Table of Contents
Macdonald, B. 1993. A program for the selection and introduction of new
plants for the urban landscape. p. 608-611. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon
(eds.), New crops. Wiley, New York.
A Program for the Selection and Introduction of New Plants for the Urban
- DEVELOPING GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
- FUNDING--GRANT AGENCIES, INDUSTRY, AND ROYALTIES
- STRUCTURE AND PROCEDURES OF THE PROGRAM
- Evaluation and Selection
- Propagation and Distribution to Participating Nurseries
- Contracts and Royalties
- Test Sites
- Promotion, Publicity, and Marketing
- FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS
- Fig. 1
The aim of this paper is to outline an innovative plant introduction program
through which a university botanical garden in close cooperation with the
British Columbia Nursery Trades Association (BCNTA) and the British Columbia
Society of Landscape Architects (BCSLA) is able to evaluate, select, and
introduce new and improved plant material into the nursery trade and the urban
Under the leadership of Roy L. Taylor, then Director of the University of
British Columbia Botanical Garden, a 12-member committee was formed in 1980 and
included representatives from growers, wholesalers, landscape contractors, and
architects, as well as Botanical Garden staff. Initial meetings addressed the
needs of a program for innovative plant introduction for urban landscape plants
and set the overall objectives of what was subsequently named the Plant
Introduction Scheme of the Botanical Garden of the University of British
Columbia (PISBG). These needs, justification, and objectives were as
The development of a superior, successful introduction program demanded a close
and critical evaluation of past and current programs of other institutions and
companies. Assessments of successes and failures, costs and returns, and staff
and time requirements led to the committee establishing:
- The BC nursery industry was undergoing considerable expansion. Growers saw
the need for BC to develop superior plant material to increase sales into the
North American and overseas markets.
- Rapidly increasing housing starts resulted in increased demand from the
retail sector. There was a need to encourage greater local production or much
of this demand would be met by American and European imports.
- A need for a greater diversity of plant material for residential, municipal,
and highway landscapes.
- An opportunity for the Botanical Garden to utilize its collections for the
financial benefit of local industry. In doing so, the Garden would cease to be
a static "living museum" and become a higher profile, more dynamic member of
the horticultural profession.
- To develop and enhance a close liaison between an academic institution, the
nursery industry, and the landscape profession, where, traditionally, there had
been little communication.
The committee quickly realized the necessity of "seed funding" to make
improvements and additions to the Garden's nursery, to provide additional
staff, and to establish an effective marketing and promotional program.
Matching funds totalling CDN $300,000 were received from the Devonian
Foundation of Calgary, which supported new horticultural projects in Western
Canada, and Science Council of British Columbia--the major function for the
latter is to fund research and development that directly benefits industry. At
the request of the Science Council, a consultant was employed to assess the
projected benefit to the nursery industry. Arcus Consulting Ltd. of Vancouver
concluded that: "This analysis indicates a program of substantial benefit to
the nursery trades industry of British Columbia. Further, the analysis
indicates a program capable of generating positive cash flows one year after
the first commercial sale of plants provided by the PISBG and within fours
years of the commencement of the scheme."
- a model or framework of procedures from initial selection and evaluation to
the release and marketing of an introduction (see Fig. 1);
- the criteria for selecting a plant for the program;
- recommended sources of funding to establish the program and ways to provide
on-going revenue for its continuation and development;
- innovative ways for the promotion and marketing of new introductions.
There are two main sources of revenue. Firstly, the sale of stock/mother
plants of new introductions to participating nurseries. Secondly, payment of
royalties by nurseries propagating PISBG introductions. Each new introduction
is registered with the Canadian Ornamental Plant Foundation (COPF) and
royalties are paid on a quarterly basis. Royalties range from 4.0 cents to
34.0 cents per cutting or scion bud. COPF retains 10% and 90% is returned to
the Botanical Garden for the continuation of the program.
PISBG plants registered with COPF include: Anagallis monelli 'Pacific
Blue', Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Vancouver Jade', Artemisia
stelleriana 'Silver Brocade', Clematis 'Blue Ravine', Genista
pilosa 'Vancouver Gold', Penstemon fruticosus 'Purple Haze',
Potentilla fruticosa 'Yellow Gem', Ribes sanguineum 'White
Icicle', Rubus calycinoides 'Emerald Carpet', Sorbus hupehensis
'Pink Pagoda', and Viburnum plicatum 'Summer Snowflake'.
Recently, Canadian Plant Breeders' Rights legislation has been passed by the
federal government. This will provide much greater protection for new
cultivars in the future.
There are five parts to the program--evaluation and selection, propagation and
distribution to participating nurseries, contract and royalty payments, test
sites, and promotion and marketing.
The UBC Botanical Garden contains over 15,000 different accessions, thus
providing a wide basis for selection. The three Garden areas that have
provided the major sources of introductions are the Asian, Alpine and BC Native
Garden components. The selection process begins with a 32-member evaluation
panel which meets annually to review some 12 to 17 potential introductions.
The panel is diverse, comprising representatives from retailers, wholesalers,
landscape architects and contractors, parks boards, and retired members of the
nursery industry. Recently, evaluations have been carried out with smaller
specialist groups, e.g., landscape architects, to advise the committee on what
they feel will be the trend in plant materials for the next five to ten
Each panel member completes an assessment form for each plant and its potential
as an introduction. The form includes reasons for or against its selection,
information on ease of production, possible uses in the landscape, and
potential sales. Slides are used to illustrate plant characteristics during
Subsequently, the forms are analyzed and reviewed by the evaluation committee
which makes the final selections. The final choice of one to three plants per
annum is made by the nursery industry and not the Botanical Garden. Experience
has shown that it is far more effective to release a few good plants per year
to the industry than numerous new plants--in the latter case there is a risk
that they will be quickly relegated to collectors' items again, and momentum
and energy lost could have been more efficiently used in developing other
The next phase is for the Botanical Garden's nursery to multiply the new
selections to produce 600 to 1000 stock/mother plants. During this process,
research and development work is carried out on propagation and growing and on
developing recommendations for the extension service and growers. Once a
sufficient number of plants has been produced, they are sold at a premium price
to the participating nurseries. The PISBG program commenced with nine
participating nurseries and today there are 42 nurseries, with associate
nurseries in five different countries--England, France, the United States,
Holland, and New Zealand.
A contract is sent to each participating nursery for consideration prior to the
release of the stock/mother plants. Among the details included with the
contract are colored photographs, production and cultural details, market
potential, and the price of the plants. A major portion of this contract
involves the date for public release and the royalty to be paid. For the
program to work successfully, it is essential that no plants are sold prior to
the release date and that sufficient quantities of plants are available for
A priority of the committee was the establishment of test sites to assess
plants in areas of diverse climatic conditions. Winter hardiness was an
obvious concern, but data on drought resistance and heat and humidity tolerance
were also collected. Currently, there are seven test sites across Canada and
six sites in the United States.
The plants are sent for testing prior to release. The length of testing is
dependent on the species. For example, a little-known species from South
America requires considerably more testing than a new cultivar of the widely
grown shrub, Potentilla fruticosa. It is also important to trial plants
under commercial conditions which are difficult to create at the Botanical
Garden. Greater emphasis will be given evaluating new plants from propagation
to marketing in selected nurseries in BC prior to general marketing.
The value of a test site to PISBG is dependent on goodwill, the ability of the
staff to care for the plants correctly, and the return of accurate information.
Careful planning with the industry is essential to create an effective
promotion, publicity, and marketing strategy.
Important features of this phase include:
The success of the PISBG program has led to a number of international awards,
and this, in turn, has given the plants wider recognition. An example is the
recent signing of a licensing agreement with a consortium of United Kingdom
growers to market plants in Europe. The BC nursery industry has established
the Henry M. Eddie Plant Development Foundation, named after one of the
province's pioneer nurserymen and plant breeders. The aim is to provide an
endowment of CDN $1 million, the interest from which will be used to fund
programs in plant breeding, new plant development, and plant exploration.
- the production and distribution of colored information sheets and posters to
landscape architects, retailers, and wholesalers, giving details of the plant's
habit, culture, uses, and sales potential;
- the design and printing of colorful, custom-designed picture labels which
will be attached to all plants for retail sale;
- participation in nursery trade shows across North America;
- pre-release of plants to high-profile landscaping projects;
- provision of press releases and articles to the media, trade journals, and
- investigation of licensing agreements in other countries where patents,
trademarks, and plant breeders' rights exist;
- selection of an easily identifiable cultivar name for new plants is essential
for mass marketing, customer recognition, and program profile.
The continuing success of a plant introduction program depends on new plants
coming into production on an on-going basis. With this in mind, the Botanical
Garden has recently received funding for the collection and evaluation of
lesser known and improved forms of native plants. The collections made so far
are considerable, thus, providing a valuable germplasm pool for future research.
The 13 introductions from the PISBG program have already resulted in over 5
million plants being produced world-wide for sale. More than 600,000 plants of
the ground cover Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Vancouver Jade' were
propagated in BC during 1991. New plants from PISBG have been exported to the
United States, Holland, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Japan, and Korea. Not
every introduction is expected to be a success, due to changes in consumer
demand, unforeseeable pest and disease problems, and revisions of plant health
regulations in provinces, states, and other countries.
Botanical gardens and arboreta are a unique source for potential plant
introductions for the nursery industry and urban landscape. The University of
British Columbia Plant Introduction Scheme has demonstrated that an institution
can effectively cooperate with the nursery and landscape professions to
commercially utilize their collections and research for mutual benefit.
Detailed attention to planning, liaison with key personnel, promotion,
marketing, and, not least, a clear consensus on the selection of the correct
plant for introduction are vital for a program's success.
- Macdonald, A.B. 1985. A plant introduction scheme for new and recommended
plants from British Columbia, Canada. Proc. Int. Plant Prop. Soc.
- Macdonald, A.B. 1988. Worthy introductions of western Canada. Amer.
- Taylor, R.L. 1983. University of British Columbia Botanical Garden Plant
Introduction Scheme: an opportunity for a new relationship between nurseries
and the public garden. Proc. Int. Plant Prop. Soc. 33:121-125.
||Fig. 1. Diagrammatic representation of the PISBG program.
Last update September 17, 1997