As someone who researches flowers, Michelle Jones often hears she has the ideal job.
How else could you characterize it? Even in winter, brightly colored flowers grow all around her—in her greenhouses, in her office, and in “growth chambers” each about the size of a master bedroom closet, but packed with tray after tray of blooms.
This summer, the horticulture and crop science professor is studying extending the vase life of cut, pink zinnias. She’s also taking purple petunias, partially silencing a gene that causes them to turn purple, and producing purple-and-white-striped petunias. Inside a greenhouse, stretched across benches, are red and blue petunias, each growing in peat moss and treated with beneficial bacteria to see how well the bacteria help the flowering plants fend off disease.