Doing some research on new plant introductions today highlighted two dramatically different ways in which new plants come about. The two contrasting examples are Gaillardia aristata 'Amber Wheels' introduced last year by Jelitto Seeds and Campanula ‘Royal Wave’ new from TerraNova Nurseries this year. [Neither of these growers sell to home gardens, both plants will be available from White Flower Farm next spring.] Part One today, Part Two tomorrow.
So… The most basic way in which new plants are presented to gardeners is that some smart person with an eagle eye spots one individual out of a whole drift of wild plants that is special. Like this new gaillardia.
Gaillardia aristata 'Amber Wheels' was first discovered growing in the wild in Wet Mountain Valley of southern Colorado in 1990 by Larry Vickerman, now Director of the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. He singled it out for its unusually large yellow flowers surrounding an amber-red disk. In 1998 it was spotted a by Allan Bush of Jelitto Seeds, the international seed company specializing in perennials, at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains. Jelitto Seeds recognized its value, and spent the next few years ensuring that the plant came true from seed and then introduced it. High Country Gardens, amongst others, have listed it this year.
This is the way so very many good new plants have been brought to gardeners over the years. One person with a keen eye spots a plant in the wild that is different from the others of its type, more gardenworthy, and takes the trouble to ensure that it becomes available.
The story of Campanula ‘Royal Wave’ is rather different. I’ll get to that next.