Claude Hope, the noted horticulturist who developed impatiens from an unknown "weed" to the Number 1 selling bedding plant in the U.S., died at his home in Cartago, Costa Rica on July 14, 2000 at the age of 93 years. He inspired horticulturists for years and is considered largely responsible for developing the bedding plant industry. Work from his Linda Vista Ranch commercial breeding program was instrumental in producing the first hybrid petunia, "Comanche," as well as the first yellow multiflora petunia. Other varieties produced by this program included coleus (Rainbow and Carefree varieties), impatiens (Ripples and Grande), torenias, kalanchoes, and lisianthus.
Born in Sweetwater, Texas on May 10, 1907, Hope began his work with plant genetics at Texas Tech University. He was a horticulturist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for six years before he earned his Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan. He worked at the Division of Plant Research and Introduction in Maryland where, at the time, all new plant material was introduced to the U.S. As an Army captain during World War II, he was in charge of an experimental cinchona (Cinchona ledgeriana) farm in Costa Rica an attempt to provide an American supply of quinine for the treatment of malaria for soldiers fighting in the Pacific. He returned to Costa Rica in 1945 and established permanent residency.
In 1946 Hope, along with co-founders Charlie Weddle and W. D. Holley, founded PanAmerican Seed Co. to increase the availability of double petunias and utilize Costa Rica as a production environment for an intensive labor crop. PanAmerican Seed, headquartered in Paonia, Colorado was closely allied with Hope in Costa Rica.
Linda Vista, S.A., was the dream of Claude Hope a flower seed company he founded while also working with PanAmerican Seed. In its early years, Linda Vista was a flower garden exporting flowers and ornamental plants. Sold in 1981 to Ball Horticultural Company, today Linda Vista is a leading production site for F1 hybrid impatiens seed. Hope continued as president of Linda Vista until his retirement in 1989 and acted in an advisory capacity until his death.
Hope was honored with many distinguished floriculture awards throughout his career, including induction into the American Society of Horticultural Sciences, an Elected Fellow to the American Society for Horticultural Science, the Liberty Hyde Bailey American Horticultural Society Award, and many others.
In addition to his work as a floriculturist, Hope was honored for his social and economic contributions to the people of Costa Rica. Committed to improving the welfare of his employees through education and other opportunities, Hope established an employee pension fund, the highest level of healthcare benefits in Costa Rica, and assistance to purchase homes and finance education.
When awarded an honorary doctorate of Agriculture from Michigan State University, Hope was cited for his humanitarian business practices that showed an uncommon concern for social and economic needs of his employees, and established standards for U.S.-owned companies operating throughout Central America.
Hope felt that a successful plant breeder needed to be a good observer, take risks, use their imagination to dream up something "new," and work their tail off trying to make it a reality. Hope never married and has no immediate survivors. His legacy grows in gardens around the world. Jan Veenstra, ABC