An Evening with the Plant Breeders

A Behind-the-scenes Look at How Better Plants Are Created

  • Friday, October 2, 2015 – 5:30 pm10:00 pm

Go behind the scenes with nationally recognized plant breeders who create, promote, and grow the hottest new ornamental varieties. Enjoy their stories and discover the criteria and methods they're using to introduce beautiful, noninvasive, stress-tolerant, pest-tolerant, and adaptable plants.

One of the nation's top plant promoters and growers will also be there making this a perfect evening for any plant lover or collector to learn what new plants could be coming soon to a nursery near you and how they got there.

Enjoy hors d'oeuvres, wine, beer and more including an auction featuring many rare plants.

pink flowered hydrangea trials


Friday, October 2, 2015

5:30 pm   Registration, reception, and silent auction begins
6:25 pm   Speaker introductions
6:30 pm   Tom Ranney, Ph.D., NC State University
7:00 pm   Break and silent auction
7:30 pm   Denny Werner, Ph.D., NC State University
8:00 pm   Live auction, break, and silent auction
8:30 pm   Tim Wood, Spring Meadow Nursery/Proven Winners
9:00 pm   Break and auction (auction closes at 9:10 AM
9:10 pm   Q&A with all speakers
10:00 pm   Conclusion and auction checkout


pink flowered hydrangea trials

"Dreaming Plants"
Tom Ranney, Ph.D.

Over the centuries, plant breeding has transformed and vitalized agriculture, civilization, and our gardens. And, we have barely touched the surface. Natural biodiversity in the plant kingdom provides a world of opportunities for inventing new plants with enhanced utility, sustainability, and dazzling garden appeal. A little educated creativity coupled with the magic of genetic recombination can result in outcomes that defy imagination. Approaches, opportunities, and dreamy new hybrids will be presented.

purple-leaf weeping redbud

"It's Not a Job, It's a Hobby with a Paycheck—37 years of Plant Breeding at NC State University"
Denny Werner, Ph.D.

Fun best describes Denny's 37 years of plant breeding experiences at NC State University—beginning with peaches, and continuing with my work today on butterfly bush and redbud. He'll take you through the steps that led to some of his most successful cultivars, and discuss the challenges and good fortune that played a part in their development. Although creating a novel cultivar through breeding is a long process, he hopes to convey the excitement, anticipation, and sense of accomplishment that he's enjoyed in every step of that process.  Denny will review the characteristics of selected, previous cultivar introductions in all three species, and discuss some of the ongoing projects and goals that will lead to future unique introductions poised to grace your gardens. Time certainly does fly when you are having fun.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Abetwo' (Incrediball®)

"The Hunt for New and Better Plants"
Tim Wood

Tim Wood is a modern day plant hunter for the Proven Winners plant brand. More specifically Tim travels around the world looking for people that breed and select new and better flowering shrubs. Tim will showcase the latest and best new finds, the people behind these plants, and explain the process trialing and selecting only the the best plants for use on North American gardens.


Tom Ranney

Tom Ranney, Ph.D.
Department of Horticultural Science, NC State University

Tom, a professor of horticultural science, lives, works, and plays in the mountains of western North Carolina where he leads a research program at the NC State University's Mountain Crop Improvement Lab in Mills River, North Carolina. His research program focuses on the evaluation, selection, and development of new landscape and bioenergy crops.

Denny Werner

Denny Werner, Ph.D.
Department of Horticultural Science, NC State University

Dennis was born and raised in York County, Pennsylvania. He gardened at an early age, and grew up exploring the fields and woodlots of south-central Pennsylvania, where he developed an early interest in botany and horticulture. His interests in gardening and plants led him to Pennsylvania State University, where he majored in horticulture. After a summer internship with Burpee Seed Company in California during his junior year, Denny focused his studies in plant breeding and genetics. After completing his B.S. degree in horticulture in 1973 at Pennsylvania State University, he moved to Michigan State University and earned his M.S. degree in horticulture, specializing in ornamental plant breeding. He continued his studies at Michigan State University, and completed his PhD degree in horticulture, with an emphasis in plant breeding and genetics, in 1979.

Denny was hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State University in 1979 with responsibilities in teaching, and research responsibilities in peach breeding and genetics. He was promoted to associate professor and professor in 1983 and 1988, respectively. He was named the Raulston Distinguished Professor of Horticultural Science in 2006. His efforts in peach breeding have led to the development of numerous peach cultivars that are widely grown in the southeastern United States.

In 1998, his research efforts shifted to ornamental plant breeding and genetics, focusing on Cercis (redbud) and Buddleja (butterfly bush). He has made considerable progress in developing improved ornamental forms of Cercis, focusing on the manipulation of genes controlling plant architecture, flower color, and leaf color. His recent redbud introductions are 'Ruby Falls', 'Merlot', 'Whitewater', and 'Pink Pom Poms'. His work in Buddleja has focused on sterility, compact growth habit, and expansion of the color palette. His butterfly bush releases include 'Blue Chip', 'Miss Ruby', 'Miss Molly', 'Purple Haze', 'Lilac Chip', 'Pink Micro Chip', 'Blue Chip Jr', 'Miss Violet', 'Miss Pearl', and 'Ice Chip'. In 2013, the American Horticulture Society awarded him the Luther Burbank Award for extraordinary achievement in plant breeding.

In addition to his research contributions, Denny has been involved in undergraduate and graduate teaching and advising, and departmental administration. He served as the Horticultural Science Graduate Program Director for 11 years between the years of 1988 and 2003, and has advised 15 M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students. He was director of the JC Raulston Arboretum from 2005–2008. His teaching responsibilities have included Tree Fruit Culture, Basic Agricultural Genetics, Gardening with Herbaceous Perennials, Plant Propagation, and Breeding Asexually Propagated Plants. He has twice received the North Carolina State University "Outstanding Teacher" award (1999 and 2003), and was named the "Outstanding Academic Advisor" in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1999. Most recently, he was recognized for his teaching efforts and undergraduate student involvement by being named an Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor in 2014.

Denny is an avid gardener. His home landscape includes a 2,000 square foot herbaceous perennial border, and a diverse collection of woody shrubs and trees. He has been a long-time Friend of the JC Raulston Arboretum, and is also a member of The American Society of Horticultural Science (ASHS). He was named a Fellow of ASHS in 2011. Denny has been married to Georgina Werner for 42 years. They have two children, Sarah and Beatrice.

Tim Wood

Tim Wood
Product Development Manager, Spring Meadow Nursery

As the product development manager for Spring Meadow Nursery, Tim travels the world searching out and new and promising shrubs for the Proven Winners plant brand.

Tim has a B.S. and M.S. in horticulture at Michigan State University. He spent 10 years in public horticulture with stints at Longwood Gardens, the Arnold Arboretum, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Kingwood Center, and Mill Creek Park.

Tim is an avid lecturer, photographer, and writer. He's the coauthor of three books gardening books including Tree and Shrub Gardening for Michigan. He has published articles and photographs in most major nursery and gardening magazines. He has taught plant materials for Michigan State University. Tim is an active plant breeder with 45 plant patents to his name including Little Lime™ Hydrangea, Incrediball® Hydrangea, Bloomerang Lilacs, and Summer Wine® Physocarpus.

Continuing Education Credit

The North Carolina Board of Landscape Architects Continuing Education Credits

An Evening with the Plant Breeders was approved by the North Carolina Board of Landscape Architects for 2.4 continuing education hours. The activity's course number is 11130.

The North Carolina Landscape Contractors’ Licensing Board

An Evening with the Plant Breeders was submitted to the North Carolina Landscape Contractors' Licensing Board for continuing education credits. Two and a half credits were requested for this event. The board meets Tuesday, September 22, 2015.


Auction purchases support the JCRA's general fund within the NC Agricultural Foundation, Inc.

Early registration: $60.00 for members, $75.00 for nonmembers; late registration: $75.00 for members, $90.00 for nonmembers. Early registration ends on September 13, 2015; late registration begins on September 14.
Advance registration is required. Please register online using our registration e-store. Registration is limited and is considered complete when payment is received.
Program cancellations can be made up to two weeks before the program's start date. A 15% cancellation fee applies.
Ruby C. McSwain Education Center, JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University, 4415 Beryl Road, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Need directions? Click here.
Free parking is available at the JC Raulston Arboretum and along Beryl Road.
Please call (919) 513-7005 for more information about this program.