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! 

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