At some point, we all plant our own weeds.”

It also raises a question about the value of clonally propagating genera with great penchant for seed production. What will echinacea as a category look like in a decade? Will half or more of today’s clonally propagated varieties still be in existence or merely a footnote to horticultural history? We might all have given up the fight and just let them go to seed. The thinking (weeding) continues. More on this in a future column.

The Orange Petunia Scandal

I couldn’t let this one go, not considering my rhetorical disdain for our industry’s single most popular bedding product. It’s a rich story, as such rarified horticultural scandals go. A Finnish scientist who remembers just a little too much from the 1980s happens upon a startlingly orange petunia. Late night lab work, a few divulging conversations, and nearly two years later, the tip-off to Finnish authorities. The rub wasn’t an issue of food security or pesky proliferation. No, these otherwise regulable entities didn’t have their permits in order and were disallowed from sale in the U.S. The whole picture conjures images of an Enron-style dump: carotenoid-colored petunias ingloriously sacked, discharged, and shredded simply for being orange.

The whole situation should give us all a lot to think about as biotechnology becomes more accessible to horticultural plant developers. What does it all mean? Will petunias become the sympathetic face of a public discourse about the safety and validity of genetically modified organisms? Will new, pending rules from USDA loosen up our political thinking about GMOs, which are only going to become more sophisticated by design and thus difficult to detect? What will the gardening public do with a garden of Star Trek Borgs? Questions, questions.

The dirty secret is that the proliferation of the modified gene happened not because of a singular, concerted effort by one company to diversify petunia colors. It was stolen, swiped, borrowed without intention to return or any other verb which might suggest appropriating one company’s intellectual property for the benefit of another’s. Will an era of horticultural biotechnology give breeders defensible options for their intellectual property or simply open Pandora’s box for a greater number of perpetrators? It’s possible, at least for a few of us this year, that petunias gained a little cachet in all of this — who wouldn’t want to make a garden with a few contraband plants?

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Kelly Norris Dishes on New Plants, Going to Seed, and Bootleg Petunias

More From Varieties...
Terra Nova Shipping Box

July 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries, Dümmen Orange to Partner on Unrooted Cuttings Production

Terra Nova Nurseries has contracted with Dümmen Orange to produce unrooted cuttings (URCs) from Terra Nova private stock located at Dümmen Orange’s Central America facilities. The URCs will fulfill orders in North America and Europe.

Read More

July 20, 2017

New Perennials, Trial Gardens, and Merchandising Were Highlights of Darwin Perennials Day 2017

Darwin Perennials Day has steadily become one of the must-attend perennial events of the summer. This year, even the weather cooperated.

Read More
2018 Ball Seed Catalog

July 17, 2017

Ball Seed’s 2018 New Varieties Catalog Now Available

The expanded guide includes breakthrough breeding from Ball in annuals, perennials, vegetables, potted plants, and more.

Read More
Latest Stories
Terra Nova Shipping Box

July 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries, Dümmen Orange to Partner on Unroo…

Terra Nova Nurseries has contracted with Dümmen Orange to produce unrooted cuttings (URCs) from Terra Nova private stock located at Dümmen Orange’s Central America facilities. The URCs will fulfill orders in North America and Europe.

Read More

July 20, 2017

New Perennials, Trial Gardens, and Merchandising Were H…

Darwin Perennials Day has steadily become one of the must-attend perennial events of the summer. This year, even the weather cooperated.

Read More
2018 Ball Seed Catalog

July 17, 2017

Ball Seed’s 2018 New Varieties Catalog Now Available

The expanded guide includes breakthrough breeding from Ball in annuals, perennials, vegetables, potted plants, and more.

Read More
Pleasant View Open House

July 16, 2017

Pleasant View Gardens, D.S. Cole Growers Hosting Open H…

The event gives horticulture industry professionals the chance to check out nearly 80 new introductions from Proven Winners, as well as Pleasant View’s new Savor Edibles & Fragrants line.

Read More
All American Selections

July 12, 2017

All-America Selections Celebrates Milestone Anniversary…

Coinciding with its 85th anniversary celebration, AAS is hosting an open house at its new offices, and has also released its annual report.

Read More

July 8, 2017

Plant Patent Law: Protecting the Variety Pipeline

Breeders call for better cooperation in protecting intellectual property while considering how stricter laws and expensive patents could impact the future of innovation.

Read More
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Holy Moly!’ (Proven Winners)

July 8, 2017

Are Utility Patents Tying Up Innovation With Litigation…

The opportunities for innovation in plant breeding could be greatly advanced by creating an industry-led patent licensing platform.

Read More

July 8, 2017

Fleuroselect and CIOPORA Offer Organizational Leadershi…

Learn why breeders feel these organizations should be emulated in an industry-led initiative to protect plant breeding efforts.

Read More
Thalictrum Nimbus White (Terra Nova Nurseries)

June 30, 2017

Kelly Norris Dishes on New Plants, Going to Seed, and B…

From woody perennials to genetically modified petunias, Kelly Norris gives his take on what turned out to be a busy spring.

Read More
Jim Devereux, Green Fuse Botanicals

June 24, 2017

Green Fuse Botanicals New Vice President is Focused on …

Jim Devereux, who will oversee production, sales, and marketing for Green Fuse, says he hopes to bring genetics to the market that break from traditional production methods for finished growers.

Read More
Ushio Sakazaki feature

June 22, 2017

Japanese Breeder Ushio Sakazaki Wins Medal of Excellenc…

From Supertunias to Superbells, this innovative Japanese breeder has used wild genetics to create game-changing plants that help consumers reconnect with the beauty of nature.

Read More
CallaFornia Red

June 20, 2017

Dümmen Orange Enters Calla Market With Acquisition of G…

Golden State will continue to supply the market through September 2018, at which time Dümmen Orange will assume supply and delivery of much of Golden State’s product line.

Read More
Plantpeddler Variety Day

June 14, 2017

Plantpeddler Hosting Variety Day on Aug. 4 in Cresco, I…

The free event will allow attendees to tour Plantpeddler’s trial gardens, which include more than 1,200 varieties of vegetative annuals displayed in large containers, baskets, window boxes, and beds.

Read More
Jonathan Babikow, Emerald Coast Growers

June 9, 2017

New Head Grower at Emerald Coast Growers is Excited abo…

Jonathan Babikow, Emerald Coast Growers’ new general manager/head grower for its Lancaster, PA, location, talks about his favorite perennials, the advantages of growing in Pennsylvania, and his future hopes for his career.

Read More
Petunia 'Amore Mio' (Danziger)

June 8, 2017

AmericanHort Update on Genetically Engineered Petunias

AmericanHort is actively assisting affected plant breeders, distributors, growers, and retailers as the genetically modified petunia regulatory response continues. Since the last update, there have been several changes to the list of petunias confirmed or suspected of being genetically engineered and therefore unauthorized to be imported or sold. Also, the list of recognized laboratories for petunia variety confirmation testing has expanded. Most importantly, petunia varieties on the USDA-APHIS Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) list require an APHIS Form 2000 for importation. APHIS also began requiring that any Petunia spp. Shipments, not including regulated GE varieties, must be accompanied by a list of variety names. This resulted in some inspection delays at the USDA-APHIS plant inspection station in Atlanta over the past two weeks. In response, AmericanHort has negotiated a more flexible approach with APHIS, and new guidance has just been posted for importing Petunia plants, cuttings, or seed. The new guidance allows […]

Read More
Bailey Expo

June 8, 2017

Bailey Nurseries Expo to Take Place in Late July in Min…

This year’s expo will focus on bridging the gap with Millennials and non-gardeners through creative marketing, engaging in-store displays, and heightened customer service.

Read More
Scaevola Mix from Suntory

June 6, 2017

How Was Your Spring? Let Us Know by Taking Greenhouse G…

Please take a few minutes to answer Greenhouse Grower’s 2017 Spring Recap Survey. The deadline for completing the survey is June 20.

Read More
Eason Horticultural Resources Hot New Perennials Booklet

June 6, 2017

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials B…

“Hot New Perennials for 2018” is a compilation of information shared with Eason from a broad range of perennial young plant producers, breeding companies, and breeder representatives.

Read More