Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Heat Is On and Daylilies

In the front of my house next to my Red Jade weeping crab apple, I have a triangular bed filled with daylilies. These dayliles are a pale ivory yellow, they have "chicken fat edging", "diamond dusting", patterned and green throats. Some are almost black, so deep the purple or red of their coloring. I also have my entire hellstrip filled with a daylilies, a daylily looking very much like a cross of Hyperion and Mary Todd. They are a pumpkin gold, with nice branching, large blooms, that last about 36-48 hours, versus 18-36 and are sterile and therefore self-cleaning. For the time period this daylily naturally hybridized, I believe the early 1980s, it would have been highly exceptional.

Not any more.

(The daylilies here are some of Apps' patented crosses named after children, employees, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.)

If you were to learn a retired world class daylily hybridizer lives in my village, you would drive around town and when all my daylilies are in bloom, you might assume the daylily hybrider resides there.

And you would be wrong, one hundred and eighty degrees wrong. The real daylily hybridizer lives across the street, with nary a daylily in sight.

And this heat must be driving him absolutely crazy!

Dr. Darrel Apps is my across the street neighbor. Before his shrub hedge became established, I could see the beautiful deep rose and diamond dusted 'Rosy Returns' daylilies under his picture window. I could see the yet unnamed pale yellow daylily that is the first and last to bloom in a pantheon of incredible daylilies. It is the daylily which will give the new highly-touted 'Going Bananas', an "improvement" over 'Happy Returns', a run for its money, and leave the Bananas a pale mud slick in its rear view.

When the daylilies are in bloom, it is hybridizing season. My neighbor lives for this time of year. He can hardly contain himself, nor drag himself from his gardens. Long-suffering wife Marilyn often visits one of her daughters during the crazy daylily days of summer.

With this heat, with temperatures of 80 degrees even in the early morning, the seeds do not form. His crosses will not take. I think it has been over 95 degrees here for over ten days with no end in sight; almost from the first daylily bloom.

His frustration must know almost no bounds.

Now that summer school is complete, I will begin what I think of as my Masters Class with daylily hybridizer Dr. Darrel Apps. Each year I become more familiar with the ins and outs of daylily hybridizing. He has kindly shared his stories of other breeders, his opinion of their work, the marketability of particular traits, the fickleness of daylily gardeners. He has shared his appreciation for retailers who carry his promoted brand, the 'Happily Ever Appster Dayliles' (TM).

More than anything else he has given me a sense of his journey to develop something new and possibly never seen in a daylily, a species with tens of thousands of named and patented cultivars. The passage of time, it has taken from the first Stella re-bloomer to the array of beautiful pastels on the market today.

He may be retired, but making hundreds of crosses and growing on 1,800 to 2,100 daylily seedlings each year tells me he is still working on that masterwork, that all of his past success is merely the highly decorative setting for what will be a masterwork.

And I, I think I have an idea what it might look like.

You will adore it.

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