We have Asia to thank for the wealth of modern plants that we take for granted: The lovely early spring azaleas, magnolias, and hydrangea, to name a few.
In the19th and 20th centuries plant explorers scoured Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Chinese and Tibetan provinces. They were searching for beautiful plants to bring to the West and hybridize, so the plants would thrive in a place far away from their native lands.
Plant explorer Dan Hinkley says that the ice age gave China, for one example, an abundance of plants, nearly 10 times more species than in North America.
The far flung explorations to find new plants results in annual introduction of new and unusual flowers for the North American garden.
But it takes time. New found plants must be cultured and investigated. They may often need to be hybridized with another plant to increase hardiness or for some other quality. Plant grower, Monrovia says only one in 50 potential plants is actually added to its catalog. Monrovia has introduced hundreds of plants to the market.