VERNON He may study grasses by profession, but Texas AgriLife Research forage agronomist Dr. Dariusz Malinowski has a passion for flowers, particularly winter hardy hibiscus.
And it is that passion that has created his latest research project propagating unique winter-hardy hibiscus.
Malinowski said he's very much a grass and forage researcher, but this falls in line with his master's degree in horticulture.
"I like the hardy hibiscus and have been crossing them for four years," he said. "I started getting crosses that were unique in my yard."
A collaboration of Steve Brown, Texas Foundation Seed Service program director, and Malinowski determined commercialization of the flowers would fit in AgriLife Research's effot to work with non-traditional or under-utilized crops that have value because of drought tolerance.
The hardy hibiscus also is a great candidate because it is a carefree plant. It doesn't have to be watered once it gets established, it is low maintenance and has little disease or insect pressure, he said.
To date, Malinowski has produced about 500 crosses. From that number, he has planted about 150 of them around the Vernon area in yards of fellow researchers and at the Texas Foundation Seed facilities.
Only about 25 percent to 30 percent of those have bloomed so far, but 12 have exceptional qualities, Malinowski said.
"The hardy hibiscus found on the market are primarily white, red and pink and are mostly of the same size and shape," he said. "I'm trying to give them diversity, with some spider-type petals, and some new colors, such as lavender, and combinations of colors."
Brown said this research is really another example of how plant- improvement programs at AgriLife Research extend beyond what most think as conventional crops.
The nursery and greenhouse
|Contact: Dr. Dariusz Malinowski|
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications