Expect to see a broader range of Terra Nova Nurseries’ genetics at 2016 California Spring Trials and new varieties in a number of genera. The breeding team has been working hard to expand the color range of its heucherellas and increase the hardiness range of its heuchera, as well as improve the habits and performance of its echinacea.
Terra Nova Nurseries breeds with the end consumer in mind, refining plant characteristics to produce products that won’t disappoint. The company breeds plants to maintain their original height from year one and onward, and avoids using plant growth regulators. It’s a constant battle, but worth every effort to the company.
Breeding Persistence Yields Results
“We are constantly reworking product to make it more successful for everyone that comes in contact with it — the liner provider, plug grower, finish grower, wholesaler, retailer, and most importantly, the home gardener,” says Chuck Pavlich, Director of New Product Development at Terra Nova Nurseries.
The Kudos Agastache Series, introduced in 2012, is the outcome of hundreds of meticulous crosses and thousands of seedlings to refine the plants to the point where Terra Nova could present a hardy series to the market with uniform height, brilliant color, and heat, humidity, and disease tolerance.
It started with a weedy, measly, sprawling plant Pavlich collected seeds from while on a hike in the desert region of Oregon. He says the first year the plant bloomed, breeder Janet Egger was less than enthusiastic about the material she had to work with. She persisted though, working with it over a number of generations to get the characteristics the company was after.
“I felt that simply dwarfing well-colored agastaches would be great, but we bred so much more into these plants that the outcome was better than we anticipated,” Pavlich says. “After several winters where we had temperatures in the single digits, combined with our chronically wet Oregon clay soil, we felt we had made an improvement in this genus.”
While most plants move smoothly through a vetting and trialing process that Terra Nova has polished over the years, other plants are dismissed early or held back a year to gather more information and build stock up.
“We have just this year held back one of our most exciting introductions ever to further build stock, get more independent trialing information, and build a proper marketing campaign for what we feel will be a be a blockbuster plant,” Pavlich says.
Pollinators Are End Consumers, Too
Along with breeding for gardeners, Terra Nova Nurseries has another end consumer it keeps in mind – pollinators. It emphasizes lower chemical use in an effort to breed plants that are safer for everyone, including beneficial wildlife. Breeding fields hum with bee activity during the spring and summer months, among echinacea, knipholia, coreopsis, sedums, heucheras, and many other plants with pollinator-attracting traits.
“I used to say that the end consumer was the person who purchased our plants at a retail nursery, but it looks like our end consumers are actually the pollinator insects,” Pavlich says.