Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beautiful, Bountiful, Brightly-colored Gladiolas and Daylily Hybridizing

I never have enough sunny space to plant gladiolas it seems. Without sufficient sun, they are doomed to flop over. I seldom grow them. I have been fortunate to be the recipient of an armful each of the last two summers from the garden of Dr. Darrel Apps.

I stopped by Dr. Darrel Apps' hybridizing plot to see what was blooming this day in August in the upper echelons of daylilies. Even at this point in August, when nearly all the daylilies in my yard have completed their annual bloom cycle; there is still plenty to see in the plot. In the sub-group of daylilies that includes the rebloomers developed by Dr. Apps, there are a still many lovely daylilies with lots of color and beautiful forms.

Walking through his testing plot, he is quick to point out his favorite breeding stock and what he has been trying to get from them in his offspring trials. Although many of these blooming daylilies have deeply peeled back and recurved tepals and sepals, with wide marked eye zones and frilly chicken fat edging; he is still always looking for good structure ("I walk right past floppy scapes, too hard to correct," after my pointing out a remarkably pretty, small-blossomed daylily.)

"I spend years breeding these, and now everyone wants spiders." He has spiders, those daylilies with long, thin curved and curly petals, some in deep red and purple, others in pale orchid with green throats. Although he does have some very pretty spiders.

The other thing that is difficult to correct, he says, low bud count. "It is always quantitative. You cross a high bud count and a low bud count you get something in the middle."

He also dislikes muddy colors. He want clear, bright colors. He talks of "cleaning up" a color by crossing it with a near white.

He has a couple different things he has been breeding for recently: deep, deep colors, reblooming in the small clear red, a canary yellow rebloomer on scapes 6' tall, an earliest rebloomer that might make a good hanging basket or potted daylily. Then walking along he will bend over and point out a nice simple bright yellow or red daylilies and say, " I could sell a LOT of these to McDonald's!"

He points our a row of sibling daylilies, seeds pollinated with pollen that developed in the same seed pod. "These need another generation, and then I might have something."

Darrel makes hundreds of crosses each year. He grows out around 2,000 seedlings each year. Other than his breeding stock, he has a couple thousand plants that are two years old, another area with a couple thousand that are one year olds and then a couple thousand still in pots ready to transplants. Those are from this last summers hybridizing. These plants began to germinate in January this year and were grown through our cold winter in the grow room in his basement.

A scant couple handfuls in each bed have fluttering pink tape, slated to be survivors in the breeding crap shoot that is daylily hybridizing. Some already have tiny white tags and swollen seed pods; crosses already taking the traits one more generation down the road.

Today, I find myself pleading that he attach a tape to a plant that last visit caught my eye and today has one of its last buds in full bloom. This bloom has a more intense color, which he admits he does like. The trait that stuck in my mind was how upward facing the bloom is, lifting up its glory directly to my view as I pass. I found that trait remarkable. In my mind, I already have named it.

He mentions another daylily I really like, which he is looking to patent. It sounds like it will be going on the market. It is a really long bloomer. It seems it starts to bloom the very earliest, yet it is still blooming and may bloom as late and as long as 'Dynamite Returns'. It is in a great color for widespread landscaping and bedding out by the home gardeners. It increases easily, and has a nice form. It is a gardener's daylily the way 'Stella' was in the 1990s.

Maybe it will be the hot daylily of a new generation of gardeners. Widespread appeal is what every hybridizer hopes for. I have sat on my front porch and peaked at it many a morning, thinking it a wonderful daylily. It sounds like soon the rest of you will have the same opportunity.

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