Behind every new plant variety released onto the market usually lies years of experience. Many breeders work for decade’s just on one the genus, sourcing new genetics and crossing plants to try and find just the right balance of desired characteristics. They might be searching for a new flower colour, a better habit or a longer flowering period.
Nestled on the outskirts of Brisbane, Australia is plant breeder Terry Keogh. His property is surrounded by an extensive trial garden. Plant breeding is his passion and he’ll happily talk for hours about his breeding work.
Terry’s horticultural career began with a passion for fruiting plants, kicking off in 1980 by establishing a small avocado orchard. Terry moved on to actively breeding new varieties of plants in 1995 in response to customer feedback and trying to meet market demand for small manageable sizes. His first plant breeding projects included Callistemon, Pentas and Metrosideros.
Terry became fascinated with the beauty of Tibouchinas. He was taken with how these Brazilian natives make a real statement in the landscape, recognising the potential impact further flower colours could create. Terry explained:
“I decided to take a look at breeding them due to the overwhelming demand for other colours”
However, the Tibouchina breeding project wasn’t just focused on colour alone. Terry managed to introduce a strain of cold tolerant genetics into some of his varieties meaning that now those of us living in cooler climates can also enjoy their magnificent beauty. Usually restricted to the sub tropics, Terry’s new collection now has something for every climatic zone in Australia from Cairns to Hobart to Perth.
The first glimpse of Terry’s breeding program was the now well-known ‘Groovy Baby’. This dwarf stunner has been on the market for a couple of years and is famed for both its cold tolerance and its vivid purple flowers.
Investing time, patience and energy over many years, Terry experimented with a variety of pollination and propagation techniques. This is an extremely trying genus – in the wild pollen is released from the stamens of Tibouchinas by the frequency of vibrations of hummingbird wings – not the easiest thing to replicate!
Terry managed to achieve it, although he keeps the breeding secrets close to his chest. The best thing is though we can now all enjoy the fruits of his labour. Just released onto the market is the dazzling Tibouchina ‘Fantasy Flowers’ Collection. There are now five varieties available offering a range of flower colours, sizes and applications. Pick one for a bold potted statement or plant a living wall of colour with some of the taller varieties.
Terry’s expertise is ground breaking. To our knowledge, there is no other active Tibouchina breeding program in the world. Terry’s Tibouchinas are expected to be one of the most successful collections Australia has seen in recent times.
[This post brought to you by Plants Management Australia]