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Sporting News in the Garden.
January 18, 2010

Welcome new readers.

Stick around as we learn from each other and hopefully we can all become friends.

Break out the shorts and suntan lotion.


You probably need some sun for the later.

You got it.

We are mired in a stretch of several cloudy days once again and it shows on peoples attitudes.

Still, this mild weather brings us another season.


Freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw, does a number on the roads for sure.

We ever so slightly inch closer to Spring.

The days are growing noticeably longer.

That is if you call a half an hour more day light a big thing and I do.

My evening walks are more enjoyable as well.

I can take Keet with me more often in the mild temperatures.

The fur child doesn't understand all the weather stuff and thinks she needs to go with me all the time

Karen gets her pace maker replaced this Friday.

It doesn't seem like it has been almost eight years that she had to have it.

Thank the good Lord for technology and giving us the abilities to develop such gizmos.

Do you ever notice that he keeps secrets from us so we can find or discover them as we are ready and when he says so?

Even in the natural world, we continue to discover new life forms, how something works and so on.

The local Cooper's hawk has been busy.

It left a calling card, and you can tell by the Blue jay feathers.

Trust me, it was a Blue jay.

For the feathers to be scattered like that, tells me there was a bit of a struggle. at first.

This happened within 30 minutes of me feeding the birds and it was a calm day.

Quite often I scare the hawk from within the spruce trees.

Yes, she seems to have an almost regular schedule in and around my place.

You can get more information on Cooper's hawk and Sharp-shinned hawks as they are the common backyard hawks and sometimes difficult to tell one from the other.

Milder temperatures and melting snow hasn't been a deterrent or kept birds from coming to my feeders.

The hawk doesn't seem to effect action much either (except when she is present).

The milder weather may also give you an opportunity to get out there and clean up your feeders.

To busy for a thorough cleaning, spray them well with rubbing alcohol.

It evaporates fast with no harmful residue.

This time of year is when we start to hear more about 'Salmonella' sickness and deaths of birds and feeding stations.

You can help minimize this with some good bird feeder habits and let others know of this as well.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is next month.

If you haven't registered yet, you can do so anytime between now and then.


I will attempt to give you some more information on our series on plants and gardens.

Last week was some information on how Proven WinnersŪ came to be.

This week I will attempt to tackle a little known term or topic to many of you.

Plant Sports or sport

What is a sport in botanical terms and a bit more.

Any questions on this topic, feel free to ask me.


Sports are Big Business.

Not just the games we play or watch, but in the plant world as well.

What are plant sports and how do you play it?

Plant sports isn't a game.

These sports can however, make a few rich and offer many gardeners like you and me a chance to grow a new plant cultivar.

You may even play with plant sports yourself.

You may have a plant that blooms yellow every year, then one particular year, a new branch, stem or stalk blooms pink or white for no reason at all.

A herbaceous perennial shoots up new growth with variegated foliage or different blooms then the rest of the plant.

Sounds like a 'sport' to me.

For some reason a branch on your flowering crab has double blooms with no fruit or different fruits then the rest of the tree.

A shoot or branch from your Paper bark birch has variegated leaves or maybe naturally contorted.

Now, you might have something there.

In botany, a sport is a part of a plant (normally a woody plant, but sometimes in herbs as well) that shows morphological differences from the rest of the plant.

Sports may differ by foliage shape or color, flowers, or branch structure.

Variegated plants are perhaps the most common types of 'sports' or 'chimeras', and certainly the most convenient example to use in presenting this basic concept.

The cells in a variegated leaf all originated in the apical meristem of the shoot, but some cells are characterized by the inability to synthesize chlorophyll.

These appear white rather than green even though they are components of the same tissue system.

Hosta is one plant that is a good 'sport' so to speak.

More and more Hostas grow sports and this is why we have so many cultivars of this species and more show up all the time.

You may have a hosta sporting in your gardens and aren't aware of the subtle differences from one shoot to the next.

Sports with desirable characteristics are often propagated vegetatively to form new cultivars (I'll get to this in a later letter).

Such selections are often prone to "reversion", meaning that part or all of the plant reverts to its original form.

Often variegated plants revert back to original form, I had this happen a few years back with a variegated Phlox.

Variegated foliage for two years and now the foliage is all green.

You may have a 'Dwarf Alberta Spruce' that for some reason has a branch of its parentage (white spruce) growing from it. If you don't remove this growth, it will take over the tree.

Genetics my friend.

This is one reason why it may take several years for a new cultivar to reach market and why it may cost an arm and a leg the first few years.

A cultivar (a sport) is a cultivated variety of a plant that has been deliberately selected for specific desirable characteristics (such as the color and form of the flower, yield of the crop, disease resistance etc.).

A plant sport can have just about any thing dramatically different to the slightest change that may add value to the plant.

Sports can be undesirable as well and these never make it to market.

Undesirables are often cut off and trashed.

A sport may be as dramatic as a weeping spruce, a totally different looking flower, fruits, foliage or plant size.

A sport can be a subtle as hair or no hair on the foliage.

Some sports are found to be disease resistant, drought tolerant, cold hardy, handle wet conditions or a multitude of differences from the original parent plant.

Plant sport science continues to grow.

When propagated correctly the plants of a particular cultivar retain their special characteristics.

Sports are often found in our gardens and we blow it off.

Large nurseries and growing farms like 'Monrovia' have people on staff that roam the growing areas, just to look for something new or unusual in a plant.

Here is a cool story on a certain plant sport that may give you an idea on how this works sometimes.

Advertised as "the world's first fully double echinacea," it is truly & wildly different from any other cultivar of Echinacea purpurea around.

The flowers began mainly as nearly-normal looking singles, the shorter than average flower petals being extra-reflexed around the dark cone.

As the cone further matures, it develops small purple flower petals of its own, until it is a dense purple pompom with the regular petals serving as a dangling fringe.

It is just great good luck that this cultivar was saved.

The initial grower in the Netherlands, 'Jan van Winsen' he is a specialist in annuals & cut flowers.

He discovered this sport among seedling coneflowers he was growing for cut flowers.

So unique was this flower, that he spent extra time on it.

He began developing a crop of the very first specimens of 'Razzmatazz' in 1997, but by 2001 had not successfully marketed this unusual sport in his corner of the flower industry, which was focused on cut flowers.

Convinced there was insufficient interest in it, Jan was on the verge of composting the entire crop.

He rather casually mentioned his plan to his friend Marco van Noort while they were row-boating together.

Marco immediately realized the double-echinacea was a fantastic new breakthrough for the species.

He took over Jan's stocks & 'Razzmatazz' was saved from instant extinction.


It would in a few short years give rise to further cultivars with similarly distinct form, so would not remain the only variety of its general type; but it's not apt to be displaced, as it is its own perfection for beauty & hardiness.

When the perennial market learned of this flower's existence, the wild enthusiasm induced the fast-track to get this plant to market.

In 2004 it was exhibited in a London flower show.

So popular was this plant, they had policemen guarding the plants against the too-eager sticky fingers of the public.

Gardeners with sticky fingers?

No way:-)

One year later it was reaching the better independent nurseries in the United States, though stocks were such that seriously inflated prices were being asked.

The patient gardener would get them cheaper by waiting a couple years, but for some gardeners, we couldn't wait.

'Razzmatazz' has a mild fragrance.

It flowers from July to September or until the first hard frost.

It grows thirty inches to three feet tall.

As with other purple coneflowers, it wants full sun, is fairly drought hardy, & is an easy perennial for zones 4 through 8.

They are long-lasting as cut flowers, but vastly more long lasting left on the clump.

Coneflowers sometimes make a feeble effort to keep blooming right into our mild winters but won't be able to finish the process, so young specimens in particular should have any post-September or winter flower stems cut back.

In order to encourage only root development for the first couple of years, & to insure healthy regrowth the following spring.

A couple of years later, 'Razzmatazz' threw out its own sport and hit the stores about three years ago.

You may know it as E. purpurea 'Coconut Lime' or 'Coconut Lime' coneflower.

Offspring are descending from a single parent (clones).

In the event you try to propagate a particular sport plant by seed and the seedlings retains its unique features, the offspring are said to be members of a line-- which the group of offspring are similar, but not genetically identical.

In other words, if you were able to get similar looking flowers to 'Razzmatazz' from its seed, you couldn't technically or legally call them 'Razzmatazz', but similar to it, or like 'Razzmatazz.

Hybrids will eventually appear as well as breeders tinker with plants and colors, but they too will have their roots firmly based in 'Nature' and "Plant Sports Science."

That is correct, many if not most of our new plants are indeed from the Sports World, not hybrids.

Here are a few more sports from E. purpurea.

E. purpurea 'Double Decker'

E. purpurea 'Green Jewel'

E. purpurea 'Pink Double Delight'

Sports aren't hybrids, but clones from a morph.

Now, Echinacea in the 'Big Sky' series are hybrids with parentage coming from E. purpurea and E. paradoxa.

Side bar:

This may be a note of interest to you.

Certain flowers like Gloriosa daisy are forever cross breeding, making different combinations, etc. that breeders and growers aren't interested in what you may have to offer unless it is so unique like a super dwarf or no hair that may have marker appeal.

They don't want law suits over theft accusations etc.or anything thing like that.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.

Harold B. Melchart

There have been many powerful quotes and thoughts throughout history.

Quotes to get a person motivated,

Quotes to cheer you up

Quotes to help others

And many others from many sources.

The above quote I think is needed by all of us and we need a reminder from time to time.

Yes it is good to have goals

Yes it is important to reach for and achieve your goals.

However, at what cost to reach your summit?

Do you forget to live?

Do you bypass and step on others to get there?

Have you reached a summit and wonder where everyone is?

Have you forgotten how to live, how to love, how to laugh.

Is that all there is?

Who do a share it with now?

Yes, goals are good.

Goals are a must.

Yet, you must learn to enjoy life by looking at the scenes around you (people, places, things).

Enjoy the many gifts that God has given you and put around you.

It is possible, and his choice that you reach your summit, but with gladness.

It is also possible to reach your summit, to achieve your goals and still have nothing.

It is also possible to continue looking back.

Living in the past and never looking forward.

And that isn't good.

God wants you to live for today while planning or working for tomorrow.

Live for today, not yesterday.


Live for today.

It is one of God's many gifts to you.

That is why we call it the present :-)

Enjoy the climb to your summits, but please take time to enjoy the scenic views, the people, the gifts given to you.

Until next time my friend

God Bless.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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