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November 28, 2010

Scientists create world's first all-black petunia

Gardens are set to turn a shade of black next summer after horticulturists developed the world's first black petunia plant.

The dramatic new flowers, named Black Velvet, were developed using natural breeding techniques to turn them a dark black colour and will be on sale at a premium price of £2-£3 per plant.

The rare plants, which have taken four years to perfect, are due to blossom in British gardens for the first time next spring.

Petunias are extremely common and popular bedding plants and grow in borders, containers and hanging baskets during the spring and summer months.

Experts believe the new variety will be highly sought-after among gardeners as they will provide a 'wonderful contrast' to colourful flowers.

They were developed by flower breeding company Ball Colegrave and will be going on sale for the first time in British garden centres.

The plants will be advertised under the catchline 'black goes with everything.' They were created by mixing existing colours already on the market and breeding them by pollen, until they finally got the right shade.

Stuart Lowen, from Ball Colegrave in Banbury said: 'It's completely unique. It's the first black petunia anywhere in the world. It was created by experimenting with existing colours already on the market and breeding them using traditional methods. We don't use any genetic modification at all, just pollination.

'They say black goes with anything, and it really looks exceptionally striking in the garden - it goes very well with whites, yellows and pinks. It's rare to get a flower as black as this - very seldom do you get anything this dark.'

Flower breeder Jianping Ren developed the new plants at Ball Colegrave.

She said: 'The black colour did not exist in petunias before, so it has to come from the right recombination of a novel colour mutant and multiple regular colour genetic backgrounds. It's unique and unusual, and opens the door for more new colours.'

Andrew McIndoe, managing director of Hilliers Nurseries, said the flower should be popular with gardeners seeking something unusual. He said: 'People like the idea of a black flower because they are interesting - they are unusual and it's something different.

'Gardeners have always sought the unattainable. The closer to black a flower is, the more sought after it seems to be. Like all flowers known as 'black,' they will probably be a very, very deep purple which looks black - although this doesn't make it any less interesting.

'I'm not sure how a garden would look with all black flowers, but it's a wonderful contrast colour. A combination of black and white often works very well.'

Daily Mail

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