Discovering and introducing new plants is not just for professional plant breeders. There have been some really great plants introduced by amateur plants-people. Perhaps the most famous or most successful amateur was Kathleen Meserve of Long Island, New York that developed that Blue Holly by crossing the hardy, low growing Ilex rugosa with the Ilex aquifolium the English Holly.
More recent examples of good new plants introduced by amateurs include Ruby Anniversary Abelia (A. chinensis 'Keiser'). This is a plant that was selected by Susan Keiser of Ossining, New York. Ms Keiser, while not a regular plant breeder, does know a thing or two about plants. She owns and operated Greystone Gardens, a design company that creates high end specialty gardens. One her most famous designs is a terrace garden on third floor of the 10 Rockefeller Plaza. Building rooftop gardens requires an in depth knowledge of plants, so Ms. Keiser is continually testing and evaluating new plants. She selected Ruby Anniversary out a group of seed propagated Chinese Abelia plants in her garden. She noticed that one plant was very different from the rest, as it was fuller in habit and the foliage was much darker than was typical of the species. The new growth also had attractive burgundy coloration. She know she had found a very special plant. Ruby Anniversary Abelia has some other advantages too as it is hardier than Abelia x graniflora and the flowers are fragrant. It is adored by butterflies!
Bronze Anniversary Abelia is another plant introduced by an amateur. This plant was the the result of a discovered sport mutation on Abelia x grandiflora by Rika Bronsther of Hempstead, Long Island. Ms Bronsther also know a bit about plants. While she is currently employed as a graphic designer, she previously owned and operated a landscape design and build company. She has a great eye for plants and especially sports, or mutations. She is alway on the look out for sports and variegations, or unique seedlings. Ms. Bronsther has introduced a number of outstanding plants including Anemone 'Party Dress' and the Autumn Crescendo Series of Dendrathema (hardy mum).
Bronze Anniversary was selected from a number of yellow leafed sports found by Bronsther. After comparing it her other sports, as well as, the other yellow leafed Abelia cultivar the plant was selected because it had attractive orange coloration on the new growth. It was also the strongest grower, the most floriferous and did not revert as did the other selections. The plant also has a good strong root system compared to many cultivars that do not and thus cause production problems.
Sugar Tip Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus 'America Irene Scott') was discovered by Sharon Gerlt of Independence, Missouri as sport mutation on a plant growing in her yard. While I get about 4-5 people a year offering me variegated forms of Rose of Sharon, none have been as nice as this plant. Sugar Tip Hibiscus has very attractive, stable variegation. Unlike Hibiscus syriacus 'Pupureus Variegatus' the flower actually open. And unlike other selections I've seen, this plants is easy to grow and has very consistent variegation that's very pleasing to the eye. The soft pink flowers go well with the foliage. This variety is seedless so there is no issue with unwanted seedlings in the garden. In addition, the growth habit is compact and refined.