Sally Benson December 1, 2016
new plants 2016
Photo: iStock

Each December, American Nurseryman features an entire magazine dedicated to the latest plants being introduced during the upcoming new year. Follow along as we introduce new plants every day until December 25 and be sure to follow American Nurseryman on Facebook and Twitter for #25DaysOfPlants.

“A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises … What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Those who remember their Sunday school lessons will recognize those words as select passages from Ecclesiastes and, yes, I had to Google it to get the wording right. And no, I’m not about to go Biblical, but I find the words to be reassuring and encouraging and enlightening, despite myriad other interpretations. I choose to find comfort in the thought of circularity, of eternity, of renewal. There’s an implied recognition of the richness of life, of the value of what is here and what has come before. There’s an implied connection, a common thread that runs from the beginning of time, through all of us and all of the physical world, past what is now and on to what will be.

Nothing new? Really? There are those, of course, who would argue that the past few decades have witnessed innovations never before imagined, and they would be right. The same was said of the Industrial Revolution. And that’s right.

But I’m not talking about inventions, about machines, about tools and implements. I’m talking about the living, breathing world. Is there really nothing new? I think we’d be hard-pressed to define that.

This industry, more than most, seeks to improve upon the natural world. So when we say “new,” as in new plants, what we really mean is improved. We’re not inventing plant life; we’re finding ways to study and tweak and fiddle and alter and tickle that one particular cell that means brighter color, renewed fragrance, improved disease resistance. More compact habit, greater fruit yield, robust tolerance of drought. Better. Not a brand, spanking new plant, but a better one.

What an awesome accomplishment this is (and I mean “awesome” in the literal sense of the word, thank you). What an exceptional feat, to take what has been done and make it what will be done. To take the miracle of a plant and to improve upon it. To provide the world with a newer version of this natural phenomenon.

Ecclesiastes, again: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us.”

Indeed. But dedicated plant breeders (and fiddlers and ticklers) have taken those treasures – those plants that have been already in the ages before us – and have found ways to present “new” forms. In doing so, they provide us all with a glorious celebration of what’s possible.

Isn’t it grand?

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