Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hemerocallis fulva 'Korean'

Hemerocallis fulva ex Korea, 
Seoul National University, NA 54920

Species clone, not registered with AHS to date

This clone of Hemerocallis fulva is my favorite fulva clone, species clone and possibly my favorite daylily of all time. It is a very large, fine plant that spreads by short runners, but has never shown the fast-spreading growth of the common ditch lily, H. fulva ‘Europa’ in many locations within my garden. The Korean clone of fulva (Hemerocallis fulva ex Korea, Seoul National University, NA 54920) was collected by Darrel Apps and Barry Yinger on a 1984 collection trip to South Korea and is not a registered cultivar, as some fulva clones are such as ‘Hankow’ (Stout, 1939) . 

In an article in The Daylily Journal Vol. 43, No. 1 - Spring, 1988., in an article titled Korean Daylily Species by Darrel Apps and Lynn Batdorf is found this description of this fulva clones, on page 18, “Adventuresome hybridizers might be interested in one other plant found in Korea. Time after time in cultivation we saw a plant much like H. fulva 'Europa'. However, we also kept seeing a similar fulvous daylily of a brighter color. At Seoul National University we found what appeared to be a fertile form of H. fulva (the cultivar 'Europa' does not set seeds). This plant is labeled NA 54920. Its flower scapes were 46” tall and the flowers up to 5” in diameter. The throat of the flower was a clear yellow. It had a deep red eyezone and petals and tepals were orange, but with fulvous red veins. Although no attempts have been made to pollinate the flowers, some have formed pods and seem fertile.

 In that same article is also this statement in regards to the use of species material in hybridizing, on page 19, “Then there is always the plant that has been tampered with too much. Agronomists realized this when corn blight hit their non-resistant hybrids and nearly wiped out the whole crop. That kind of danger exists for daylily hybrids too. Usually species plants that have evolved over millions of years offer disease resistant germ plasm.” While this statement was not specifically made about this Korean form of fulva, it couldn’t have been more prescient, as rust wouldn’t appear in American gardens until twelve years after this article was written in 1988. More on that below.

The plants I grow of this clone is as described above in the Journal extract. It is much more attractive to me than ‘Europa’ or ‘Hankow’, and looks a tiny bit more like a selected hybrid than a wild clone to me. Of course, there is no way to know if it is a wild collected form or something that was bred or selected in Korea at some point in history. However, it gives every indication to me of being a clone of fulva, even if it is a selected or captive produced form.

The plant is large and attractive with chartreuse-green colored foliage that is quite golden in early spring, becoming more of a light green later in the year. The scapes are tall and fairly well branched for the species with an average of about three branches and a top Y. The scapes are tall and hold up well. In my garden, the plant behaves as fully senescent (dormant) going completely underground in most winters, though I have reports of it behaving as a 'semi-evergreen' in the deep south. While the plant spreads by runners it does make a large clump, but in spite of its size, it spreads a much shorter distance on each runner from the main clump than ‘Europa’ and it does not spread nearly as quickly or vigorously as ‘Europa’ in my garden. So far, it hasn’t escaped and eaten the countryside. Each clump of it I have, in different areas of the farm, is a clump with a few fans a short distance from the clump after more than five years.

This Korean form is thought to be a triploid. There is some thought that there was a diploid and a triploid brought to the US by Apps/Yinger in 1984 as “Korean fulva”, but to date I have not been able to find any information or plants of a smaller, more gracile diploid form and it is not mentioned in the Daylily Journal article from which I drew the above extracts. All plants of the ‘Korean’ fulva that I have been able to gather information on all fit the description from the extract above - tall, a bright orange flower with a bright yellow throat with a red eyezone and red veins on scapes around 4’ and a large plant. The plants of this clone that I grow derived from Dr. Joseph Halinar from Oregon who gave this description of it, “Very impressive flowers with a clear, crisp color, more red then typical of fulva. Produces unreduced gametes. So far I've only gotten seeds when pollinated with tets, but seems to cross to diploids as pollen. Seedlings tend to be fertile. Very useful for interploidy crosses.” Note that Dr. Halinar does not say if the plant is diploid or triploid.

Gil Stelter also grows this clone and has told me that the pictures of the flowers of mine appear identical to his and describes his plant as matching the Apps/Yinger description. Mr. Stelter sent samples of his plants to Jamie Gossard for flow cytometry testing, which showed it to be a triploid. I suspect this is accurate.

Regardless of exactly the ploidy of this clone, it is fertile, and fairly exceptionally so for a triploid, if that is what it in fact is. Dr. Halinar above described it as only fertile with tetraploids as a pod parent and fertile with diploids as a pollen parent. Mike Huben told me that he had crossed this clone with diploids with success. I have only ever used this cultivar to date as a pod parent and I have mainly used it with tetraploids. The only diploid pollen I have put on ‘Korean’ to date is Substantial Evidence, from which I got no pods at all. I have gotten large numbers of seeds for putting tetraploid pollen on ‘Korean’, with each pod having between three and eight seeds, and most flowers pollinated setting a pod with tetraploid pollen. I plan to do some sample crosses next year with its pollen on both dips and tets, and with dip pollen onto ‘Korean’. I will report any experiences here as an update.

The key to this cultivar in regards to breeding though, regardless of its ploidy level or its exact fertility combinations with other ploidy levels, is that it is a species clone with the ability to produce seedlings as a pod parent directly with tetraploid cultivars. This, to me, is extraordinarily important, as the tetraploid gene pool to date derives completely from conversion material. It was formerly thought that the tetraploid cultivars couldn’t be taken back to species clones without those species first being converted, or in rare cases of an unreduced gamete, maybe a pod with a seed or two could be produced from hundreds or thousands of pollination attempts on something like fulva ‘Europa’, fulva 'Hankow' or some H. citrina clones. The ability to now go back to species directly without conversion through the use of this fulva clone opens tremendous doors for widening and improving the gene pool of our tetraploid cultivars.

As if that weren’t enough though (and this ties back into the second quote from the Apps/Batdorf Journal article I quoted above) this ‘Korean’ form of fulva has shown itself to be extremely rust resistant in my own garden (seemingly-immune, in fact) through all five years of my rust resistance screening, and this is on multiple clumps in multiple locations, with very susceptible cultivars planted all around them and literally dripping rust on them, and yet, not one spot of rust sporulate has ever appeared on any of those clumps in my garden. Further, I have experienced very good breeding value from this cultivar for rust resistance, regularly seeing a higher than average percentage of resistant seedlings from it as pod parent, ranging from moderately high resistance through many with seeming-immunity over several years of screening. It is also the most useful plant I know for use in ‘salvage projects’, where a very resistant cultivar is crossed to a much lesser resistant cultivar in order to ‘salvage’ the flower traits of that lesser-resistant, fancy cultivar onto a more resistant background plant.

The seedlings I have produced from ‘Korean’ as pod parent crossed to tetraploid cultivars as pollen parent have a range of foliage color, ranging from light green to dark green, with many more being dark green than one might expect. The seedlings are very hardy, as is this ‘Korean’ clone, and the foliage has ranged from senescent (dormant) through semi-evergreen to evergreen, depending on the pollen parent’s foliage. All foliage types have been very hardy here. The majority of the seedlings I have produced seem to be quite frost tolerant and are what might be called ‘semi-evergreen’.

The flowers of seedlings are not as fancy as the fancy pollen parents, but they are considerably more advanced than I expected, with such traits as edges, patterns and colors other than orange coming through in the first generation. I have been very happy with them, and those F1 offspring crossed back to fancy types have been rather fancy. To go from species flower to modern face in two generations is exceptional in my opinion and is no longer than I have seen in outcrosses with such cultivars as Ancient Elf, Notify Ground Crew or Chicago Apache.

The only flaw I have found with his cultivar is that it can show susceptibility to thrip/aphid attacks in conditions where those insects are abundant, and in very severe infestations, there can be bud drop or scape loss, while in moderately heavy infestations there can be spotting and some twisting of the sepals. However, for all its good traits, it is worth working with in spite of this. Just mate it to things that don’t show this problem, or if you don’t have these insect predators or spray for them, then you won’t see any problem anyhow. I have gotten many seedlings much more insect resistant by just mating it with things more resistant to thrips/aphids.

Maybe I should say nothing about this cultivar and keep it and its many uses for myself, but I just can’t. I think it is too important to the long-term future of the tetraploid daylily gene pool. My recommendation - get it and use it! I would like to see every person breeding tetraploids use this Korean fulva clone to make at least one line by breeding it to their most advanced line(s). I am not asking anyone to make it the center of their program, but rather to just make one cross with what they consider their finest, maybe even making no more than eight or ten seeds (though certainly, make more if you want!) and use those F1 seedlings to take back into their finest lines, selecting the strongest seedlings, and where applicable, the most rust resistant. If even a few of us do this, it will be a boon to the future of the daylily, expanding the narrow gene pool of the tetraploid daylilies and possibly bringing in new phenotype genes we do not know about and that have never been explored in the domestic daylily. If you want to breed for rust resistance at the tetraploid level, you can't go wrong using fulva 'Korean'.

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.

For a complete list of available daylilies and pricing, click here.

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.

Lavender Feathers

Lavender Feathers
(Sdlg#  TFFLBB1)

(Texas Feathered Fancy x Lavender Blue Baby) 

20” - 5” - Dip - Mid - Diurnal - Br-2 - Bc-12 - Dormant - cristate and pleated -
Medium lavender with blue-purple eye and blue-purple to yellow cristation above chartreuse to green throat.

I will discontinue carrying Lavender Feathers as a regular stock item in 2022. For more information, see this post.

Lavender Feathers is named to honor both of its parents, Texas Feathered Fancy (pod parent) and Lavender Blue Baby (pollen parent), and has been an exemplary plant and flower here since its first flower in 2013. The flower is a lovely, clear lavender with blue hints toward the eye and on the cristations, above chartreuse moving down to a very green throat.

The flower also features consistent cristation on each flower. It has shown this trait from its first flower, and in each year it has flowered here in my garden, on all three petals of every flower it has produced to date. This was a major factor in my decision to introduce it, but not the only one. The flower is also frequently pleated, though this pleated sculpting trait is not 100% and seems to be more prominent in some years than others. When the petals pleat, they also often lift up, making a three-dimensional form much like a daffodil or some orchids. At other times, the flower is completely open without sculpting and then the flower can be quite flat. Sometimes there is also relief sculpting coming out of the throat and up past the cristations onto the petals. This relief is also inconsistent, but does occur at times. The pleating and relief are interesting, but the very consistent cristation is the most important feature of the flower.
The plant is a senescent (dormant) going completely underground here in the winter. The foliage is a nice, medium-dark green that is attractive and low to the ground. The plant multiplies moderately fast. The increase is not as fast as Substantial Returns, but it is not slow and does increase each year. Newly divided plants recover quickly, though it is usually the second year after division that the plant is fully established and shows its strong blooming habit. 

The established plant shows good scape to fan ratio. The scapes are sturdy and they average between 20” to 24” with two to three branches and a top Y on most scapes. The bud count averages between 12 to 18 buds, sometimes more on well-established plants. I have registered it with the lower end of its averages on scape height, branch count and bud count as it takes a couple of years to become established and show the higher numbers. Grown in better conditions than my hybridizing garden, with inputs of water, fertilizer and soil amendments, it will probably perform even better, showing even better numbers on all these counts.

Just as important as the consistent cristation and the nice plant is that Lavender Feathers shows extremely high rust resistance (seeming-immunity) to rust in my garden and has consistently shown this level of resistance from 2012 through 2016. Its rust resistance is much higher than either of its parents in my garden. More about this below. Lavender Feathers also shows moderate resistance to insects such as thrips and aphids (also more so than either of its parent), but it is not immune to these insect pests.

Lavender Feathers is fertile both ways with excellent, bright yellow pollen that sets pods on any pod-fertile plant I put it on. This makes it useful for spreading its consistent cristation and rust resistance traits onto many other plant lines. Lavender Feathers is also very pod fertile, setting a pod on almost every flower pollinated. I have produced literally hundreds of seedlings from Lavender Feathers as pod parent, and thousands as pollen parent. Being fertile both ways makes it very versatile and useful for many projects. 

In my own breeding work with Lavender Feathers, I have found it to be a very useful breeder. It has shown good breeding value for rust resistance in my experience, especially when combined with other cultivars that are highly resistant, but also producing some resistant seedlings when crossed to less resistant partners. It has also shown breeding value for the cristation trait. When bred to its half siblings (with Texas Feathered Fancy as the common parent of both) or backcrossed to its own offspring and grandchildren, I am seeing a range of beautiful flowers with cristation, many showing the same high consistency as Lavender Feathers. I have also noticed that Lavender Feathers can produce good resistance to insect pests in its seedlings when crossed with other plants showing high insect pest resistance. A few of its seedlings so far have exceeded its resistance to insect pests. Lavender Feathers seedlings have consistently shown fertility both ways as well. Its fertility both ways, consistent cristation, very high rust resistance and moderate insect resistance makes it a useful breeder for this interesting new type of daylily.

Lavender Feathers has an interesting backstory. It derives from a group of seeds, all from various crosses with Texas Feathered Fancy, that I bought on the Lily Auction in late fall 2010 or early winter 2011. There were 15 seeds in that group from Texas Feathered Fancy x Lavender Blue Baby (TFFxLBB). Lavender Blue Baby is one of the parents of Texas Feathered Fancy, so this was a backcross. From the 15 seeds of this cross, I germinated 12 and raised 12 seedlings in 2011. I did not see any blooms in 2012 on any of these seedlings, but by late summer of 2012, I had my first big rust outbreak. I used this to screen for resistance in the cultivars and seedlings I had on hand at that time. Of the 12 seedlings from TFFxLBB, only one showed any rust resistance and it showed no rust at all that year (or any year thereafter). I discarded all the susceptible seedlings (except one that showed moderate rust resistance, which is still in my mom’s garden that I have never bred from). This was very disheartening. I was certain there was no way I would possibly get any cristation from one seedling, but I kept it for the rust resistance alone (purple and lavender rust resistant daylilies are quite rare).

In 2013 I saw the first flowers on that TFFxLBB seedling - the very first flower showed double cristations on all three petals! I couldn’t believe it. You could have knocked me over with a (lavender) feather! Its pollen was also very yellow and looked good. I used its pollen all over the place that day, as I have on most days of hybridizing since. To this day I am still amazed to have gotten this seedling from the single rust resistant seedling that I kept. Such is the way of random genetic segregation.

Over the years, I have observed this seedling closely. It has been important to me to observe it over several years. I have divided it, spread it randomly into various parts of my gardens and surrounded it with highly rust-susceptible cultivars to see if I could give it rust. As of 2016, I have never been able to give it rust, not even when surrounded in a full ring by up to eight highly susceptible plants, literally covered in rust and raining spores down onto the leaves of Lavender Feathers. During the five years of screening, I have never seen a single speck of rust on Lavender Feathers and I have produced numerous seedlings from it that show equally high resistance when they too are surrounded by highly susceptible, infected plants.
As I have observed it for rust resistance, I have also closely observed its other traits. Lavender Feathers has consistently shown cristation on every flower, and this too have passed to many of its seedlings. The insect resistance has remained steadily moderate. The fertility both ways has remained consistent. I have also had it grown in a few gardens in the south where it has done very well and has shown the same consistent cristation, fertility and rust resistance as I have noted in my garden. Being from two southern-bred dormants, I am not surprised it has done well further south than my zone 6 garden. I have only so far placed it in one zone 5 northern garden and I am awaiting information in how it performs there and how well it survives the colder climate in that garden. I will update this when I have any report on its performance there.

Early on, when I began to realize what an exceptional plant the seedling that would become Lavender Feathers was, I obtained both parents to repeat the cross. I have since made hundreds of seedlings from the cross. Since both Texas Feathered Fancy and Lavender Blue Baby are fertile both ways, I have made the cross many times in both directions. Yet out of all the seedlings I have produced from the repeat cross, I have never produced a seedling with all the traits that Lavender Feathers shows combined into one plant. I have produced a few seedlings from this cross with rust resistance as high as Lavender Feathers exhibits, and I have produced a few seedlings with cristation nearly as consistent as Lavender Feathers shows (though not quite), but never combined into one plant as in Lavender Feathers.

Both Texas Feathered Fancy and Lavender Blue Baby show moderate rust susceptibility (or you can call it moderate rust resistance), but neither show anything approaching seeming-immunity. As well, Lavender Baby Blue occasionally shows one cristation on a petal or two, while Texas Feathered Fancy frequently shows cristation but does not consistently show the trait on every flower or always on every petal. 

I remember speaking to a friend about Lavender Feathers back when it was an unnamed seedling. My friend has also grown both of its parents and had found them to show a lot of rust in his garden. He was incredulous that they could produce a seedling as resistant as Lavender Feathers has been in my garden. I explained to him that it is well-known from rust research in wheat that some resistance genes can be recessive. It is possible then that some rust resistance genes can be recessive in Hemerocallis as well. 
I suspect that since both Lavender Blue Baby and Texas Feathered Fancy don’t show extremely high susceptibility (moderate susceptibility, which is also moderate resistance) they likely carry some genes for resistance. Perhaps they both have one dose of a dosage-specific dominant gene, or they have one or more recessive genes heterozygous, or they have some combination of homozygous and heterozygous recessive and/or dominant resistance genes blended in such a way that it results in partial resistance. In any such example, Lavender Feathers may represent the segregant offspring that has all those genes (or enough of them) present and homozygous to create a much stronger phenotype (and higher breeding value) than is seen in either parent.

I suspect the same would hold true for the cristation trait as well. My experiences with this phenotype seems to indicate that the trait is recessive. Whether it is a single gene, a major single gene combined with lesser modifier genes or an interaction of several major genes, I can’t say. All I can say is that when I outcross Lavender Feathers to unrelated, non-cristated stock I do not see cristation in the F1. When those F1 are interbred or are backcrossed to Lavender Feathers, I see less than the 25% or 50% (respectively) that I would expect to see if there were only a single recessive gene present. My guess is that there is more than one gene at work, with the major gene(s) being recessive. We know that Lavender Blue Baby is carrying genes for cristation. The same seems true for Texas Feathered Fancy, as well, with it perhaps having somewhat more homozygosity for various genes than its parent Lavender Blue Baby. My best guess is that Lavender Feathers, being a back cross of TFFxLBB, would appear to be a chance segregant having more homozygosity for the cristation gene(s) than both parents, thus more stability for the trait and better breeding value for it also.

Over the years, while I knew that the seedling that became Lavender Feathers was good enough to introduce, I didn’t know if I would or not, but I kept asking myself two important questions. 1). If this seedling did not have cristation, but was simply a purple with this level of rust resistance, would I introduce it?, and 2). If this seedling had this level of cristation consistency but was less rust resistance, would I consider introducing it? The answer to both questions was always yes, especially to the first question. So with both of these traits combined, along with an easy to grow plant that looks good, I couldn’t bring myself to keep it hidden away. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Growing Daylilies Part 1

Growing Daylilies
Part 1
The Basics

There is no plant easier to grow than the daylily...provided you select the right daylily cultivar for your area or needs. While many daylilies will do well in almost any situation or garden setting, some can be touchier than others or require more care. This is certainly not to degrade or criticize more difficult types, but simply to help the newcomer to growing daylilies understand something of the variations that exist within the 70,000+ registered cultivars and the various species clones they might run across when shopping for plants to grow in their garden.

While many daylilies are offered in commerce, there is rarely any information offered as to the variations within those made available, as though all daylilies are a one-size-fits-all for care and performance. In this post I hope to make a general outline of some of the variations to look for when choosing daylilies for your needs.

To make this article effective, I will make some distinctions within the Hemerocallis by various attributes so that we can make some general guidelines for your use. To whit, species vs hybrid, spreading vs clumping, age of introduction, ploidy level, foliage type, flower size, scape height and flower complexity all play a role in the ease and potential uses for a given daylily in your garden. There are certainly other factors that can come into play, but these are good general categories to start with. For descriptions of specific cultivars, be sure to read through the descriptions here on this blog of the cultivars I offer. These descriptions of my anecdotal experiences with these cultivars will remain on the blog even if I stop offering one or more of them, in order to provide an informational resource to growers.

To start, it is important to understand that the majority of daylilies grown in cultivation in North American gardens are hybrids that derive from crossing the various species clones together. This was begun in the 1890's in England and was taken up by American horticulturalists with gusto in the early 1900's. A. B. Stout is considered the father of the hybrid daylily and did much of the early leg-work to lay the foundation for what we have today.

A good number of the species are still available today. The most well known is the dreaded 'ditch lily', Hemerocallis fulva var. 'Europa'. This vigorous running fulva clone is a triploid (triple chromosomes) that is ubiquitous and invasive. It is excellent for retaining banks, stopping soil erosion and can survive in almost any situation. It is escaped into vast areas of the continental US and is considered an invasive weed in many areas and is much despised by many, yet many of the traits we so value in the hybrid daylilies likely owe their origin to fulva 'Europa', as Stout made a concerted effort to use it in his early hybridizing work and it is ancestral to many hybrids. However, the early breeders made a concerted effort to breed the spreading habit out of the descendants of 'Europa' and so the vast majority of them so now running habit, instead being clump forming plants like the other species types in their ancestry.

The fulva clones make up one of the two main branches of daylily species - the 'orange' category (though some are more red and others pink). In addition to H. fulva 'Europa', there are other clones of the fulva species in cultivation, such as var. 'rosea'. var. 'Cypriani', var. 'Hankow', var. 'Korean', var. 'Chengtu' etc. These all spread from runners, but none have been shown to be as invasive as the ubiquitous ditch lily 'Europa'. All are excellent for large mass plantings, difficult areas and erosion control. While 'Europa' may be difficult in a garden, the others tend to be much better behaved and can make attractive garden planting, being hardy, adaptable and resilient over the majority of North America.

The second categories are the yellow species and their clones, such as H. dumortierii, H. citrina, H. multiflora, H. minor, H. vespertina, H. altissima, etc. They tend toward small flowers of gold to yellow color. The scapes can vary from short and top-branched to tall and heavily branched with many flowers. The flowers tend to be trumpet shaped and have a wildflower look that is charming in the garden. Foliage types and quality varies from species to species, but several are attractive, especially H. citrina and H. vespertina. For more on the species, click here. Many of the yellow species make a nice addition to the garden and are easy to grow.

The hybrids descend from crossing the species in various ways and then interbreeding those interspecies hybrids, selecting for desirable traits such as interesting flower traits and better garden performance. Due to this selection, many cultivars may have more garden value than the species, even amongst the oldest cultivars, because undesirable traits such as the trumpet shaped flowers, night blooming flowers or spreading root runners that can become invasive have been selected out of the garden hybrids. Also, traits such as interesting color combinations, outward facing and more flat-opening flowers, more rounded or more extremely elongated petals on the flowers can often be found in hybrids, even the older ones. None of this means the species don't have garden value though, and there are undoubtedly settings where one of the species or another would be very desirable.

As a generalization, many of the older hybrid cultivars are very durable, but this is not to be taken as a fact for them all. While some of the more modern hybrids are more delicate and demand more care, some of them are also very hardy and durable. However, with the older cultivars, there is more of a 'track-record' in regards to how they have performed over the years in many gardens and in many climates and environments. Time will prove the durability and survivability of new cultivars, but it is best for the average gardener to work with tried-and-true cultivars to be sure they are purchasing plants that fit their needs. The same may also apply at the beginning of a breeding program. However, for collectors, advanced breeders or specialists, this information won't necessarily apply and while they may grow and breed from some of the older cultivars, they will often be focused on the newest and most extreme things. These people will usually know how to deal with touchier plants though, should something new and very desirable prove to be difficult.

There are two main ploidy levels (number of chromosome sets) found in daylilies: diploid (two sets) and tetraploids (four sets). There are other ploidy levels, but the vast majority of cultivars will be 'dips' or 'tets'.  Most of the species are diploids (with some of the fulva clones being triploids) and most of the older cultivars are also diploids. The tetraploids were made by converting diploid plants to tetraploid (chromosome doubling) through the use of mutagens (usually colchicine). The tetraploids have been around since at least the 50's, but really didn't get going until later. By the 80's there were beginning to be a good few of them, and now they are more popular, with more tetraploids being introduced than diploids. I like both types and work with both, though I am a bit more focused on tetraploids.

The diploids are typically more gracile than the tetraploids, which are more robust, typically have thicker scapes, thicker petals and larger plants. However, things are not always so cut-and-dry, and there are exceptions to every rule. The oldest cultivars, well up into the 1970's will be almost exclusively diploid. The tetraploids of the 1980's, 1990's and early 2000's are well-known, tested in many gardens. Talk to people, read about their experiences with various cultivars. Find out what is working for a good many people and that may well be a reliable plant for your garden, though gardens and environments vary. Always be aware that what works in one garden may not work in yours, as conditions may vary just enough to cause a difference in performance. Some plants also perform better in warm climates, while some do better in climates with cold winters.

This brings us to foliage types. There are three registry categories of foliage type - dormant, semi-evergreen and evergreen. These are not scientific classifications. While I am sure every hybridizer makes every effort to register their introductions accurately based upon the plant's performance in their garden, the truth is that foliage performance is more of a continuous range of variation and really doesn't fit nicely into three discrete categories. 

There are extreme ends of that continuous range that seem are quite noticeable and distinguishable in most gardens. The term I prefer for the 'dormant' end is senescent, which means that the leaves all die off in the winter and the plant is either not visible above ground or only a small amount remains as a visible bud or tiny plantlet.  At the other end are those plants that do not stop growing and their leaves do not die off. Their leaves may be killed back due to winter conditions, but as soon as the nights are above 40 degrees or so, they will begin growing again. These could be considered evergreen, though that is perhaps not exactly accurate, scientifically speaking. The vast middle seems to be plants that fall in a variable range in-between these extremes. These might be registered as 'dormant', 'evergreen' or 'semi-evergreen'. They can be variable based upon the climate they are grown in. Ideally, semi-evergreen plants retain some of the plant above ground through the winter but are not in continuous growth. 

However, there can be considerable variation between the visual presentation of foliage type amongst many daylilies depending on the climate they are grown in. Some plants that "go dormant" in winter in a cold-climate garden may present as "semi-evergreen" in a warm-winter garden. Some semi-evergreen types in the south may have leaves senesce in the north. Some southern 'dormant' types aren't really fully senescent in the north. We see all these variations amongst the various species as well. 

You will often hear the generalization that "dormants are hardy in the north but not in the south and evergreens are hardy in the south but not in the north, with semi-evergreen types being hardy in both". This is of course a gross over-simplification, but there is a bit of truth in it. It is true that some evergreens are tender in the north and don't survive or at least fail to thrive without location in a microclimate or some heat/mulch/assistance through harsh winters. It is also true that some of the senescent ('dormant') types don't survive or at least fail to thrive in the south. 

However, it is not true for them all and such blank generalizations aren't really helpful. Each grower will have to experiment a bit to determine what thrives in their particular garden and and what level of care they wish to provide. Not everyone is going to want to spend the winter running about with frost-blankets. Not every grower is going to want to mulch twice each year. Not everyone is going to want to spend a lot of money for plants that don't then flourish and put on a show, but instead demand large inputs of time and effort. Some growers will just want to plant some daylilies and simply enjoy them, and that is fine. There are daylilies that will perform well under low-care, typical yard/garden situations. 

While collectors and breeders may be willing to apply extra effort to keep a special plant thriving, we can't expect that of the general gardening public - folks who may have busy lives that don't revolve around daylilies. There are many, many daylilies that can work in many garden situations. No matter what your garden design there is a daylily that will work. When I hear gardeners say they 'don't like daylilies', I always ask them questions about why. Time and again, they tell me about buying a daylily for a specific purpose that doesn't work out and it is almost always because they picked the wrong types of daylilies. Knowing both what your needs are and what daylilies will fit that need are essential in having a good experience.

Foliage type is often a very contentious issue within the daylily world. In general, most senescent (dormant - deciduous) types will do well in cold-winter gardens, while most semi-evergreen and evergreen types will do well in warm-winter gardens. This is not an absolute rule, as some of each type will flourish in most areas, but if you are concerned, start with the types that almost always do well in your area and then experiment with other foliage types, starting with those of other foliage types that do well in your area or that are known and noted by many growers to do well in climates similar to yours. From there, if you are happy with those and you 'get the daylily bug', you may begin to experiment with cultivars that you aren't certain of, because by that time you may be willing to take the risk, to apply the extra input and effort if you end up with something more difficult, or willing to let a difficult plant pass if it doesn't work out. At any rate, your experience with daylilies won't be soured from the get-go because you started with the wrong type(s) and observed a failure and possibly even the loss of a fair amount of money.

The final points I want to look at concern the flower and its uses and display in the garden. Flower size is a very important factor. Many modern cultivars show very large flowers. This is currently a popular trend in daylily breeder, but large flowers that wilt at the end of each day also can create a large sticky, wet mess draped across the remaining flower buds that will have to be cleaned off in order for the next flowers to open. Large flowers are beautiful and I have quite a few, but they take daily maintenance to not be a mess. If you do not have the time or inclination to pick off wasted flowers (called deadheading) each evening or first thing the next morning, then stay with smaller flowered cultivars. 

For most garden uses, smaller flowers may be preferable as they are often self-cleaning, with the flower of the previous day closing up and not draping over the remaining buds. I find that flowers of about 5" or smaller are best for average garden or homeowner use around the yard. These look clean and don't require a lot of extra care each day. 

Scape height is another consideration. Scape height can vary from as little as 8" all the way up to 6' tall. A short scape is lost behind tall plants, while a tall plant will not generally work in the front border. Plan your selections to work in the area of the garden you want them to grow by selecting wisely when it comes to scape height, but also be aware that scape height can vary on any given cultivar. Was it bred and grown in Florida? Then the scape may be shorter than the registered height in Ohio, and vice-versa. Late freezes can cause scapes to be shorter than average, as can drought conditions during scape formation. A newly planted division may not reach its full scape height its first or even its second year. Some daylilies settle in within the space of a year, but some take longer, up to two years or even three in some particularly finicky cultivars.

In addition to scape height, there is branching and bud count to consider. The more branches and buds a cultivar has the more grand the display in your garden will be and the longer it will last. A notable exception is cultivars that show a strong reblooming trait, such as Stella De Oro, Kanai Sensei or Substantial Returns, wherein several sets of scapes are produced in succession so you still get a long display even with few branches and buds.

I am often told by some gardeners that they find many modern daylilies garish and too loud in the landscape. While I don't agree (obviously) I do understand where they are coming from, but I then begin to explain to them that there are many types of daylilies other than the large flowered, overly ornate fancy types that are most often promoted today (and I do love those, by the way...) There are amazing cultivars with tall scapes with many branches and small flowers that can give an incredible spray of almost wildflower-like background color. There are short cultivars that have small flowers with wonderful use in the fronts of gardens, as borders or in pots on porches or balconies. Always remember that almost any combination of flower size and scape height you can imagine exists in the daylily world and with the versatility found within the hybrids and species of the genus Hemerocallis, there really is a daylily for every situation and every taste. Don't just buy what is currently popular. Take the time to find what will work for you.

In the next installment we will look at use of daylily color in the landscape. For use in the garden, self colored flowers are the most useful as background fill or for mass plantings. Bicolors and bitones can also make an attractive mass planting. Detailed or patterned types such as eye/edge, patterned eyes, edge no eye or those showing heavy ruffling, teeth, pie-crust or sculptural traits will often work best as specimen plants, loosing some of their specialness when en mass.

To read more about various types of daylilies for specific uses click here to read about Daylily Categories, or go directly to such topics as Breeding Uses, Garden Standouts, Interesting Flower Traits or Rust Resistance and Tolerance.