The Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University is very pleased to announce that Dennis Werner, Ph.D., has been appointed as the new director of the JC Raulston Arboretum. Dennis Werner is a professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at NC State and a long-time collaborator and member of the Arboretum. He begins his new duties as Arboretum director on December 1, 2005.
Dennis was born and raised in York County, Pennsylvania. He gardened at an early age, and his interests in gardening and plants led him to Pennsylvania State University, where he majored in horticulture. His academic advisor, Richard Craig, Ph.D., kindled an interest in plant breeding. After a summer internship with Burpee Seed Company in California during his junior year, Dennis focused his studies in plant breeding and genetics. After completing his B.S. degree in 1973 at Pennsylvania State University, he moved to Michigan State University and earned his M.S. degree in horticulture, specializing in ornamental plant breeding. He continued his studies at Michigan State University, and completed his Ph.D. degree in horticulture in 1979.
Dennis was hired as an assistant professor of horticultural science at North Carolina State University in 1979, with responsibilities in teaching and research in peach breeding and genetics. He was promoted to associate professor and professor in 1983 and 1988, respectively. His efforts in peach breeding have led to the development of numerous peach cultivars that are widely grown in the southeastern United States, including 'Contender', 'Challenger', 'Intrepid', 'Carolina Belle', 'China Pearl', 'Galactica', and 'Carolina Gold'. Dennis' cultivars are highly regarded for their late blooming, cold hardiness, high eating quality, and novel fruit characters such as low acidity and white flesh. His work has also contributed to our knowledge of the genetics of many of the traits found in peach. Additionally, he developed and released the 'Corinthian' series of fastigiate ornamental peaches.
More recently, his research efforts have shifted to ornamental plant breeding and genetics, focusing on Cercis, Buddleja, and Stokesia. He has made considerable progress in developing improved ornamental forms of Cercis, focusing on the manipulation of genes controlling plant architecture, flower color, and leaf color and variegation. His work in Buddleja has focused on sterility, compact growth habit, and expansion of the color palette in this plant group. Current efforts in Stokesia have addressed the development of improved architectural types in a range of flower colors.
In addition to his research contributions, Dennis has been heavily involved in undergraduate and graduate teaching and advising, and departmental administration. He served as the Horticultural Science Graduate Program director for eleven years between the years of 1988 and 2003, and has advised thirteen M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students. His teaching responsibilities have included Tree Fruit Culture and Physiology, Graduate Student Seminar, Basic Agricultural Genetics, Gardening with Herbaceous Perennials, Introductory Plant Propagation, and Breeding Asexually Propagated Plants. He has served as a mentor and advisor for numerous undergraduate students participating in independent research, and was recognized by the University Honors Council in 2003 for his contributions in this area. He has twice received the North Carolina State University "Outstanding Teacher" award (1999 and 2003), and was named the "Outstanding Academic Advisor" in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1999.
Dennis is an avid gardener. His home landscape includes a 3,000 square foot herbaceous perennial border and a diverse collection of woody shrubs and trees. He has been a long-time Friend of the JC Raulston Arboretum, and is also a member of the American Society of Horticultural Science, the American Horticultural Society, the International Plant Propagator's Society, the Perennial Plant Association, and the North Carolina Botanical Garden. In addition to his gardening interests, he enjoys repairing and driving MG sports cars.
Dennis has been married to Georgina Werner for thirty-two years, and interestingly, they first met in the All America Trial Garden as undergraduates at Pennsylvania State University. They have two children, Sarah and Beatrice. Sarah, 23, is a student in fashion design at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Beatrice, 20, is studying early childhood development at Wake Tech Community College.
Dennis will be the third director of the JC Raulston, following Bob Lyons, Ph.D., and the late J. C. Raulston, Ph.D. Kim Powell, Extension specialist in the Department of Horticultural Science, has served as interim director since January 2005. The faculty and staff of the Department of Horticultural Science look forward to Dennis Werner's leadership and continued strengthening of the JC Raulston Arboretum as a major botanical research, teaching, and extension institution, and supporter of the Green Industry and gardening public of North Carolina.