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Breeding Perfect Plants

Breeding Perfect Plants

By Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries

Terra Nova Nurseries has been breeding perennial, and now, annual, varieties for 30 years. It has always been their focus to introduce plants that are better-branched, more floriferous, and above all, provide success to the grower and the home user. In the decades since its conception, Terra Nova Nurseries has added everblooming nature, such as in their kniphofia and echinacea.

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Intergeneric hybrids, which consist of two different genera combined to create an entirely new genus, have also been an area of expertise for Terra Nova Nurseries. The creation of heucherella (heuchera + tiarella) and mukgenia (mukdenia + bergenia), was enabled by Terra Nova’s lab team, who were able to make nearly impossible crosses using a technique called “embryo rescue.” This process takes place when an embryo is rescued from an exotic crossbreed that otherwise couldn’t exist in nature, and results in sterile plants with unique colors and growth characteristics.

Almost every breeder starts with a plan that involves crossing two species to create a dwarf plant; it’s a tedious, expensive, and incredibly exciting process! Every now and then, breeders like Terra Nova Nurseries hit the jackpot, and create a perfect plant. This is a plant that rocks in every aspect, so much so that it is hard to think of any way to improve it. Once this gem is created, it is our goal to come up with a variety of new colors with the same branching and height. The Echinacea KISMET™ series is such a group of gems!

The Echinacea KISMET™ Series:

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Breeding orange echinacea once seemed to be the bane of every grower and consumer; losses were brutal when they first came out. Enter Terra Nova’s Echinacea KISMET™ Intense Orange. Coming off strong trial performances in Minnesota and Colorado, the breeders at Terra Nova were thrilled to learn of varieties with 100 percent survival rates, while still maintaining their stunning appearances. The trial staff noted the strong, wind-proof structure and amazing floriferousness of both Echinacea KISMET™ Intense Orange and Echinacea KISMET™ Raspberry. Learn more about Echinacea KISMET™ Orange here:http://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/echinacea-kismet-intense-orange/.

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Echinacea KISMET™ Raspberry is the perfect counterpoint for Echinacea KISMET™ Intense Orange. This pink-flowered variety has a high crown count, which means more flowers and more cold resistance. Beginning to bloom in early summer, the series has been known to flower into frost! If you have been following the prairie garden movement, you will appreciate what echinacea do for the prairie garden, which includes blooming all season and in winter, and its attractive seed heads that add an interesting character for the garden. If you are planning a conventional perennial design garden, drifts of 5-13 plants allow for a pleasing repetition factor in the border. Echinacea KISMET™ Raspberry is 16” (40cm) tall with a 23” (60cm) spread. Don’t forget that echinacea make good cut flowers and provide nectar for butterflies and pollen for bees! Learn more about Echinacea KISMET™ Raspberry here:http://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/echinacea-kismet-raspberry/.

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Echinacea KISMET™ Red offers upright-facing red flowers that reel in the most discerning of pollinators. Like all the varieties in Terra Nova’s KISMET™ series, Echinacea KISMET™ Red is hardy in U.S.D.A. Zones 4-9. Good red varieties are hard to find in the world of echinacea, and Echinacea KISMET™ Red delivers in spades! Using varieties like this provide color echoes for the pelargonium pots sited close to your home, and allow the eyes to follow the landscape. As with the entire Echinacea KISMET™ series, Echinacea KISMET™ Red blooms from June to frost. Learn more about Echinacea KISMET™ Red here:  http://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/echinacea-kismet-red/.

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Terra Nova Nurseries has also introduced a new veronica! Terra Nova’s breeding team has been working on improving their veronica catalog. Veronica ‘Aspire’ sets itself apart with rich, saturated, deep rose flowers on a compact, long-lasting spike - this is not just another pink veronica! Terra Nova bred this variety for its flowers and foliage to have extra substance. The compact and upright habit of Veronica ‘Aspire’ makes it very usable in a sunny planting situation. Perk up any container or bed border with this bright spot in a crowded field of veronica. This variety is healthy, easy to grow, gorgeous, and very popular with pollinators! An extremely hardy variety, growing in U.S.D.A. Hardiness Zones 4-8, Veronica ‘Aspire’ blooms at 12” tall, and can spread to a similar distance. It’s a gorgeous plant at the front of the border. Learn more about Veronica ‘Aspire’ here:  http://www.terranovanurseries.com/product/veronica-aspire/.


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