The Plant Atlantic Project

Lay Summary 

Plant Atlantic is a project developed by the Memorial University Botanical Garden for the Research and Development of new and under-used ornamental plants for the Atlantic Canadian Nursery Industry. The goal of this project is to establish a home-based production industry in Atlantic Canada for hardy ornamental plants. This project has been made possible by an investment provided by the Atlantic Innovation Fund of ACOA.

The R&D team of Plant Atlantic is composed of plant researchers from the Memorial University Botanical Garden and the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. We will select and breed new plants and propagate them by classical cuttings (MUNBG) or by biotechnological methods of tissue culture and micro-propagation (NSAC). MUNBG will be responsible for much of the research and development of these new and/or under-utilized plants. Our industry partners, Murray's Horticultural Services (NL) and Millbrook Greenhouses (NS) will be responsible for the commercial production, wholesaling, marketing, and retailing of these plants into local, national and international markets.

Gardening is now the #1 pastime in North America. The Canadian Nursery Industry has been steadily growing as the demand for ornamental plants has increased. Currently, in Atlantic Canada, 95% of all woody plants (trees and shrubs) are imported from Ontario, British Columbia and even Holland. A significant opportunity exists for the development and marketing of ornamental plants from Atlantic Canada.

Sources of New Plants:

Plant Atlantic will select new hardy ornamental plants from several sources. One source is the already known ornamentals that are currently under-used or relatively unknown in the local nursery industry. The Botanical Garden is an obvious source for these relatively unknown ornamentals. Many of the plants in our collection have come from the UK and while those plants may be known in European gardens, they are often uncommon if known at all in North American gardens. Examples include several of our alpine primroses, moss phlox, bellflowers and great leopard's-bane. Plant Atlantic hopes to make these plants more widely available. The ground of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College also has some uncommon plants in their collection, especially older cultivars of azaleas, which can be an added source of new plant material. Overall, we will refer to these plants as 'Plant Atlantic recommended plants'.

Heritage varieties of plants are another source of 'new' plants. What is old is new again and there is a surge in the demand for the 'tried and true' plants that are often tougher and more disease/insect resistant than many of the newer cultivars on the market. The BG's heritage garden is the obvious source for these old plant varieties. Examples include our Fair-Maids-of-France, Great Bellflower and 'Golden Glow' Rudbeckia.

The most important component of this project is the development of new plant varieties that might be of interest to gardeners throughout Atlantic Canada and hopefully all of North America and even Europe. These new plants will come about from selecting unique, horticulturally attractive forms of native plants and through active plant breeding of known ornamentals.

Native plants we have plans to release include a creeping form of eastern larch, a golden selection of white spruce, a blue-green-silver tricolour form of common juniper and a white form of our bog laurel.

The Agriculture Canada Research Station in Kentville, NS had a rhododendron-azalea breeding program in the 1970s and 80s. None of their superior hybrids were ever released on the market. Plant Atlantic hopes to change this and several of their hybrids are now in tissue culture at NSAC.

The active breeding program at the MUN Botanical Garden includes a variety of plants including iris, daylily, rhododendrons, primroses, columbines and goats-beard.

MUN Botanical Garden
Atlantic Innovation Fund (ACOA)
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Botanical Research
Industry Sectors 
Crop Production
Start date 
1 Jan 2007