JOHN DAVIES: Innovation grows in Petryszyn's backyard

2013-07-05T17:02:00Z 2013-07-11T21:36:35Z JOHN DAVIES: Innovation grows in Petryszyn's backyard nwitimes.com
July 05, 2013 5:02 pm  • 

Ever wonder who creates the magnificent jewels in our gardens called hostas?

You know, especially those elegant and stately giants that reveal incredibly rich and at times variegated colors that can literally stop us in our tracks!

You can see these varieties at the governor’s mansion or even the Tower of London. Most of us are proud to just have them in our own gardens. So ponder this tale of patience and creativity that bears on just how diverse and rich innovation is in Northwest Indiana.

It might surprise you to know that one of the foremost hybridizers of hostas in the world is Olga Petryszyn of Valparaiso, a real estate broker now affiliated with McColly.

If innovation is creating something that is a “one-of-a-kind,” then Olga has demonstrated this repeatedly by creating, registering and commercializing 22 out of the 24 hostas she has hybridized over the past 27 years.

These are just a tiny fraction of the literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of plants she has created through cross-pollinating varieties. Through constant culling of each plant perhaps over a decade, she ultimately creates showstoppers in her Americana Series named after famous places like “Tobacco Road,” “Old Faithful” and “Niagara Falls,” in honor of her late parents.

In fact, she is so famous among gardeners worldwide her husband, Lew Myers, calls her a “Hosta Rock Star.” There’s good reason for that sobriquet. Recently, she was named the nation’s No. 1 hosta hybridizer by the American Hosta Society at its annual convention in Milwaukee.

Olga not only cross-pollinates hostas to breed new varieties, but she also registers her best with the Hosta Society and goes on to commercialize them with tissue laboratories that sell them to wholesalers and retailers. She gets pennies for her years of work, but she’s delighted to spur local and global economies in some small way.

The thing I like about Olga is that she takes hosta hybridizing seriously, but not herself. At the convention where she received the 2013 Eunice Fisher Merit Award, she repeatedly gave credit to other hybridizers for the jewels they create for our gardens.

A couple of weeks ago, Olga was visiting a prospective client to help sell her house. As she walked in the backyard, she saw one of her signature plants. Olga said, “What a beautiful hosta.”

The owner raved about the variety, saying a neighbor gave it to her. Then Olga said, “Do you know it has a name?” When asked, she said it is named the “Hoosier Dome.” When asked how she knew this, Olga said, “I created it!”

Sometimes, innovation is all about patents and high-tech breakthroughs. But sometimes, innovation simply grows in our backyard!

We are proud that Olga Petryszyn is a 2012-13 Fellow in The Society of Innovators.

John Davies is managing director of the Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana, which is part of the Gerald I. Lamkin Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center of Ivy Tech Northwest. The opinions are the writer's.

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