New Variety?

Every so often something turns up which is not what you expected, a variation or “sport” which may indicate that you have found a new variety. Excitement mounts; you imagine the royalty cheques rolling in from Thompson & Morgan, a plant with your name on the label perhaps, the write-ups in the gardening press, even a launch at Chelsea! And then you realise that it is not new, not special, it actually happens all the time.

This happened to me last year and I got so carried away I decided to see if I was about to become rich beyond my widest dreams by researching and then contacting the people who hybridise and introduce new plants into the market. I thought I had found a new variety of Nicotiana mutabilis because one of 7 plants I had raised from the same packet of seed was completely different from all the rest. The usual colour combination of white,light pink and dark pink were replaced by greenish cream, peach and dusky pink. A subtle difference perhaps, but one which might indicate a permanent mutation worthy of it’s own name. After all, in some species a tiny change in hue or petal shape is enough to warrant singing from the rooftops at every show in town. Here they are side by side for you to judge:

The people I contacted and who know about these things suggested it might not be all it seemed. It was only on one plant out of seven and the seed from it may revert to type the following year. They suggested I save some seed and try again in 2012. So that is what I did and, lo and behold, the same colours appeared! So what now? Will it be accepted? Will I be rich? Will my new variety set the horticultural world on fire? I doubt it!

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