Midwest Plant Breeder Hans Hansen

Flowers and foliage in yards and public spaces have been beautiful this season! Where do the new bright colors and variety of leaf patterns originate? 

At Plant Exchange, we’ll focus on one plant breeder who may have introduced a yellow False Indigo, Hosta, coral Monarda, pink Phlox, or red hibiscus you have seen growing nearby. We include photos of plants of the season as we read more about him.

The plant breeder Hans Hansen of western Michigan, formerly from Minnesota, was featured for his interest in plants at home and work in an article in the September/October 2021 The American Gardener magazine. 

Hans liked plants as a child. When he was six, a neighbor offered him a plant, and his dad helped him dig up a False Indigo to plant. It’s been at his parent’s home for at least 45 years now.

He has improved plants in 75 genera, including Agastache, Baptisia, Clematis, Helleborus, Heuchera, Sedum, etc. Many of his plants are available through the Proven Winners brand. He is the director of new plants at Walters Gardens, focusing on perennial plant breeding there, and is well known for his work in horticulture. He collects unusual plants and grows many at home.

Hansen currently lives on a corner lot in a suburb since 2010. He wants a large, diverse garden. He removed the plants in his yard and started with beds around the perimeter of his lot. He used four-year-old horse manure to amend the flower beds before he planted. 

The berm and shaped display beds around his lot are a challenge because of the diverse perennial plants seen from the street and the remaining green lawn in the yard. He calls it an “assortment of plants that work well together.”  He plants them close together to reduce maintenance. Small trees and shrubs are backdrops for the perennials.

Like others moving to a new garden location, he sees that his garden in Michigan (USDA Zone 6) has four extra growing weeks in fall than his former Minnesota home, with sandy, slightly acidic soil. Lake effect and other conditions add benefits to plants that grow there. Most of the yard is full sun.

When he selects new plants or breeds new offerings or gardens, his eye is on long-season appeal, foliage, and disease-resistant plants. He looks for varying heights, shapes, and textures, and four-season appeal. He likes originality and sustainability. He might plant a spring bulb that blooms and fades quickly in the middle of a clump of sedum. Some of his favorite foliage plants are Hostas, Japanese maples, and hydrangeas.

Hansen credits his mother for his life-long interest in plants. She brought him a double fern leaf peony that continues to grow in his yard. His neighbor, in biking distance, as he grew up, gave him plants. University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was an early favorite with a diversity of plants.

We are fortunate to have resources like the landscape arboretum within driving distance and other public spaces for inspiration. It’s the time of the season to see blooms and foliage again.

Thanks for your visit to Plant Exchange blog. Hope to see you next week.

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