Meet and Greet with Jim Ault

Plant Evaluation

Registrants for the 69th Annual International Lily Show & Symposium will have the rare opportunity to meet Dr. James Ault, Director of Ornamental Plant Research, at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Dr. Ault will take us on an exclusive tour of the Breeding and Evaluation Programs in the New Lab Center at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Botanic gardens and arboreta across the nation are living repositories of some of the finest, but also the most unusual and rare, ornamental plants for garden cultivation and display. Even though public interest in gardening and new garden plants is at an all-time high, few botanic gardens use their plant collections for breeding and development of new garden plants. The plant breeding program at the Chicago Botanic Garden strives to develop beautiful new perennials that thrive in Midwestern soils and climates.

Since 1995 research into the development of conventional plant breeding practices of herbaceous perennial plants has been the focus of Dr. James R. Ault. The Chicago Botanic Garden still has a wealth of naturally occurring plant taxa that are largely unexplored as subjects for garden cultivation. Dr. Ault peruses the ecological and systematic literature for genera that produce interspecific hybrids in situ and attempts to reproduce these hybrids under controlled conditions. He is also interested in plant tissue culture techniques such as clonal propagation of individual genotypes and embryo/ovule culture of wide-hybrid crosses.

The Bernice E. Lavin Plant Evaluation Garden is the site for the Chicago Botanic Garden's Plant Evaluation Program. Scientists study plants to determine which are best suited for Midwestern gardens and those in similar climates. The Plant Evaluation Program is one of the largest and most diverse in the nation. It is also one of the few programs in the United States that formally evaluates perennials. This program has received the Award for Program Excellence from the American Public Garden Association in 2008.

Two gardens at the Chicago Botanic Garden serve as the program’s home. The Lavin Evaluation Garden is a 2.5-acre site with uniform growing conditions, which include full sun and exposure to wind in all directions. The Pullman Evaluation Garden, which is the site of the Garden’s original test garden, was a landscaped garden for evaluating perennials, vines, shrubs, and small trees suitable for partially shaded conditions.

This exciting “must see” tour will be available on Thursday, July 7, 2016 at the Plant Science Research Center. Registrants, please plan to meet at the Bernice E. Lavin Plant Evaluation Garden for a behind the scenes view of important research and evaluation at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

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The mission of the North American Lily Society, is to promote interest in the genus Lilium, scientific research in its breeding and culture; standardization of its varietal names; the dissemination of information concerning the above and promotion of such other purposes as may advance the culture of lilies.

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