When you head off to the nursery to oogle the impatiens, you're probably not thinking about the science behind those candy-colored posies. Turns out, the seed world is as secretive as giant pharma. The folks at Swiss seed company Syngenta, a leader in the $3 billion global pot and bedding plant market, know this… and take precautions. When I visited them in Basel, Switzerland, I was shepherded through many locked doors before reaching the inner sanctums. But these seedmeisters, though proprietary, are proud of their products. For Mother's Day we cajoled them into revealing their most innovative '09 flowers and what gives them their special zing. We've included patent numbers, so you can verify their scientific chops for yourself.

Gardeners love lobelia for its neighborly ability to share a planter with other flowers without crowding. Plays well with others! The Techno Heat variety is a champ in hot weather, and this cornflower blue is an unusual shade for the species. The combo wins it a patent. Patent #pp17,250.

Love geranium flowers, but wish they would climb like ivy? Syngenta's got a new variety for you! The Calliope can hang with the best of the ivy, but unlike ivy's modest little leaves, it puts on a dazzling show, with big flowerheads that stay dark red all summer long. Patent # pending.

If you're one of those impatient gardeners who can't wait to get out in the dirt, you should seek out this variety of Calibraocha (trailing petunias to you newbies). The Callie is bred to flower early in the shorter days of winter, and the broad palette of 19 colors makes this variety popular with corporate facility managers eager to match the company's logo to its potting beds. Patent #pp19,865.

With some skillful tinkering in the lab, Syngenta's botanists performed a small miracle with the Bandana Lantana. Not only did they design in a lovely fragrance (which butterflies find irresistible), but they made this lovely, bushy plant heat resistant – a breakthrough feature for this normally temperature-sensitive plant. Patent #pp18,115.

Who knew a geranium could be ranked "Top Performing," like some highly ranked mutual fund, or particularly talented MBA grad? But here you have it: Caliente's been rated the Top Performing Geranium at the University of Florida Flower Trials, three years running. Heat tolerance is one factor that propelled it to the front ranks, but its disease resistance and big flowers pushed it to the head of the class. Patent #pp15,834.

What do you get when you combine mildew resistance, early flowering, a propensity to trail prettily, a tolerance to heat, and a couple exotic colors like lavender and peach? Syngenta's latest breakthrough verbena. Think this is easy? It's the floral equivalent of a triple lutz. Patent # N/A.

These impatiens require some coddling, but attentive gardeners will be repaid with an intense profusion of blooms, making this variety great for hanging baskets and large containers. Patent #pp17,189.

Poinsettias are hardly the first flower that springs to mind in May. But those of you who are long-term planners will be interested in this cutting edge (pardon the pun!) plant: the Mira poinsettia can grow at a temperature of only 16 degrees Celsius (that's 60.8, for those of you keeping track in Fahrenheit). That means it needs 20% less energy to grow than comparable varieties -- great, if you're trying to force these babies to bloom in November. And the white variety is tres chic. Patent # pending.

Fast Company

Freaky Flowers: Biotech Blossoms That Even Your Mother Will Love

When you head off to the nursery to oogle the impatiens, you're probably not thinking about the science behind those candy-colored posies. Turns out, the seed world is as secretive as giant pharma. The folks at Swiss seed company Syngenta, a leader in the $3 billion global pot and bedding plant market, know this, and take precautions. When I visited them in Basel, Switzerland, I was shepherded through many locked doors before reaching the inner sanctums. But these seedmeisters, though proprietary, are proud of their products. For Mother's Day we cajoled them into revealing their most innovative '09 flowers and what gives them their special zing. We've included patent numbers, so you can verify their scientific chops for yourself.

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