Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dr.Sandra Reed spoke to us today about Hydrangeas and Dichroa febrifuga

At the Arboretum we have an off again, on again program called Talking Plants where interesting speakers present programs during lunch. We try to eat quietly and discretely while absorbing information. This was a good one!

Sandra Reed is actually a coworker, a fellow Arboretum employee; I've heard her name many times over the last 7 years. She works at a field station in McMinnville, Tennessee and does research on the "breeding and genetics of nursery crop species" (lifted from the flier for her program today), one of which is Hydrangea. Last year we released two of her new cultivars of Hydrangea quercifolia, a SE US native: 'Ruby Slippers' and ' Munchkin'. The first has flowers that age to....well, ruby, while the second is a small dense selection. I actually like them both; they are unique, attractive, and useful and will be increasingly available at the retail level in the next few years.

I tend to take Talking Plants with a grain of salt; it's often interesting but I don''t usually learn anything new, exciting, or important. Today was an exception. I walked away possessing a handful of new facts and intrigued by images of some curious new hybrids. We got a quick overview of the horticulturally useful members of the genus. After running genetic markers on a number of taxa, she concluded that Hydrangea macrophylla is more closely related to Dichroa febrifuga than it is to several members of its own genus. Wow. Armed with that useful information, she's done several generations of crosses. We saw some exciting pictures. Unfortunately she left immediately after her presentation and couldn't be questioned about possible releases.

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