National Geographic : 1968 May
came petunias, nasturtiums, salpiglossis, portulaca, and fuchsia; from Mexico, agera tum, cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias; from California, clarkia, California poppies, and godetia; and from Texas, phlox and coreopsis.* Despite these discoveries, European gar dens had little variety until modern times. Even by the early 19th century many were monotonously planted with geraniums and a few petunias, pansies, anemones, and carna tions. The great upsurge in flower propaga tion and breeding came with the 20th cen tury, and now the home gardener can choose from thousands of varieties. Seedsmen continue to prod nature for flowers they believe will dazzle tomorrow's gardeners: a red delphinium, a blue zinnia, a yellow sweet pea, to mention a few. Frank G. Cuthbertson, one of the world's greatest vegetable and flower breeders, the man who developed the famous Cuthbertson sweet pea, once thought he had found a true yellow sweet pea. His natural skepticism was quickly justified, however. The "yellow sweet pea" blooming so lustily on one bush turned out to be made of paper. A workman had fashioned it as a joke on the boss. Tiny Zinnia Made to Order At Lompoc I saw a prime example of a genuine tailor-made flower when I visited the farm of Bodger Seeds, Limited, a short pitch down the road from Burpee. With How ard Bodger and John Mondry, Bodger's plant breeder, I wandered through a field of little plants literally covered with bloom-zinnia Thumbelina. Bodger won a gold medal for this creation in the 1963 All-America Selec tions, a competition conducted by the seeds men themselves. "We made Thumbelina to order," Howard Bodger said. "We told John here we thought we could have a tremendous market for a dwarf zinnia. We laid down the specifications and John went to work. "Four years and $20,000 later, we had Thumbelina, a vigorously blooming plant six inches high. It's quite unusual to get re sults that fast. Thumbelina was produced by selection and inbreeding, the standard pro cedure, but there was nothing standard about our crash program. We speeded up nature and did 12 years' work in four." "How did you do it, John?" I asked. (Continued on page 731) *The fascinating lore of plant exploration was re counted by W. H . Camp in "The World in Your Garden," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, July, 1947. KODACHROMES BY JACKFIELDS( N.G .S . Controlling nature in a Lompoc Valley green house, Rose Castillo carefully brushes pollen on a nasturtium. By crossing plants with desired char acteristics, breeders create healthy new hybrids. Petunia surgery prepares a flower for crossbreed ing. Tweezers snip the anthers to prevent self pollenation. When the stigma becomes sticky, pollen from another plant will be applied.