With over one million plants sold worldwide since 2010, Scaevola 'Blueprint' is the leading success story for the Kings Park plant breeding program. The Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority is a world leader in the breeding and development of Australian flora.
Informal and dedicated programs have been in place for nearly thirty years. The Authority first commenced Scaevola breeding in 2002, focusing primarily on Scaevola aemula. Over 700 hybrid plants were then tested commercially and resulted in the release of Scaevola 'Blueprint' in 2010.
The aim of the Kings Park plant breeding program is to grow new varieties of native plants suitable for home gardens and public parks. Varieties are developed to exhibit desirable characteristics including compact form, attractive colouring, an extended flowering season and mass appeal in the horticultural markets. They are to also fulfill the demand for sustainable and low maintenance gardens, with the plants adaptable to differing sites and climates, using limited water and nutrients. Kings Park's Senior Plant Breeder, Digby Growns, leads the small team of staff and volunteers involved in the plant breeding program.
'The next decade of the breeding and development program will see a further integration of innovative breeding techniques and scientific methods to produce a range of exciting plant varieties. This range will add to the already extraordinary palette of Australian flora, including very hardy varieties with unusual colours and colour combinations', Digby says.
Other species at the forefront of Kings Park's plant breeding research includes crosses of Grevillea, Boronia (B. heterophylla for colour with B. megastigma for scent), Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (A. manglesii), Waxes (Chamelaucium) and the red flowering gum Corymbia ficifolia.
The plant breeding program is a long-term project, with the pollination to commercial release process usually requiring a minimum of seven years. The success of the Scaevola is set to be followed by the release of a spectacular Grevillea hybrid, anticipated for 2015 – in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Western Australian Botanic Garden.