Is your garden thriving? Thank a breeder!
Posted: April 04, 2022 | Word Count: 556
Today you don’t need to be a horticultural expert to grow tasty tomatoes, mouth-watering watermelon or fragrant lilacs. Advances in breeding over the past decade have resulted in plants that are easier for home gardeners to grow. They are more disease resistant, weather tolerant and prolific than ever before. “These researchers are dedicated to developing varieties that grow well in our various climates and perform better than the varieties from the past. They’re focusing on new plants that can bring more to the garden: more flowers, more fruits, more disease resistance, all in convenient sizes for today’s garden,” says Diane Blazek, executive director at National Garden Bureau (NGB). “Many of NGB’s Year Of plant selections have seen major breeding improvements in the last few years and that’s why we chose them. It’s an exciting time for all gardeners.”
Not your grandmother’s flowers
One such breeding example is verbena. Years ago, this colorful annual fell out of favor because it was an inconsistent bloomer or was susceptible to diseases like powdery mildew. Annual flower breeders went to work to fix these problems. The results are new, improved varieties that are disease resistant, more heat-tolerant and provide consistent color. “We chose verbena as our Year Of Annual because of all of these improvements,” says Blazek. “Breeding advancements have made verbena much easier to grow, and they’re a great way to add season-long color to the garden.”
Phlox has a similar story. This native perennial, chosen as the 2022 Year of Perennial crop, was susceptible to disease, and tall garden varieties would often flop over in the garden. Breeding work focused on creating stronger stems to keep the beautiful blooms upright. New varieties are also much more disease resistant, offer more vibrant colors and are easier to grow.
Small-space fruits and veggies
Have you stayed away from planting edibles because you have a small space, or even just a patio or balcony? Well, you can’t use that excuse any longer! Breeders have developed many edible varieties to use in small gardens or containers, including tomatoes, peppers, raspberries, squash and watermelons. There are container-friendly tomato plants that are high yielding and produce fruits multiple times during the season. Same goes for berries. Compact blueberries, raspberries and even blackberries can have you snacking right from your patio.
This year’s 2022 Year Of Edible is Salad Greens. Breeders are making breakthrough improvements here too. You'll find tastier varieties that stay compact in the garden and are more heat tolerant and less likely to bolt.
In flowering shrubs, there are many examples of improvements. Lilac breeding, for example, has developed problem-solving varieties that stay more compact in the landscape, are more resistant to disease and can even rebloom later in the season. Now, these nostalgic and classic shrubs are perfectly suited for today’s gardens, and one of the many reasons why they were chosen as the 2022 Year of crop in the flowering shrub category.
Breeders have listened to the trials and tribulations of gardeners and have responded with improved plants that will make for more successful gardening. Why not give it another go this year? You might be surprised at how much easier gardening has become.
Visit National Garden Bureau at NGB.org for more information on starting or growing your garden.