All of GSBG products are created through traditional selection methods and are non-genetically modified organisms. Cross breeding of parental stock, observing and selecting the best hybrids from the progeny is the most common breeding practice. Characteristics for selection of hybrids and ultimately introduction of new varieties includes: salability, disease resistance, flower production, plant stature, plant and flower color. It can take up to 10 years to develop a new variety.
Development of Callas
By the late 1980’s calla lilies became the company’s largest crop. In part this was due to promotion of callas by other calla producers who failed to provide quality product and a lack of instruction to the commercial grower. Callas worldwide were primarily grown for cut-flower production. Other calla producers concentrated on breeding new varieties for this purpose alone. GSBG had successfully grown callas since the 1930’s, mainly using selections from 4 different colored species: pink, white, yellow and gold. The pink selection, Z. rehmannii superba, was found to grow successfully as a potted plant. This attracted the interest of a few growers who saw this as a potentially new crop for commercial pot forcing.
Typically callas were plagued with disease. Losses in the range 30 to 50% were not uncommon. But the interest in potted callas was great enough that these losses were tolerated. GSBG breeding efforts and improved cultural practices developed through in house and university research were instituted to inhibit disease, increase flower production and reduce plant height. These changes made it possible to gain profit with the newly recognized ‘colored calla’ as a potted plant. Callafornia Callas were the first calla varieties bred specifically to be container grown.
Further breeding developments created callas ranging in colors from white, yellow, orange, red, pink, lavender, dark purple and even apricot hues. Currently there are nearly 50 varieties available to the grower and end consumer. Most varieties are dual purpose and can be grown as a cut flower as well as a potted plant. All will work as landscape plants, however the larger plants tend to be most showy in a garden setting.