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An interesting article from the Times.
Britain falls to Polish flower power
Native plants squeezed out
First Poland sent us its plumbers and painters; now its garden plants are ousting our native species.
Britain’s traditional clematis varieties have been supplanted by Polish strains such as the General Sikorski, the Lech Walesa and the Jan Pawel II.
It has emerged that most of the trees sold in many British nurseries as native species also originated in eastern Europe. Most so-called English oaks, for example, are grown from acorns taken from Polish or other east European forests.
At stake is a share of a market whose total retail value is put at about £5 billion a year by the Garden Industry Monitor, a research publication.
Market experts estimate that about 90% of the plants on sale this Easter weekend, whether in DIY chains such as Homebase or in specialist nurseries, have come from overseas.
The scale of the shift is illustrated by sales of clematis. A series of strains developed in a Polish monastery now dominate the market. They were created by Brother Stefan Franczak, a Polish Jesuit monk, who started breeding clematis in the 1960s after finding seedlings in the garden of his monastery just outside Warsaw.
He created more than 60 new strains renowned for their bright colours, disease resistance and hardiness. Franczak refined these for up to 12 years before making them public, often with subtly subversive names chosen to defy Poland’s then communist regime.
Botanists liken Franczak’s work to that of Gregor Mendel, the Augustinian monk whose historic work on genetics in Brno (now in the Czech Republic) provided the first scientific explanation of how physical traits are passed from parents to offspring.
Franczak’s work was part of a much wider interest in plant breeding that helped create a network of renowned laboratories across eastern Europe.
By contrast in Britain, this coincided with Margaret Thatcher’s decision in the 1980s to slash Britain’s investment in such laboratories — which led to most of Britain’s plant-breeding centres being sold off or shut down.
Professor Stefan Buczacki, a former panellist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, was among the victims of that era. He left the National Vegetable Research Station in Warwickshire 20 years ago after being frustrated by funding cuts.
“Those cuts destroyed most of Britain’s investment in plant breeding and the sad reality is that most of Britain’s garden plants, trees and hedging are now imported,” he said.
“They mostly come through dealers in Holland but they originate in eastern Europe, Italy, Germany — all over the place. In fact, anywhere but Britain.”
Jon Rose, of Botanica, a Suffolk-based nursery specialising in native species, believes the collapse of the British nursery trade and its takeover by European dealers is having wider consequences on Britain’s wildlife.
He said: “Trees originating from countries with colder winters than ours are genetically different. They come into leaf and flower earlier than native ones.”
Some dealers believe gardeners have gained from the changes in the industry because they can now get a far wider variety of plants at lower prices.
Paul Ingrouille, general manager of the nursery at Raymond Evison Clematis Ltd in Guernsey, said the Polish invasion had given gardeners more choice.
He said: “Brother Stefan’s varieties are very good, strong plants and they tend to flower later in the season, which makes them popular.”
The Potted Garden Nursery near Maidstone in Kent and the Roseland House Nursery in Truro, Cornwall, are among those selling the General Sikorski variety of clematis, named after the Polish wartime leader who died in the 1940s.
Rachel de Thame, a writer in The Sunday Times’ Home section and presenter of Gardener’s World, said research in the Eastern bloc was proving increasingly important. “I think eastern European countries are the ones to watch now,” she said.
“It’s this idea that there are more hidden gems just waiting to be discovered by British gardeners which is so exciting.”
Roses are blue
Scientists have picked their first crops of blue roses, once thought an impossible horticultural phenomenon, after genetically modifying the species with genes from a pansy, writes Roger Waite.
Hundreds of rose bushes bearing the blue flowers have been planted in field trials in Colombia, America, Australia and Japan, and all have flowered successfully.
Now Florigene, the Australian company behind the creation, plans to scale up production by creating a commercial farm with more than 30,000 blue rose bushes somewhere in Japan.
“We are seeking permission to grow and sell the genetically modified blue roses in Japan and we plan to do the same in Europe,” said Steve Chandler, general manager of Florigene.
Roses do not have a gene that produces delphinidin, the pigment which makes flowers blue. However, the company’s scientists isolated such a gene in pansies and inserted it in a rose plant.
“They were created by Brother Stefan Franczak, a Polish Jesuit monk, who started breeding clematis in the 1960s after finding seedlings in the garden of his monastery just outside Warsaw.”
“By contrast in Britain, this coincided with Margaret Thatcher’s decision in the 1980s to slash Britain’s investment in such laboratories — which led to most of Britain’s plant-breeding centres being sold off or shut down.”
Apparently Franczak and Mendel were not “frustrated by funding cuts”
How many noted the irony of private endeavor succeeding under a Communist regime and socialist funding failing in a Capitalist economy? Or for that matter the benefits of religious contemplative orders in an atheist society in comparison to humanist progress in a country with an established church.
It goes to show that the individual spirit is still the leading force in human endeavor.
Franczak - monk.
That can sort of free up a whole load of time to do other things.
Sleppy missed the point - govt funding in research and education can be and was very effective. The private sector didn't have the resources or interest to invest in horticulture, so it collapsed.
By the way, Thatcher hated state education - that's why she did everything she could to destroy it and promote elitism. Quality school education is now delivered mainly in selective state schools, certain state schools with outstanding leadership who fight the system, and private schools which Labour is attacking in their usual myopic, socialist way.
The original article, although be it interesting, was somewhat all over the place; so I don’t know that there was a point to miss. Inasmuch as I had a point, I apologize for being obtuse. Aside from the dichotomy of outcomes from differing economic models, which is illustrative, I recoil from the precept that it takes government intervention to accomplish things that are “good”.
I would go so far as to say that extended government welfare, be it corporate or individual, does more damage than good over time. Certainly one can make a case for funding research on “orphan pharmaceuticals” or “sustenance agriculture” but for a government to use its coercive powers to take your money to fund every non-economically viable project is both morally objectionable, and in the context of a society devoid of morals it is, simply stated, inefficient.
As to: “The private sector didn't have the resources or interest to invest in horticulture, so it collapsed.” This, in multiple forms, is the standard excuse made by an economic sector that has grown too fat, dumb and lazy to arrange its own future. The “traded industry cluster” at issue in this specific case has more than enough resources to fund its research and development ventures. The article states that it is a £5 billion sector. By way of further example just one region’s output:
“The California nursery and floral industry is the largest in the United States, with sales totaling almost $3.086 billion in 2001. When floral and nursery product sales are combined, the industry ranks second among all California agricultural products. It accounts for 10.6 percent of total California agricultural output. A regional economic model was used to trace the direct, indirect and induced effects of California nursery and floral production and lawn and garden retailing through the California economy. Overall, nursery and floral production and lawn and garden retailing contributed over $10.3 billion to 2001 California output and was responsible for almost 169,000 jobs. Total value added attributed to California nursery and floral production and lawn and garden retailing was $8 billion, while the labor income impact was over $4.9 billion.”
Such commercial sectors can certainly afford numerous monks or other free-agents to do their primary research.
The article itself cited an example of free enterprise, Florigene.
The Wiki story:
“Florigene has long been associated with genetic engineering floriculture. Founded as Calgene Pacific Ltd in 1986 with institutional backing from Amcor, CP Ventures Ltd, and the Japan-Australia Venture Capital Fund, it was one of Australia's first biotechnology companies.
In 1991, Florigene's research team announced that it had isolated the gene responsible for the expression of the colour blue in petunias, beating out rivals around the globe by a matter of weeks. This breakthrough paved the way for the acquisition of Dutch rival, Florigene, in 1993. Calgene assumed Florigene's corporate name in 1994 to capitalise on that firm's international reputation. Since then, Florigene has developed naturally long-life and disease resistant carnations, new morphologies of gerberas and natural colour modifications of the three main cut flowers - roses, carnations and chrysanthemums -which it exports throughout the Americas, Europe, the UK and Asia.
Florigene prepared for a public float - hiring CS First Boston to develop a prospectus and secure investors across Asia, Europe and the U.S. - but was instead acquired by global agrochemicals giant Nufarm Ltd in 1999.
In 2003, Japanese brewing giant and long term partner Suntory acquired 98.5% equity in Florigene from Nufarm.
The significance of Florigene's technology is the brand potential of its novel flower varieties - A blue rose is a marketer's dream. In 2004, after 20 years and AUS$45 million worth of exhaustive research and prolific patenting, Florigene and Suntory scientists announced to the world the development of the first rose in the pipeline to a true blue rose. It is expected to be commercialised in the coming years.”
Primary schools are another matter, but even today the principal source of research funding in secondary schools in the U.S. is private and corporate sponsorship.