I don’t know my diploids from my haploids or my tetraploids. But I do appreciate a perennial that blooms like crazy. And when it comes to garden favorites such as clematis, lavender, hosta, tall garden phlox and oh, so more it’s all about the tetraploid. That’s breeder speak for hybridizing plants that Super Bloom. And while long-lasting, seemingly never-ending blooming plants at one time were elusive, thanks to the smarts of breeders gardeners are able to sit on their patios and enjoy their favorite hydrangea in bloom all that much longer.
I learned about this and more on a warm, clear-skied Thursday evening when I attended my first after-work (actually after- dentist) gardening talk at one of my local nurseries. I receive e-newsletters from a few of my favorite local plant purveyors. They are usually quite informative, including information on the local weather conditions and its impact on plant diseases and planting times, the specialty plants they are carrying and educational sessions they are hosting on a variety of topics of interest to the home gardener–everything from pollinators to planting under trees to natives to today’s talk on Super Plants. It’s smart marketing for local garden centers to differentiate themselves from the big box stores by inviting special guest speakers to host fun/educational events that bring their customers together. I had not been to one of these special events before because the nurseries I visit most often host their events either during the day when I am at work or at 5:30, when, foremost in my mind is getting home or completing post-work errands. Today was different. After a less than enjoyable dental procedure I decided to stop in at Sugar Creek Gardens Nursery to treat myself. Lo and behold they were about to begin a session on Super Blooms, hosted by Sugar Creek’s owner Abby Lapides Elliott. Abby didn’t go into too much scientific depth but did illustrate her informative talk by explaining that modern breeding using tetraploids (four times the haploid number of chromosomes in the cell nucleus) means that gardeners now have access to plants that boast not just a long-lasting blooms, but plants with beneficial and favorite traits combined that, for example, come in an amazing color, can tolerate geographic conditions, resist diseases, have larger or smaller blooms or foliage, and more. Think hydrangeas that can be incorporated into a mixed garden more easily because they grow only 2 to 3 feet tall versus the more traditional size of 6-plus feet; agastache that is resistant to deer, rabbits and drought; bubblegum pink phlox with giant blooms and resistant to powdery mildew; or native heuchera crossed with traits that result in a variety that is more tolerant to heat and humidity. Of course, there is no free lunch. I came away from this short, 30-minute session armed not just with more knowledge but several plants for the garden beds. And given their improved traits, I’m not complaining.