- Episode 08 Petunia
Episode 08 Petunia
The queen of the flower bed just keeps getting more beautiful.
The Petunia flower that currently brightens up many gardens around the world is the result of the cross-breeding of two wild Petunia species.
It was in the year 1767 that French "plant hunters" first discovered "axillaris", which is native to South America. Subsequently, the Petunia "integrifolia", which also was native to South America, spread to Europe. Improvements to the Petunia brought about in Europe based on these two wild varieties would spark the creation of many new varieties.
The sudden coincidental mutation of the double flower in 19th century France, a center for breeding activities, was received with much fanfare. However, its reproducibility was short-lived, and cutting was the only way of cultivation, making seed production difficult. In addition, crossing it with single flower varieties yielded a low percentage of double flowers.
However, thanks to the efforts of Woo Jangchun (a researcher at the national agricultural experiment station) in the 1920s, the mechanism was elucidated and was made public in 1930. Sakata took full advantage of this technique to produce Sakata Magic, the first All Double F1 Petunia "Victorious Mixed," which won a prize at the All American Selections (AAS).
At that time, due in part to the influence of the German seed and seedling company Benary, retail prices would reach the extraordinary level of 20 times their value or $10,656 per pound (454g).
During the chaos in the aftermath of WWII, Sakata again faced extreme adversity when an identical double flower variety was developed and sold by an American seed and seedling company, which would eventually monopolize the market. Next, a star-shaped variety called Glitters, which was based on the F1 hybrid cultivation techniques of "Victorious Mixed" and which featured white stripes on a red background, won a prize at the 1957 AAS competition. Sakata's development of F1 varieties opened the door for many seed and seedling companies worldwide.
At the end of the 20th century, the bedding plant industry had made rapid progress in the U.S. along with its continued expansion into the global market. As a result, higher productivity in the seed and seedling industry became necessary. Meanwhile, Sakata has continued to breed petunias, producing varieties that were increasingly marketable, early-blooming, compact, and with higher germination properties.
The Red Picotee Petunia won a prize in the 1983 AAS competition and the Merlin Blue Morn Petunia won in 2003.
In the mid-1990s, in the midst of Japan's gardening boom, Petunia varieties that spread during winter and were resistant to strong rain made a sensational debut. Flowers that grew larger and yet were low-growing from the Creepia series as well as those with flowers having compact middle flowers, which were bedding plants from the "Baccarat" series, became synonymous with this type of Petunia.
In 2008, Supercal, an intergeneric hybrid closely related to the Petunia with calibrachoa traits, was announced. This is a Vegetative Propagation variety with lively colors and is resistant to heavy rain but without the Petunia's characteristic stickiness of the flower and stem and features easy maintenance.
In recent years, with environmental concerns gaining momentum, there is an increasing demand for production methods with lower energy costs. It is in this context that Ecotunian was introduced in 2012. This early-blooming variety can bloom at lower temperatures in the winter, and is a more compact variety. This results in more environmentally friendly production methods and lower heating oil costs.
Today, petunias are one of the bedding plant varieties that are distributed in the greatest number, and breeding-related business is flourishing. Native to the fields of South America, the petunia has spread to America, Europe, and ultimately worldwide. Sakata's seeds have always been instrumental in these developments.
Petunias will continue to develop and delight people with their appearance in flowerbeds around the world.