Follow the history of an older plant variety and it will often end with the acknowledgement that it was developed and introduced by a government agency.
Occasionally, it will be credited to a known plant developer such as Frank Skinner. If the source isn’t named it was likely introduced by one of the many people who had a passion for horticulture and developed new plants as a hobby.
Developing new varieties was time consuming. Plants had to be selected, hybridized and trialed. More plants made the discard list than were considered to be worthy. Nursery people were always happy to accept new plant introductions from government research stations but often ignored the hobbyist plant breeders. For this reason many varieties of plants common in a local area have never been sold on a large scale.
People developed plants because that is what they wanted to do as opposed to thinking that they could make money. This began to change in the latter part of the 20th centsury.
People were beginning to put patents on their plants which meant that a fee was charged every time a plant was propagated.
The cost of plants increased slightly but so have the number of varieties on the market. With an increased profit margin, growers were after a larger share of the market and began “branding”, pushing a particular plant line through a national or international advertising campaign.
The most common brand in Central Alberta is “Proven Winners”. There are only a select number of greenhouses licensed to propagate and sell these brands of plants to a wholesale market in Canada. Dentoom’s Greenhouses just off Hwy 11A is the only one on the Prairies.
John Bouw obtained a license to propagate and sell the brand “Proven Winners” in 1994. He grows the plants and sells them to other greenhouses and nurseries in bulk quantities. Retail businesses can sell the Proven Winners as is or place them in larger pots to be grown in.
Other businesses are not allowed to propagate the plants and could be prosecuted if they break their contract.
Proven Winners have a large selection of annuals and basket stuffers available. They are slowly branching out into shrubs and perennials. I have trialed shrubs for a number of years and have had success with varieties of plants that are classed as Zone 2. Double Play Gold Spirea and North Pole, a cedar, came through last winter looking very healthy.
John gave me 21 new Proven Winners perennials last spring. The plants were large and quickly became established. The daylilies had numerous colorful blooms the first season.
The Hostas are up and growing again this season soon to be covering the ground in a semi-shady area. Hibiscus plants were placed in a sheltered area and covered for the winter but they winter-killed.
The word grass conjures up a lovely green expanse or horrible quack grass. Each is hardy and hard to kill. Not so with ornamental grasses. Red Switch Grass “Cheyenne Sky” did not come back this spring while the “Dust Devil” is making a slow start. Both grasses are listed as Zone 4.
Baptisia “Lemon” has been a very pleasant surprise. I have tried different varieties of this plant before with no success. At present time the plant is bushy and attractive.
Yellow pea shaped flowers should appear before the end of the season.
Horticulture like every other industry has evolved. Licensing and patents have made it possible to have teams of people developing different varieties of plants.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or email@example.com