Our In-House Breeding Division

Our in-house breeding division at Star® Roses and Plants is a team of top-breeders and scientists applying modern techniques in plant genetics to the development of industry-worthy and consumer-friendly ornamental flowering plants. Focusing mostly on the development of roses and other high-value woody shrubs and perennials, they  work under the same roof as the Star® Roses and Plants corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania allowing for year-round collaboration and involvement from all departments. The breeding team supplies a steady pipeline of new varieties to Star® Roses and Plants for evaluation and trials each year.

When Star® Roses and Plants changed its focus from a wholesale container nursery to a leading genetics company involved directly in breeding roses, perennials and woody plants, and introducing plants from other breeders around the world, this was the perfect time for the breeding team to ramp up their efforts which resulted in the creation and introduction of the Popcorn Drift® Rose, the Moody Blues™ Veronica series, Creme Caramel™ Coreopsis, and Junior Walker™ Nepeta just to name a few. The amount of potential new varieties they screen and evaluate each year increases in quantity and quality and will continue to grow with each new year.

Our in-house breeding division is committed to training the next generation of plant breeders. They regularly recruit student interns to train in their labs and greenhouses. Students from Longwood Gardens and the University of Delaware are a common sight at in our breeding teams lab, but they have also hosted international students from as far afield as Costa Rica and Honduras.

With traditional breeding, pollen from one flower is dusted onto another flower. The process is repeated thousands of times and the seeds are germinated and screened for new and interesting varieties. Not all crosses yield viable seed, so you often have to intervene — a few weeks after pollination, the developing seed may be removed and transferred from the greenhouse to the laboratory for further work. It is there that the young embryo is removed from the developing seed and placed on nutrient agar plates.

Nutrients in the agar help the embryo develop into a seedling. After a few weeks it can be returned to the greenhouse where it will eventually develop into a plant. This time consuming and delicate process is called “embryo-rescue.” It is reserved for crosses between distantly related species, which allows you to combine characteristics that would otherwise be very difficult to obtain. In other cases you may simply want to tweak an existing variety, perhaps make it more compact or alter its color. In that case gamma-ray mutagenesis is used to induce genetic changes that only affect one or two desired traits. DNA fingerprinting can even be used as a form of botanical forensics that allows one to confirm rare and difficult hybrids and to more effectively protect intellectual property.

To stay on the cutting edge, our in-house breeding division collaborates with breeders and scientists from around the world to improve and develop new methods. For example, the team has been active in seeking solutions to diseases that threaten our industry, such as crown gall and Rose Rosette. They were instrumental in forming a coalition of University scientists pulled from leading University and government research centers. The group includes industry partners from many of the major growers and commercial breeders throughout the USA. The group was recently awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the USDA that combines both short term cultural solutions as well as long term solutions to breed roses that are resistant to Rose Rosette Disease.

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