For many years, ‘Cornflower Blue’ cineraria (Pericallis × hybrida) was a traditional crop in the late winter/early spring display at Longwood Gardens. When our commercial supplier stopped distributing this seed, it fell upon our researchers to maintain our own supply. The vigor of the resulting plants deteriorated with each generation, however.
In 1995, two staff members traveled to the Canary Islands to collect seed of native Pericallis papyracea. These were crossed with the ‘Cornflower Blue’ strain to stabilize the seed line for full-sized cobalt blue petals, a large amount of flowers per plant and plant height.
Researchers at Longwood now grow specific strains of cineraria in sterile tissue culture which allows the plants to be maintained indefinitely. When seed production is necessary, several parent strains are brought out of tissue culture and traditionally grown to produce flowers. These plants are crossed to produce the seed stock for the following year. This seed will then produce the wonderful blue cineraria that are always an eye catcher in our late winter/early spring display.