Early last week I was out in the blueberry plots at one of the research stations collecting samples. I was instantly enamored, if not surprised, by the outstanding pink ambiance given off by a few large blueberry bushes.
I was not out to collect from this selection, but I was drawn to it. This blueberry was without a doubt the most gorgeous in the entire field.
PINK! So much pink. Pink flowers, pink buds, pink calyx, warm pink hues on the stems, pink color on the new, emerging leaves. Perfect for Valentine’s Day. As you can well imagine, I meant to do this post last week on Valentine’s Day, but time got away from me.
As a horticulturist with a background in ornamentals first, I was impressed with the idea of what a wonderful edible hedge this would make in someone’s yard. Not to mention that at this time of year, when things are just beginning to get going in south Mississippi, it makes a grand ornamental entrance into the landscape.
This blueberry was recently released as ‘Muffin Man’ from the Southern Horticultural Research Laboratory in Poplarville, MS. You can read a bit about it on this USDA ARS page. Members of the American Society for Horticultural Science who subscribe to the Hort Science Journal can also read more about this blueberry in Volume 53 issue 10
To promote fruiting, you’ll need a pollinator, rabbiteye blueberry that also flowers early. In ornamental design, I would suggest planting a smaller, early flowering, rabbiteye blueberry behind the hedge, or flanking the ends, so that ‘Muffin Man’ in all its glory is not obstructed.
If you are looking for the perfect Valentine’s gift for next year inquire, then do as this little honey bee did, seek out, and find ‘Muffin Man’ to give to your sweetheart.
Congratulations to the team for traditional, old fashioned plant breeding!
What does this mean, traditional plant breeding? Select potted blueberry plants are brought into the greenhouse in winter and “crossing” begins by a biological science technician when flowers open. That is to say the pollen (collected from the anthers of the male part) of one desired flower is used to fertilize the stigma (the sticky end of the female reproductive part) of another desired blueberry flower. This takes quick work to be sure that no insects happen to be pollinating the flowers in the greenhouse and the greenhouse is checked almost daily. Fertilized flowers are protected while the fertilized flowers develop blueberry fruit, and after fruit set and maturity, the fruit are collected, cut open, and the seed harvested and stored in refrigeration. In summer, seed are planted out in trays in the greenhouse. When seedlings reach several inches tall, they are transplanted into individual peat pots. Those little babies are nurtured in the greenhouse and the following spring/early summer, they are planted out into field plots (generally by this time they are 12-24″ tall). The young plants are closely monitored by the breeder over several years for a variety of desirable traits. (Just imagine that when two humans procreate, every baby the same two humans produce is different. Right? The same is true here.) Those that make the cut are transplanted out to long term fields for continued observations over several more years. The plants may be propagated and then planted at several sites to test their desired traits, growth, cultural habits, fruiting, qualities, etc. Then if all has been successful, after many years since cross pollination in the greenhouse, that selection may be released for public use or plant patented. Technically, traditional plant breeding is genetically modifying plants (organisms). It is however, not genetically engineering plants-GE (basically something which could never occur naturally- a fish will never make love to a tomato). An unfortunate use of the term GMO, that is now commonplace and causes confusion.
Man, I must have had some good coffee this morning!!!! Oh, wait, I did. Three Peckered Billy Goat. I love Raven’s Brew Whole Bean Coffees. USDA Organic. Roasting facilities: Ketchikan, AK and Tumwater, WA.
Yours in Caffeine-Induced Writing & Gardening,
The Garden Maiden
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