Dr. Elwin Orton’s research centers on a woody ornamentals breeding program devoted to the development of new and superior cultivars of woody ornamental plants for the Northeast. This work involves conventional intra- and inter-specific hybridization of 21+ different species of Ilex (both deciduous and evergreen hollies), as well as three species of large-bracted dogwood (Cornus florida, C. kousa and C. nuttallii). In addition to the development of new and different cultivars of increased attractiveness, special emphasis is placed on the following:
- Increased winter hardiness
- Genetic resistance to insect and disease pests
- Dense, self-compacting habits of growth that require little landscaping maintenance
Starting his career at Rutgers in 1960, Dr. Elwin Orton established the groundwork for the holly tree breeding program. He was promoted to professor in 1973 and became a Professor Emeritus in 2008. An internationally recognized and well-respected plant breeder, Elwin dedicated decades of work to the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the Holly Society of America. Without him, the Rutgers Garden Holly Collection and the varieties of holly would not be the impressive collection they are today. Much of Elwin’s work is now being conducted by Dr. Tom Molnar, who started working in the Department of Plant Biology in 2004 and plans to carry on Elwin’s legacy.