More Legendary Varieties

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More Legendary Varieties

In the April issue of Greenhouse Growers, we presented revolutionary varieties in several crop categories as part of our 25th anniversary celebration. This is a dialog we would like to keep going all year, sharing the varieties you think have made a difference in creating and energizing markets.

We’ve asked you, our readers, to nominate varieties that:
–Became the industry standard
–Created new markets
–Revolutionized a genus
–Revolutionized commercial production
–Became a household name with consumers


Two seed geraniums were mentioned by readers as being legendary and paving the way for modern production. “I would nominate the ‘Nittany Lion Red’ geranium bred by Dr. Darrell Walker back in the 1960s as a breakthrough because it was the first seed-propagated geranium to come true to type from seed,” says Richard Criley of the University of Hawaii. “It led the way for many releases of seed geraniums that followed.”

Kent Carrell of Syngenta Flowers nominated Pinto geraniums bred by S&G Flowers. “We do still sell a lot of Pinto and have the worldwide market share position,” he says. “I would say we set the standard for uniformity, landscape performance and consistency with Pinto.”

Also in seed annuals, Criley considers Glenn Goldsmith’s Butterfly snapdragons a breakthrough in the 1960s with their open-throated form.

Blooming Potted Plants

Gus De Hertogh, who devoted his career to bulb research at North Carolina State University and Michigan State University, provided input on significant bulb developments.

“For the Easter lily, it was ‘Ace’ and now ‘Nellie White,’” De Hertogh says. “The potted spring bulb gardens that are now popular were a new market. Paperwhite narcissus from Israel are used in commercial greenhouses and for home forcing. Amaryllis is also forced commercially and at home.

“The dwarf narcissus, ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is used worldwide as a mini-potted flowering plant. Holland produced 591 hectares of it out of a total 1,661 hectares in 2006-07.”

Also noteworthy are the breeding of colored calla lilies for flowering potted plants, like the Rehmanii types, and breeding of Darwin hybrid tulips, especially ‘Apeldoorn,’ which in its day was one third of the total tulip production in Holland, De Hertogh says.

In pot mums, we asked Chris Kelleher at Yoder Brothers about the most significant varieties. One is ‘Yellow Mandalay,’ which Yoder introduced in the 1960s along with additional varieties in the Mandalay family in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The Mandalays were a big improvement over the Princess Anne varieties because they got five to six breaks per plant. Although the flowers were smaller than the Annes, they made up for it in size and fullness of plant habit. According to Yoder’s Bill Aulenbach, this was a huge transition–comparable to the difference between old garden mums and the Prophets series.

Another breakthrough pot mum was ‘Pelee’ in 1992 as the first bicolor pot mum. It became so popular with supermarket retailers, it was the first variety to have its own UPC code. Fourteen years later, a new and improved version was introduced as ‘Point Pelee.’ It, too, was an instant success and sold more units in its first year of introduction than any other new pot mum to date.

Yoder’s breeding emphasis continues to be on shorter crop times, better habits, improved keeping quality and durability for growers and garden performance for consumers. Breeders also focus on high flower count, uniform flowering, no pinching, wide color selection and range of natural-season flowering times from very early September though Halloween.


Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens in Hebron, Ill., wrote to us to mention key perennials that were not in the first article. “‘Stella de Oro’ has made more perennial growers money than most plants,” he says. “People started associating daylilies as Stellas.” He also highlighted perennials that have received the Plant of the Year designation from the Perennial Plant Association:

- Shasta daisy ‘Becky’ with its exceptional vigor and substantial size.
Dianthus ‘Firewitch’ with its eyecatching color in perfect combination with the silvered foliage
Echinacea ‘Magnus’ from Jelitto with its uniform color and flatter flower compared to the species. Forget about drooping petals.
Penstemon ‘Husker’s Red’ with its red new growth and deep green foliage compared to the species.

Horvath adds that brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ from Walters Gardens has surpassed the species in demand. “Sedum ‘Angelina’ from PlantHaven seems to be grown by most perennial growers and has only been on the market for a few years,” he says. “Think of a giant hosta and what comes to mind? ‘Sum and Substance.’ Another one that is steadily increasing for us is the red-leaved cimicifugas, like ‘Brunette.’ Retailers can’t keep them on the shelf.”

This year’s PPA Plant of the Year is geranium ‘Rozanne,’ which was introduced by Blooms of Bressingham in 2000. Yoder Brothers manages Blooms of Bressingham North America.

“It has proven to be the most garden-worthy hardy geranium on the market,” Kelleher says. “Most hardy geraniums don’t take summer heat or flower as profusely or as long (from late spring through November or hard frost).”

Adrian Bloom says it’s the geranium of the millennium and our own Allan Armitage gives it high marks as a plant that makes a difference, performing admirably in the University of Georgia’s trial garden. Although ‘Rozanne’ got a slow start to market, it quickly picked up speed and became the first patented variety to win PPA’s Plant of the Year.

Stay tuned for more coverage of legendary varieties in the tropical foliage and cut flower categories. Did we miss your favorite legendary varieties? Drop me a line at

Delilah Onofrey directs Flower Power Marketing for the Suntory Collection. She can be reached at

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