NDAC Breeds New Flowers
The USDA Hardiness Zones Map divides North America into eleven gardening zones: 1 being the coldest and requiring the hardiest plants, and 11 being the warmest. The coldest it gets in the 48 states is zone three, and unsurprisingly the majority of North Dakota is considered zone three or four. Translated, this means gardeners around here have a very limited selection. So, it can be exciting to find new plants that can survive our tough Dakota winters.
Donald Hoag, a North Dakota Agricultural College scientist, bred three new varieties of dianthus in 1959. They were bred specifically to be winter hardy in northern climates. In July, 1959, they would have bloomed for the first time. He called them Rondo, Allegro, and Andante. Gardeners in our region had good reason to be excited about this news, and not only for a nice addition to their flowerbeds. It also marked an important achievement for the area. The Forum reported that “the dianthus work at the N-D-A-C Experiment Station represents an important contribution in ornamentals to the horticulture field, and our prediction is that they’ll bring due recognition to their originator and to the Experiment Station.”
The dianthuses were influential. They were well-received when commercially released in 1960, and they added color to local flower beds for several years. Since they were only a two-year perennial, however, other varieties gradually replaced them in the popular market.
But the work continued, with experiment station scientists developing more flowers and vegetables, doing important work with trees, and publishing hundreds of scholarly articles and books. And the number of horticulture majors doubled from 1956 to 1966. When it later became a part of the larger Plant Sciences Department, not everyone was happy about it, but there’s no doubt the department has been influential no matter what it’s called.
Dakota Datebook written by Leewana Thomas
The Fargo Forum Sunday Morning, July 26, 1959, “How Does Your Garden Grow? Experiment Station Announces New Dianthus Varieties” By Dorothy Collins
Conversation with Neal Holland, retired NDSU Professor and owner of Sheyenne Gardens