In this article I would
like to lay out what I see as an effective approach to hybridization in the
north. The “north” can be defined in many ways. The way in which we choose
to define the north is colored by our own locations. There are many perspectives
on what constitutes northern hybridization. But for the sake of this article let
us agree that the entirety of Region 2 lies in the north.
is likewise with other faults, poor foliage, susceptibility to leaf streak,
thrips damage. etc. If you use parents with those problems you will find
that too many of their babies will show up with the same limitations. We
have known that for a long time but we have continued in the delusion that
rebloom is something of an exception. The path to northern rebloom is to use
only the parent plants that rebloom in our gardens. In many of the gardens of
Region 2 that rebloom is rare indeed. But if a few plants can perform in that
way I must believe that many can. The key to achieving that is a new emphasis on
the trait of rebloom in our hybridization. It should also be a part of what the
buyer of daylilies expects from new introductions.
was great discussion on the AHS email robin this past winter as to what
constitutes cutting edge. I would like to suggest that plant performance is a
major portion of that cutting edge. Specifically buds and rebloom and branching
should be in the center of our focus.
has been observed many times in gatherings of hybridizers in which I
have participated that it is so easy to get a pretty face. That is absolutely
true. It is doubly true when you follow the old guideline of hybridizing "pretty
to pretty." I gave up that formula years ago. I ended up with fields
of pretty seedlings that did not have enough quality otherwise to deserve
introduction. There have been thousands of seedlings here at
like to call my method of parent selection "quality to quality."
That assures that many if not most of the babies will have at least a shot
at being good enough to be introduced. I no longer have any interest in
raising gorgeous seedlings with bud counts of 10 to 15. At the very minimum
I want to use parents that have 25 to 30 buds themselves. It is best if both
parents are up to that standard.
bloom season begins here about the 20th of June. By the end of July most
any bloom in the gardens here is rebloom. Over ten years ago I
began to concentrate on breeding during the time after the main season when
so many of the blooms present were rebloom. I began to see more and more of that
rebloom as each year went by. At the same time I began to go away from using
purchased cultivars and toward using my own seedlings for hybridization. It was
clear by that time that there was much more rebloom in my own stock than
there was in the display beds which featured the hybridization efforts from
other gardens. The results just got better each year. Now if a plant does not
rebloom I am very hesitant to introduce it or even use it in my hybridization
This contrasts with the
experiences of my friends in the Metropolitan Columbus Daylily Society who barely
get rebloom at all. The
As you move farther south
the rebloom becomes more and more common. And breeding for rebloom in those
areas may not produce cultivars that are capable of doing it even as
far north as I am. I feel I am very fortunate to live in a location which
lends itself to breeding for such a wonderful characteristic. I now hope that
there are a number of people who take my reblooming introductions and the
introductions of others and use them to push the area of decent rebloom
About the year 2000 I began
to see more and more of a phenomenon that I like to call instant rebloom. This
occurs when the first scape comes up, begins to bloom and at that time a
second scape appears. The timing of the blossoms of the first scape and the
second scape overlap for a period. During that time the bloom is simply
spectacular. After the first scape is done the second one gives more
of a typical level of flowering to the clump. The grower gets two
major benefits from instant rebloom, a greatly extended bloom season and a much
enhanced mid season of bloom which can bring tears to your eyes with its beauty.
a more northern setting the instant rebloom brings another advantage. The second
round, "instant rebloom", comes earlier in the season. Normal
rebloom is different. That type of rebloom occurs when there has been a delay of
a few days to a number of weeks after a scape has finished blooming. When you
move to northern
Instant rebloom avoids the
problem of fighting the colder nights of later summer. It is a wonderful
solution for extending the season in the north. Right now there are so few
cultivars that are able to do it. I hope that more and more hybridizers will
concentrate on it. Instant rebloom is not an uncommon characteristic of plants
I am heartened to be hearing
feedback from more and more people about their interest in instant rebloom. It
is a quality that is an easy sell once a daylily lover sees what it can do.
the course of thinking about how to advise hybridizers that are still looking
for a direction for their efforts, I came up with the phrase, the “climate
driven niche”. I would advise every hybridizer looking for a direction who
would like to make a contribution to the world of daylilies to take stock of
their own local special conditions. I can not assess what they may be for you.
You need to observe, compare and listen. Find out what that peculiar challenge
is that your climate gives you. Does your climate perhaps limit the rate of
increase of fans and thus make putting newer cultivars on the market a slow and
frustrating experience? Breed for increase. Do cold nights cause opening
problems? Put special emphasis on cold morning openers. Observe what would
improve daylilies in your area and go for it!
I saw that I had a little rebloom while most to my north did not see it, I
looked to rebloom as the area of my concentration. Much farther south and I
would have been unable to make as much progress in northern rebloom because it
comes too easily. Much farther north and the rebloom is so seldom that breeding
for is more of a challenge.
you make the trip to
who has a program going for an extended period begins to develop a stock which
performs best under their own local conditions. Start breeding from your
own best seedlings as soon as you can. You will soon see more fine qualities in
your own stock than you see in the plants you paid so much for. You are well on
your way to becoming a hybridizer who can contribute to the progress of the
northern daylily. Real hybridization comes when a person develops his/her own
line, breeds from that line, (with judicious inputs from the work of others) and
puts a special mark on the daylily. That is the way to make a real impact
in the daylily world.
think that anybody who has been involved in daylilies for even a short period of
time begins to realize there are too many daylilies that are introduced that
lack much distinction. The majority of daylilies require signs to identify them.
This is often true even for the person who has grown the cultivar for a few
years. It is so bad sometimes that the hybridizer fails to identify their own
introduction. This is more understandable if the qualities which make a daylily
distinct are more subtle. In an ideal world a daylily would not require a sign
to identify it.
in the real world signs will always be needed. Several of the types of
distinction which are of value may not be readily apparent. Performance
characteristics such as rebloom and foliage types are not usually seen at a
glance. I do wonder though how many times a clump of daylilies has been
discarded because over a few years nobody was able to identify it.
hope we all can agree that breeding plants and introducing plants that are truly
distinctive is what we want. I once read a comment on my program that it was
remarkable that "lightning had struck more than once at Ashwood."
Lightning striking becomes more likely if one raises 10,000 to 25,000 seedlings
per year. It becomes a little like standing out in the rain with a copper rod in
your hand. Sooner or later lightning is going to strike. There is a lot of work
and discomfort while you are waiting but I guarantee lightning will eventually
come to you.
may be some shortcuts to attracting the daylily "lightning strike."
One involves becoming very sensitive to what constitutes distinction. You can
only do that by observing many thousands of daylilies. One must first be aware
of what is out there before one recognizes a truly distinct seedling.
Garden visits are excellent for this. For me a hybridizer's seedling fields
are the most interesting places in the garden. One of the finest ways to develop
an eye for distinction and quality is to take the workshops that lead to
becoming a garden judge. These workshops will enable you to begin to develop the
ability to recognize when you are looking at a daylily that has that something
special that makes the daylily world sit up and take notice. It would be a shame
if someone had that “lightning strike” hit and never realize it.
can also learn a great deal from those who come to your garden. They do not even
have to be experienced in daylilies. After all we are working to produce flowers
that should ultimately delight the home gardener who is far from an expert in
the genus Hemerocallis. I always welcome visitors in my seedling fields. They may
see some things that my blinders prevent me from seeing. Don't fool yourself! You
are wearing blinders too! We all are.
you have a clearer picture of what exists in the world of daylilies, you
have come to what may be harder. You have determined what is not now available.
Now you need to figure out a path to the possible creation of that cultivar. But
you do need to decide on a goal and form an idea of how you might be able to
the pathway to that goal you are going to run across some results that are
completely a surprise. If your blinders are still firmly in place, you will not
see the value of what you have created. You may turn your back on a direction
that could bring you some real success and satisfaction. In the drive to
achieve your original goal you might just reject some things that are simply
wonderful. If you are set to only recognize success when you have reached the
original goal you may end up getting nowhere.
a number of years ago I brought up the idea of breeding for polytepals with a
very well established hybridizer. This was before anybody was working in that
direction. The individual practically spit out an answer. He said,
"daylilies were not meant to have four petals”. His disgust with the idea
filled the air. Others will be able to see the blinders we are wearing long
before we detect their presence.
think in recent years we have all become more flexible in our concepts of what a
daylily can look like. With bagels, spiders, unusual forms, polytepals, etc.,
daylilies have become so many things to so many people. . I recently saw a
wonderful movie, Pursuit of Happyness, in which Will Smith tells his son
something to the effect of, "Don't ever let anyone tell you you can't do
something. Not even me." I was fortunate to not have been told that people tried
all throughout the 80's to reproduce the no-trumpet look of Judith Weston’s
unique LIGHTS OF DETROIT and found that it could not be done. No one told me
that it could not be done so I went ahead and did it. In 1993 I might not have
tried that cross if I had been told that many people had tried that path and
gotten nowhere. I was lucky and made the right cross that opened up the
possibility of reproducing that form.
distinction may mean following a direction that many very smart, experienced and
talented people will think is unwise or a dead end. I recall someone referring
to a cross they had made writing, “I hope that cross wasn’t a big
mistake.” I would like to urge you to think of every cross as a way to learn.
There are no mistaken crosses. Sooner or later a really weird cross will give
you some exciting, even world class results. Don’t ask me which weird cross
that will be. Neither I nor any other hybridizer knows. That’s why we label
the cross as “weird”
your idea of what distinction is too. Earlier I wrote about my desire to create
daylilies with high bud counts and great branching. Realize that if you have a
seedling with a face that looks like an established cultivar it may still have a
reason to live. If your seedling has a lot more buds and the branching is
superior it may need to be made available. The ability to rebloom under northern
conditions opens up a vast field of possibilities for the northern hybridizer.
How many highly touted southern introductions languish under northern
conditions? My list would be long indeed. That is not the fault of the southern
hybridizer. It is the fault of those of us who just shrug our shoulders and keep
trying to grow the plants better thinking it is our fault that they don’t look
like the picture in the catalog.
we want to have great plants for our gardens in the north we have to do it
ourselves. They are simply not going to come with any regularity from areas very
far from where we live here in Region 2.
this point I would like to say that I breed daylilies for myself, not the
market. If I were breeding for the market I might also be
breeding unusual forms and/or spiders. They are hot on the market right now.
They are not what give me the satisfaction. I fully respect those who are
fascinated by the narrow and twisted cultivars. I like to have a few in the
garden for variation in the look of the gardens. But a garden of those forms is
not what I want. I think it very important that we all are first true to
have observed that many other people approach daylily hybridization as
if it were science. I like to approach it in a more intuitive manner.
I asked Jeff Salter about what kind of planning he like to do before he makes
his crosses. He answered that he likes to have the blossom which is providing
the pollen in his hand as he goes from flower to flower. I was quite gratified
because I do not plan crosses either. I use the blossom as my inspiration. I
don't carry one around but I have a mental image of the blossom as I travel
around the seedling beds looking for the "match made in
mistake some people make at is to see the daylilies that they grow in their own
garden as unworthy. Then they go out and buy a bunch of fancy faces,
usually from a very different area and cross these to each other. They
don't pay that much attention to the fact that these expensive plants often are
not performing as well as their own "rejects" They are caught up in
the mystique of the famous or of the very expensive daylily. The result of
crossing the pretty, but poor performers, is a seedling patch filled with pretty
but poor performing plants. The frustration leads the aspiring hybridizer to
purchase more of the newest and fanciest and repeat the process until they come
to the conclusion they aren't any good at the hybridizing game. As I said before
choose some plants from someone in area compatible with your own and go to town.
I can practically guarantee you will see some results that will please, even
hope we all can agree that breeding plants and introducing plants that are truly
distinct is what we want. In my observations from attending the Myrtle Beach
Hybridizer's meeting and from presentations to daylily clubs is that true
distinction brings a meeting to a halt. I have seen that a few times at the
needs to develop an eye for all kinds of distinction. The development of H.
Memorial To Steve is a good illustration of how distinction comes in many forms.
What this cultivar brings to the table is a bud count unlike anything I have
ever seen before. In addition, the buds are held on branches that are long and
as well positioned as one could desire, allowing a full display of the blossoms.
The magic that came together in creating this one
comes from both parents. The pod parent was a seedling of mine, T99-15, a cross
pollinated T99-15 with GREAT WHITE. There were only about four seeds that came
from that cross and I numbered two of them. In 2003 I numbered one of the
seedlings T03-34. The flower was nice but it wasn't until the following
year that the real character of the plant came out. I was simply blown away by
the extreme buddedness. However I thought that the performance that year was a
fluke. I lined out the seedling and after it settled into its new spot I saw
performance that was even better than what I had seen in the seedling field. The
ironic thing is that the bed into which MEMORIAL TO STEVE was lined out has such
poor soil that I have decided to never again plant a daylily in it. Despite the
soil this one thrived.
is a growing trend around the country to grow and select seedlings in very
pampered environments, highly amended "soils", constant, monitored
feedings based on testing of nutrients in the foliage, seedlings made, raised
and selected in greenhouses, etc. We are taking giants steps away from the
greatest treasure we have in the genus HEMEROCALLIS, its toughness and ability
to thrive under adversity.
initial results from raising and selecting in pampered environments are not all
that bad. But as the results of this phenomenon kicks in we will be looking
at a set of plants that require the care of tea roses to do what we want them to
do. The first few generations are going to be traps because they still carry the
tendencies of all the previous generations that were selected for some degree of
toughness at least. We are going to let down our guard and then we will be
wondering what hit us. We will have these gorgeous but pampered diva plants
and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
have seen to my own satisfaction that the same level of beauty can be achieved
without pampering the plants. These methods which I have written of
before allow a dedicated hybridizer to create tough plants with great
performance and hardiness. We will always be a couple of years behind in the
north in some of the extreme looks possible elsewhere. But there is nobody
that can consistently produce the super performers for our environment except
for us in the north.