Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Vorlon Encounter Suit

Vorlon Encounter Suit

(Sdlg# LBBAP47)

(Lavender Blue Baby x Apophis)

38” scapes - 6” flower - Diploid - Midseason - Diurnal - 3 branches - 21 buds - Dormant - Rebloom - Unusual form - Crispate

Wine purple petals and sepals, petals with black veins and faint purple black partial edge, with purple black eye becoming bright burgundy, black veining above the chartreuse to green throat.

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Named for the suits the Vorlon race wear to hide their appearance from the other races on the sci-fi television series Babylon 5, Vorlon Encounter Suit is dark, ribbed and mysterious like their suits and shows the glowing eye of fire like the open eye-port of the suit's helmet.  Vorlon Encounter Suit is a gorgeous flower and an excellent plant.

Vorlon Encounter Suit shows beautiful foliage of a deep green that looks good through the growing season and is senescent (dormant), going completely underground during the winter in my garden. The plant is vigorous, increases quickly and recovers well from division. The scapes are tall and hold up well with moderate branching and good bud count. I frequently see rebloom on Vorlon Encounter Suit, which adds to the display and makes for a long season of bloom. Occasional fall rebloom is a bonus on top of the long season.

The flower of Vorlon Encounter Suit is gorgeous. I did not expect this wonderful flower style and form to come from the first generation cross of Lavender Blue Baby. I expected something much rounder and less unusual, even with Brian Mahieu’s fine Apophis as pollen parent. The wine purple color is heavily veined with darker black/purple, which gives the flower an eye-catching appeal. The petals show a partial purple/black edge. The purple/black eye is very strong on the petals and fainter on the sepals. One the sepals, the eye fades into a bluish grey color as it moves toward the throat. On the petals, the purple/black eye is very striking, being visible from a distance. Up close, one sees the black/purple eye also shows the strong black veining of the petals. The eye fades as it moves into the throat becoming a burgundy-orange blend with the black veins still showing, continuing on down into the chartreuse throat. 

The form of the flower itself is also beautiful and interesting. On most days the sepals quill and the petals pinch creating a fascinating visual effect that sort of reminds me of the Imperial Lambda-class T-4a shuttles from the Star Wars movies universe. On other days there is no pinching to the petal ends and the petals are more cascade in shape. On some days it falls somewhere in-between the two extremes. It is beautiful in all its forms. The color holds well through the day. Most importantly, the flower is very sunfast and rain-fast, looking good on both sunny and rainy days at sunset in my garden.

Vorlon Encounter Suit is very fertile both ways, producing a great crop of seeds that germinate easily and grow quickly. The seedlings are very attractive, many being narrower than Vorlon Encounter Suit with others showing a gorgeous cascade style. Many are even more extreme and beautiful than Vorlon Encounter Suit. There is much potential in this cultivar for future breeding, both for gorgeous flowers and gorgeous plants, and continuing the wonderful Mahieu Apophis lineage. 

The plant of Vorlon Encounter Suit has consistently shown moderately high rust resistance, what I rate as a B+/B level (approximately 25% rust coverage or less), over the five years of rust resistance screening in my garden. It has been consistent in this level each year. In addition to breeding beautiful flowers and beautiful plants, Vorlon Encounter Suit has produced very rust resistant seedlings in my program when it is bred to plants with higher rust resistance than it shows, such as Substantial Returns or Lavender Feathers. Vorlon Encounter Suit also shows moderately high resistance to thrip/aphid predation in my garden and has produce seedlings that also demonstrate high resistance to these insect pests for me. High thrip resistance has been a rare trait in this color class in my garden.

Vorlon Encounter Suit is a very important plant for me, both as an attractive garden plant with good plant traits, but also as a breeding plant. It is important as a breeder, to me, for more than one reason. There is a backstory to this cultivar. Read on...
In 2010 as I had decided to start breeding daylilies after 35 years of growing daylilies, I began to look at daylily breeding programs to find lines that had visual traits, genetic traits and applied selection parameters that interested me. Chief amongst those programs was Brian Mahieu’s innovative program. Chief amongst Brian’s introductions was Apophis. As the cultivar was still very expensive and hard to locate at that time, I looked for seeds of crosses involving Apophis. Through the fall of 2010 and into the winter of 2011, I accessed 290 seeds deriving from various crosses with Apophis through the Lily Auction. Most of these seeds were accessed from Ed Hartsell of Kentucky. Of those 290 seeds, 47 were from Lavender Blue Baby x Apophis. Vorlon Encounter Suit is from those seeds.

Apophis was of interest to me because of its gorgeous flower and Brian’s observation that it could cross with tetraploids through proposed unreduced gametes, which was of interest to me at that time. Once I started germinating seeds from Apophis crosses, I noticed that compared to almost every other cross I was germinating that year indoors, Apophis crosses germinated incredibly vigorously, very quickly and at nearly 100%. I saved some seeds to germinate outdoors in the spring of 2011 and they showed the same characteristics outdoors also. From 290 seeds, I germinated and grew 289 seedlings. Further experimentation with the select seedlings from this group have shown that most of them also produce very vigorous seedlings, so this became an important focus for me with this line.

In the spring of 2012 there were several late freezes that revealed that many of these seedlings had very poor resistance to late freezes, with the foliage looking bad all year from the experience. By this time I had a small division of Apophis and it showed the same problem in my garden. In the summer and fall of 2012, I saw the first rust in my garden and most of the Apophis seedlings showed high susceptibility for rust. As I had tagged those with the best foliage, I was then able to make a massive culling, only retaining those with good foliage and low rust. None showed no rust/seeming-immunity, but a few showed moderately high resistance and I retained those. 

I had seen some flowers on many of the Apophis seedlings in 2012. Many of them were very beautiful, but a great number showed issues with thrip/aphid damage. The seedling that would become Vorlon Encounter Suit stood out by showing very little insect damage with very little damage from late freezes and subsequently turned out to be one of the few seedlings of the group to show moderately high rust resistance for me. I was very relieved, and excited, by that. There were a few other plants with pretty foliage, gorgeous flowers and good insect resistance that were culled that year for being highly rust susceptible. Vorlon Encounter Suit is the best of all 289 seedlings I raised from Apophis crosses that year. It has been the best plant on every level. I still have a few other seedlings from those 290 seeds, but none of them come close to Vorlon Encounter Suit for a gorgeous flower, a fine plant, pathogen resistance and all around garden value.

I set seeds on the seedling that became Vorlon Encounter Suit for the first time in 2012, and by 2013, I was able to note that its seedlings showed the great germination ability and vigor that the Apophis seedlings had shown. Over time I have noted that it also throws beautiful flowers on its seedlings and some seedlings also show much higher rust resistance than it shows when it is combined with more resistant cultivars. Vorlon Encounter Suit has been a very important breeder in my program and I think it will be in many other programs as well. Apophis was a breakthrough flower for Brian Mahieu’s breeding program and has many good traits. Vorlon Encounter Suit builds on that legacy, continuing those fine traits and increasing them.