Because Applewood Seed Company specializes in the production of open pollinated seeds (OP seeds), we are committed to sustaining the quality of our OP garden flower varieties through our variety improvement program. OP varieties reproduce by cross-pollination or self-pollination and will breed true, producing offspring that look the same as their parents. This is called breeding “true to type”. Unlike hybrids, they can be sown from seed collected in the previous growing season without concern that the offspring will have vastly different traits from the parents. However, if seeds from the previous season’s crop are replanted year after year, undesirable off-types can arise and become more abundant. After many years, the traits that were unique to that variety can disappear.

Hand pollination

Variety improvement involves the removal (roguing) of all plants that lack the desired features (off-types) from the foundation seed plot so that only plants with desirable features are left to produce seeds. Examples of physical traits that are selected include color, height, mixture balance, and petal shape. Foundation seed plots are grown within isolation cages, and flowers are pollinated by hand. Applewood Seed Company commits to 3-4 years of variety improvement before releasing new stock seed to growers.

Popular garden flower varieties are in danger of disappearing if they are not maintained.  Hundreds of garden flower varieties have been created over the centuries, and it is difficult to recreate these from scratch. Zinnia ‘Sombrero’ is an old variety from Bodger Seed which has gone through our variety improvement process.  We acquired our stock seed long ago from a retailer that was going out of business.  After growing out the seed in our garden trials, we noticed many off-types. After 3 years of variety improvement, the difference is remarkable.

Before improvement

After improvement

In addition, growers for Applewood Seed Company must take proper precautions to prevent crossing of 2 or more related flower varieties by making sure a proper isolation distance is maintained. Field isolation prevents the transfer of pollen between different varieties. Generally 0.5 to 1 mile is sufficient since this is the maximum flying distance of many insect pollinators. Growers must also rogue off-types from their field to maintain variety integrity.  Applewood Seed Company is proud to support the maintenance of OP garden flower varieties so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.

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