October 1, 2008 A horticulturist created a hybrid lily lookalike that expresses a lavender-lilac color, strong and upright stems, and winter hardiness. In gardens it blooms until the first hard freeze in the fall in the northern United States. In greenhouses it never goes dormant.
Fall is here -- and that means the beautiful colors of summer will soon start to fade away. One man is trying to extend summer -- or at least one part of it -- by creating a flower that blooms all summer long.
Flower shop owner Melissa Stepina has made a life surrounded by beautiful flowers.
"They're just very beautiful," says Stepina. "I mean, you can't get anything better than the colors they come in, the shapes."
But what would make these plants perfect? "Probably one that would bloom all year round," Stepina says.
Mark Bridgen has made that possible. A horticulturalist at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, N.Y., Bridgen has created and patented a new Inca lily called Mauve Majesty -- and it does what no other flower can do!
"If you have this in a greenhouse, it will flower all year round under the proper conditions," says Dr. Bridgen.
This new hybrid was created by pollinating two flowers -- then the hard part began.
"We cut open the ovary, take out the seeds or the embryos --and then we would take these embryos and put it into the tissue culture," Dr. Bridgen says. "Once they root, we take them to the greenhouse."
Outside of a greenhouse, Mauve Majesty will bloom all summer long. The plant can survive outside in the winter even in states covered with snow, like Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and much of the Midwest.
You can find the flower in nurseries and mail-order catalogs, but Mark won't get rich off his creation. For him, it was a labor of love.
"I love flowers, and I love growing flowers," Dr. Bridgen says. "It's my hobby as well as my profession."
WHAT'S A HORTICULTURIST? Horticulturists are scientists who use a variety of tools to study a variety of plants, from fruits, vegetables, and flowers to ornamentals. They may focus on a variety of issues, from fruit yield to appearance to the ability to endure cold or drought. They are interested in everything from plant genetics to breeding to aesthetics and may work everywhere from greenhouses to gardens to parks.
THE ADVANTAGE OF HYBRID PLANTS: Humans often produce hybrid plants in the hopes of creating a plant with improved qualities over the original. For example, someone might take a food crop and hybridize it with another plant in order to produce more or larger seeds or fruits. Horticulturists may also attempt hybridization in order to enhance the ability of the plant to stand up to harsh conditions or diseases. There are multiple techniques for creating a hybrid, including cross-pollinating plants of the breeder's choice.