The concept of a national collection of herbaceous ornamental plants within the United States came about indirectly, as a result of a 1977 decision by the OSU Board of Trustees to establish the D.C. Kiplinger Chair in Floriculture shortly after the death of Dr Kiplinger, a distinguished scientist who had served on OSU’s floriculture faculty since 1937. The Chair was created as a temporary, rotating position to be filled by individuals with a record of significant achievements in floricultural education and research.

The first appointee to the Kiplinger Chair, Dr. H. Marc Cathey (1980–81), recommended the establishment of a national germplasm collection and conservation program for herbaceous ornamentals as an important tool for meeting future floricultural needs. In 1992, representatives of two trade associations, the Society of American Florists (SAF) and the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), began a coordinated effort to assemble information on the need for federal funding for ornamental crop research and presented that information to the US Congress.

In 1995, two faculty members at OSU, Dr. Miller McDonald and Dr. Jim Metzger, proposed that OSU act upon Cathey’s 1981 recommendation by establishing a new center within the University structure, and that such an effort be built upon a partnership among OSU, the USDA/ARS National Plant Germplasm System. and the floricultural industry. During 1996, plans for the center were communicated to the Ohio Florists’ Association (OFA), which brought it to the attention of the leadership of the ARS, SAF and ANLA. At the end of 1996, OSU’s plans were included as a key part of a larger funding proposal for federal research support that SAF and ANLA presented to Congress.

Through the efforts of trade associations and academia, and strong support from within the USDA, the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative was created in 1998. One of the stipulations of the Initiative was that a center for ornamental plant germplasm conservation be established in Ohio and that funding for the new center be directed through the ARS.

Dr. Jim Corfield was hired as Interim Director in November, 1999 to oversee startup of the germplasm center, and daily operations began in the spring of 2001 with the hiring of Director David Tay and Curator Susan Stieve.

A more detailed account of the origin of the OPGC can be found in an article by D. Tay, M. Widrlechner and J. L. Corfield (2004) Establishment of a gene bank for herbaceous ornamental plants. PGR Newsletter 137:26-33