Saturday, July 30, 2011

Total Dessication

Making your own daylily hybrids is all fun and games, but what if the two daylilies you want to cross aren't in bloom at the same time? The daylily breeder needs a method of preserving pollen for future use. The Internet has no shortage of opinions, but my four key go-to sources here are: Daylilies: The Perfect Perennial by Lewis and Nancy Hill, Oscie B. Whatley Jr.'s essay The Art of Hybridizing, John Peat and Ted Petit's The New Encyclopedia of Daylilies, and (even though it's not lily-specific) Moulton's Orchids from Seeds for Pennies

You'll find some variation in the advice but the experts are consistent about one point: the pollen needs to be dry. Moisture is the enemy of pollen.

A lot of the advice suggests storing pollen in the refrigerator because of its dryness. Some argue that freezing the pollen is better because you can extend its use to the next growing season. The trade-off, however, is that freezers lack proper air conditioning. 

Are you still awake?

First, we need to acknowledge that rain can always ruin our morning pollen collection and application efforts. The breeder should collect pollen early in the morning before humidity corrupts it. My pollen collection skills improved over the course of the summer and I tried a variety of techniques and tools. The easiest method, in my opinion, involves plucking the pollen with a pair of small scissors and shoveling it into a folded Post-It note

The pollen goes into a dessication chamber for 12-24 hours. For this purpose I'm using a canning jar with a piece of mesh cloth to create a platform inside the glass. I stir Damp Rid into a 1/4 cup of water until it gets thick, creating a "super saturated solution."

The final step requires a some kind of case, empty pill bottles, weekly pill cases, Damp-Rid, and a drill with a small bit. I store the pill cases in a plastic box. I use a small pill container (with holes drilled in the top and on the sides) with Damp Rid. Some of the weekly pill cases have holes drilled into the inside chambers with the final chamber containing a little bit of Damp Rid. Other pill cases have holes drilled into the top. 

We'll see how it works out next season! 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sharks, Seed Pods, and Patience

'Colony' (Tankesley-Clarke, 2004)
This is 'Colony,' a 2004 introduction by Eric and Bob Tankesley-Clarke. Let's dispense with the obvious criticisms: the form is a little mangled and it lacks desired bilateral symmetry. It might be due to grower error, its relative newness in the garden, and/or the streak of insane July heat we've experienced in Kansas. I know it might look washed out but (trust me) the color combo is dazzling: lavender, cream, and metallic. The cultivar is a cross between 'Wedding Band' (the "pod parent") and 'Desert Empress' (the "pollen parent"). You can see the influence of 'Wedding Band' in the gold edgings. Like 'Wedding Band,' photographs fail to convey its beauty, but a close-up is the next best thing. 
'Colony,' ready for its close-up

In the first photo, you see a green seed pod ripening on the scape. It's 'Spacecoast Scrambled' x 'Cosmic Sensation.' 'Cosmic Sensation' was probably my favorite this year owing to the vivid purple/white color contrast and the shark-toothed edging. Keeping with the theme, I recently purchased Elizabeth Shooter's 2001 introduction 'Playing With Sharks.' I bought it from Blue Ridge Daylilies, the only daylily vendor on Cats and Catts "Kitty Approved!" list. I'm on the lookout for 'Barracuda Bay' (Salter 1996) and 'Iwanna Piranha' (Kinnebrew 2006). In the meantime, my ('Spacecoast Scrambled' x 'Cosmic Sensation') could be the next Stout Silver Medal winner, or birds and bugs could be devouring the pod as you are reading this. Smart money will bet on the latter.

My latest MUST HAVE -- 'Playing With Sharks'

 The garden has only a few more blooms left before it closes down for the season. Daylily seed pods take about 40 days to mature from the day of pollination, so I need to stay with the daylily garden into early September to harvest the seeds. Plant-wise, I'll be enveloped into the orchid world from September to March. In March, daylily seedlings (started indoors) will go into the cold frame. Fireworks from the established daylilies will begin a few months later, but only after I've been thoroughly distracted by daffodils and tulips.

Gardening seems like it requires a great deal of patience, but I'm not so sure. I have orchids, daylilies, and other perennials at different stages of growth. I never need to be patient because there's always something in bloom, something in a death spiral, and everything in between. Every gardening day brings new challenges and joys, just like life. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vista Agave

Agave americana
Trixie and I were in Vista California for a relaxing vacation visiting friends and family. This gave me a chance to see all of the amazing landscaping efforts my parents have made in the last couple of years. Daylilies, Alstromeria, roses, orchids, and more. When my dad said that they had yellow daylilies, I assume they had 'Stella {{yawn}} de Oro,' but the lilies were much more impressive, with a bright color and 5-6" blooms.

An impressive Agave americana (century plant) sits in a neglected corner of the property. As a child, it always looked especially vicious and the bloom cycle seemed impossibly long (once every ten years!). The blooms go up about 30 feet and then fall down like a big tree. It dies after every bloom and then sends out pups. This plant has been loitering in that spot since at least the early 1970s. It's still impressive!

Friday, July 15, 2011

All That Glitters

This is 'Glitter Gal' (Mix 2005). I purchased it last year at the Topeka Daylily Sale. It's hard to believe that someone was willing to part with it, but it only produced three flowers for me this year and it might have done less for its last owner. It's a long way from the 6-way branching and 45 bud count promised in the catalogs. You have to have patience if you're going to court a glitter gal.

In other news, I'm on twitter. Follow me! But know I'm using it as an all-purpose account, so you'll find my political retweets and nutty Katy Perry updates right alongside the orchid and flower posts. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pollen Pushers

'Siloam David Kirchhoff'
I'm not the only one who collects pollen in the early morning. I compete with the insects, and they're probably having more luck than me. Some of my crosses have been a complete bust. I want to blame the weather, but I probably could've done a better job watering the garden. I took the resilience of the daylily for granted. The seed pods need hydrated soil to develp properly. 

'Fooled Me' x 'Pat Garrity' has produced nice pods and I'm almost confident I will have something to harvest in a few weeks. 'Janice Brown' x 'Beautiful Edgings' also shows promise. Other crosses might come through with a pod or two and, with a little luck, I'll have enough to fill the raised bed for next season. It's all a big experiment. Hybridizing daylilies might seem like it takes an extraordinary amount of patience, but it occurs with lightening fast speed compared to seed-to-flower time for orchids. And I kind of like the slow pace. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Love the Smell of Diethyl-meta-toluamide in the Morning

Early morning pollination
DEET doesn't smell like victory, but it allows me to leave the daylily garden without a ghastly array of chigger and mosquito bites. It's important for me to be outside during the summer months for at least two to three hours a day. The early morning is ideal. I collect daylily pollen, make crosses, water the orchids, take a few bird photos, and settle into work. Forgive me for talking about the weather, but the Midwest summer morning always seems like it's going to last longer than it does. For instance, it's a lovely 83 degrees right now and, although I know it's going to surpass 100 today, the perfection feels like it could last forever. Why wouldn't it?

'Beautiful Edgings' (Copenhaver 1989)
The extreme weather hurts the viability of my daylily crosses, but there's not much I can do. I made about twenty today and I will be happy if one or two set seed. Like so many things in gardening/life, hybridizing involves a balancing act. On one side, I'm playing a Darwinian numbers game. I want to make a large number of crosses in the hope that a smaller number of them survive. Then, I'll select from the best of the survivors the following season. On the other side, I don't want to make too many crosses because doing too much dilutes my efforts. My garden could produce nearly 100 hybrid combinations despite its small size, but when would I have time to water and care for the orchids? 
Here's my modest list of June crosses (the first name listed is the pod parent and the second name refers to the pollen parent):
'Early Snow' x 'Cosmic Sensation'
'Fooled Me' x 'Pat Garrity'
'Spacecoast Scrambled' x 'Royal Renaissance'
'Peach Candy' x 'Royal Renaissance'
'Cheddar Cheese' x 'Pat Garrity'
'Janice Brown' x 'Beautiful Edgings'
'Pat Garrity,' I hope, gives its offspring flatness and a giant red eye zone. I'm looking at 'Royal Renaissance,' 'Cosmic Sensation,' and 'Beautiful Edgings' to impart an awe-inspiring edge to their kids. The notion that my crosses will result in this greatness is wishful thinking (hence the Darwinian numbers game), but -- like the lottery -- you can't win if you don't play.
'Fooled Me' (Reilly-Hein 1990)
The month of June evaporated on me with unpredictable quickness, but July affords me more time to update you on the daylilies, the orchids and, of course, the kitties. Hello July!