Sunday, March 3, 2019

Bringing Light Into the Garden

Bringing Light Into the Garden

Seeing Sky Phenomena of Light and Color Reflected in the Garden

A Guide to Observation and Planting

The winter edition of The Daylily Journal (Vol. 73 No. 4 | Winter 2018 | beginning on page 44 ) contains an article I wrote titled Sky Inspired: The Imitation of Light in the Garden with Flowers. In this article I discuss how I view flower colors, and I make recommendations for viewing your garden in terms of sky effects. These sky effects are made by the combined atmospheric influences of water and light. It is an interesting way to view plantings and is a tool I have used in viewing many different styles of gardens. It is a viewpoint heavily influenced by Asian gardens, especially Zen gardens, Taoist gardens and any and all water features from all cultures that use them. To plant a daylily garden in this manner, for me, is to simply extend my interest of viewing gardens in this way into the arrangement of my breeding program. In this way, I can have a productive and relaxing environment that is both aesthetically pleasing and conducive to the kind of long, slow, patient work that is required for the type of program I am working on. I hope you enjoy the view.

Hemerocallis 'So Lovely' in front of variegated reed grass. A tall, pale yellow that approaches near-white by the afternoon.

While I offered observations on how to use the viewpoint of seeing lighting and water effects in flower colors and planting arrangements, I didn't offer much advice on how to plant such a garden. I want to do that herein. Now, if you have an established garden and like it, I would never encourage to move so much as one fan in that garden to make it match what I am describing. This is how I plant gardens. You need to decide how to plant your own gardens. If you want to take something from what I am presenting, I wish you well with it, but I would never expect someone with an established garden to make any changes whatsoever. Perish the thought! If you have an established garden, I would recommend that you simply try using this garden aesthetic when viewing gardens. See if you can see instances where this effect is in play. You might enjoy the view, or not, and you might even find your gardens already have some of this effect at work. I enjoy viewing gardens that were not designed in this way using this viewing technique as much as I like viewing a garden that has been intentionally designed to encapsulate light and reflect the sky. Just try looking at gardens in this way sometime and see if you don't find it relaxing and enjoyable.

Hemerocallis 'Solaris Symmetry'

However, for beginners or people looking to make changes in their gardens, this might be just the viewpoint that makes their design come together. If that is you, you may need some instructions for planting such a garden. Herein I hope to offer some guidelines for planting.

Daylilies seem to me to be especially useful in making a garden that reflects the sky. The fact that no individual flower lasts more than a day means that there is daily change in the sky effects in the garden, just as there so often is in the sky. The range of seasons that can be covered with daylilies can create a range of changing sky effects throughout the entire season. There are many readily available daylilies in a wide range of colors, but there are a great number of wonderful cultivars in a range of yellow and cream tones that are bright and mimic sunlight very well. In mass plantings they can brighten and lighten any dull area. As background plantings, they present the perfect bright background to highlight any accent planting. Further, the pale colored flowers (near-white, cream, pale yellow) tend to hold up better in heat and sun than any of the darker colors, even the darker tones of their own color. To me, these colors are the most important for landscaping purposes, garden use and background planting.

Hemerocallis 'Solaris Symmetry'

Having grown daylilies for over four decades, I have experimented with this style of planting for a long time. Long before I ever thought I might seriously breed daylilies. Since yellow is such an abundant color in daylilies, I have grown lots of them, and I have long used pale yellows and cream colored flowers to extend light into dark or bland areas of the garden through mass planting. While some daylilies make striking accent plantings, many are very useful in mass plantings. Those in self colors and light or near-neutral colors can make large impacts, brightening neutral green foliage and creating a background upon which accent plantings are then "lit" by the bright pale colors, as if on display. But it is important to remember that all cultivars aren't created equally. While you may have to work with what you have, if you want to make a new planting, take some time to read up on daylily cultivars and find cultivars which have foliage behavior that matches your climate and that show good garden traits like sun and rain resistance, resistance to local pathogens and superior flowering traits such as high bud count or reblooming behavior in your climate zone.

In selecting any plant for a background planting, try to make a good selection, as you will have this cultivar in abundance. It can be miserable to be stuck with a lot of something that doesn't perform well in your garden!

Note how the layers of near-white flowers mimic the sky peaking from behind the trees in the background.

As I describe in the original AHS Journal article, there are many sky effects that can be mimicked, from cool, cloudy effects to morning sunrise, morning full sun, afternoon sun, evening sun and clouds, sunset, even night effects, as well as plantings to be seen at night. No matter what sky-inspired effect you might choose for your planting, you will want to consider the use of a main cultivar, or set of cultivars, to become the background. For instance, you might want "summer sunrise" and pick "pink" to be your background. Then you could use a range if different pink cultivars or select one main cultivar for a mass planting with accent plants spread through them. Accents could be drastically different shades of pink (lighter or darker), dark flowers, special shapes, etc. In a regular garden, you can do this same thing with mixed perennials (and annuals if you want). This isn't a technique exclusively for daylily gardens, but a general technique being used to describe potential daylily plantings. So know you can substitute "daylily" for whatever genus you want to use, and produce these same effects.

The most successful background plantings in my experience are not always technically 'in the background'. Above, the mass planting of shorter, pink Hemerocallis 'Hush Little Baby' provides a base or background for the lighter and darker tall cultivars behind it. Height variations work really well to create three-dimensional effects with light and color.

To me, the key to landscape plantings to create such effects is to use mass plantings of climatic-appropriate cultivars. Cultivars must be applicable to your environment for good results. Then use a handful of accent plants, again climate-appropriate, and intersperse these so that they are surrounded by the background plants. Let the background plants carry throughout the planting, using either one cultivar, perhaps a rebloomer that performs well, or using several cultivars mixed for the background to cover a wider season. Depending no your planting, my might choose the background plants to be shorter than the accent plants, to be taller than the accent plants (for a literal background row) or be a mixture of similarly colored cultivars in varying heights for a more loose, roaming effect in the planting.

The following series of images seek to illustrate some of the sky-influenced themes I have created, sometimes intentionally and sometimes inadvertently. With even a little creativity, you can make landscapes that look even better than my seedling beds and breeding gardens. I am not even trying to have a wonderful garden anymore, just to breed daylilies, so with a little creativity, you can take these ideas and run with them. 

(More text and planting suggestions below the series of images)

Hemerocallis 'Radiant Moonbeam' - a well-known, vigorous near white

The most classic example of gardens that utilize light, intentionally or not, are 'White gardens'. The famous white garden room of Sissinghurst Garden by Vita Sackville-West is an excellent example of such a garden. As with most white gardens, it must be lovely both under a full moon and in bright morning sunlight!

White gardens are one of my favorite themes, but technically speaking, they are hard to do with daylilies because there are few (if any) truly white daylilies. "White daylilies", more correctly 'near-white' are likely just yellow or melon based flowers that have genetic factors shutting off much of their pigment production, creating colors that are very pale versions of daylily flowers in pink, lavender, yellow or cream. I have never seen one that, side-by-side with a white piece of paper, are white.

Hemerocallis 'Heavenly Angel Ice' 

One of the closet to true white that I have grown. In breeding, HAI has thrown lots of nice purple and lavender seedlings for me. I think that HAI is basically a diluted lavender. Brian Mahieu suggested years ago that the whitest whites would be on purple/lavender tones. This was Brian's view from an artist's understanding of the visual and psychological effects of color. As an artist I have the same view. The bluish nature of some purple tones are viewed by our eyes as cool and closer to white. I suspect there are a bunch of dilution factors combined to create flowers that are anthocyanic colors, but are diluted down to near white.

Hemerocallis 'Mini Pearl'

A nice small cultivar that shows large numbers of buds in the mid-season, is a lovely pale melon (dilution with melon pigment change from carotene). This color gives a gentle glow in mass plantings. This color looks good in the warmer, midday background. Mingled with yellow and orange accent flowers, the melon dilutes the effect and makes it more diffuse and less blazing hot.

The picture above feels like morning sunrise, softer than sunset with more pastel tones, there is the feeling of sunlight rising through a fringe of dark clouds, light in the distance, threatening to emerge, and rosy in the dark clouds.

Bright, early morning sun striking the tall plantings in the background, but leaving this little enclave of purple, lavender and near-white cultivars in  reflected light, but shadowed, enhancing the bluish tones and pulling the brightness of the distant, approaching sun into this early morning display. The flowers are at their freshest, starting out the day in the misty light of a cool late spring morning. The colors evoke the mist and the light that makes it possible to see that mist.

Hemerocallis 'Substantial Substance'

As we progress to a warm, midday color scheme, brighter yellows can become an important backbone to the rest of the planting. These scream 'midday', to me! Combined with color colors, they will brighten, and with warmer colors, they will enhance the overall effect of warmth. Medium, bright yellow daylily flowers have many, many uses in the garden.

Hemerocallis 'Substantial Glow'

This bright, 'acid-orange' is a wonderful background fill to create a hot, tropical feeling. Combined with cooler accents, is can feel like soft afternoon light, or with hotter colors, the tropical warmth of Tahiti.

Hemerocallis 'Frans Hals' 

Long used in landscaping and the second most popular daylily next to Stella DeOro in commercial daylily use, Frans Hals is far older, and in many ways, far superior to Stella. Everything about Frans Hals screams 'tropical', and it is an incredibly tough and adaptable daylily. For afternoon sky colors in the mid-late to late season, Frans Hals can't be beat.

This is a garden designed to mimic both the summer sunset and the paintings of the artist Paul Gauguin, from his Tahitian phase.  The bright yellow central planting is the sun itself. The purple waves around it are clouds darkening as sunset approaches, while the bright orange is the heat and light of the sun as it burns into the atmosphere at an angle, creating the fiery glow. The mingling of pink with orange enhances the atmospheric effect, while the bits of yellow in the far distance simulate light hitting high clouds and reflecting brightly. On the mundane level, the banana trees in the background give one a sense of being in a tropical setting, which the bright colors enhance. In this way the planting is both cerebral and sensual in its impact and effect.

This combination of the red Hemerocallis 'Insider Trading' and variegated reed grass has a candy cane Christmas feel, but can also be seen as a bright red sunrise or sunset with clouds high in the sky.

Bright sunset tones, hot rich red and bright magenta purple, create the effect of a bright, hot sunset.

And here, a more pastel version of the above theme, gives a softer feel, more akin to a soft sunrise or sunset, with light filtering through clouds, creating an array of pastel tones.

Hemerocallis 'Asterisk'

Some daylilies come in an array of lovely gray/lavender tones that mimic  cloudy days. In mass planting of these grayish tones, near-white and near-black flowers can make a striking and stormy accent! While subtle, the colors of cloudy days and storms make an interesting theme.

Near black flowers can be very striking in the landscape. They bring dark clouds and a reminder of night into gardens with any lighting theme. There can be drawbacks to dark flowers though. Flowers of such intense pigmentation draw solar radiation and the surfaces of the petals can be many degrees warmer than the general surrounding. For this reason, many of the darker daylily flowers, including dark red, purple and the super concentrated 'near-black' types can melt in the hot sun of summer. I have not seen many with very high resistance to this effect. Growing them in shade helps, but that tends to suppress flowering and increase. I love them, but grow them sparingly. I have been working on this problem of melting dark flowers in my own work with some success, but I do not know if they can ever show the kind of resistance a pale yellow or near white flower shows, merely due to the cooling and reflective effect of the palest flowers.

The combination of high contrast values can make for very interesting and stimulating combinations. Here, the dark colored Hemerocallis 'Vorlon Encounter Suit' and Hemerocallis 'Vorlon Revelation'. With careful selection, I think a garden of near-black and near-white flowers laid out as a chessboard could be quite interesting! However, by just using one as a background and the other as an accent, you can make very dramatic plantings. Be careful in selecting plantings to make sure both cultivars are appropriate to your climate and that both flower at the same time. You might want to stagger some plantings for seasonal variation, but if you need two cultivars in bloom at the same time to make a particular effect, then you need to be careful in selecting the cultivars for time of flower and suitability to your area. Black and white always reminds me of dark clouds with light shining through them. The combination of black and white flowers for nighttime viewing, where evening lighting is present or for use under the full moon, can be very striking, as the near-white flowers glow in the light, while the near-black flowers absorb the light and seem sort of predatory and a touch spooky, like bats perhaps. It is an interesting effect, and another use of light (or its absence).

One final lighting effect is darkness itself. Under lighting or the moon, yellow, near-white and cream tones glow. They should! Their yellow species ancestors evolved to be pollinated by moths. In gardens near patios or in special areas that can be lit, nighttime gardens can be extremely wonderful, as can gardens that are viewed by the moon. Nocturnal daylilies such as Hemerocallis 'Notify Ground Crew' begin opening in the late evening and stay open all night, often far into the next day. In my experience, near-white nocturnal daylilies are extremely pretty under either artificial lighting or under the moon.

Now lets consider planting strategies to create good daylily plantings.

An individual daylily can be attractive as an accent planting, if it has very good foliage characteristics. In group plantings, foliage should still be nice, but may in many instances be hidden by clumps in front of them or by other plants, and so foliage traits might be less of a focus for some (though not really for me - I mention it because I have seen plants with foliage I don't like used well in landscapes by judicious placement). I can't stress enough that selecting strong cultivars with foliage behavior suitable for your climate is imperative. 

Once you have a color scheme, select one or more background cultivars and procure multiple divisions of each, either by purchasing or digging your own clumps and dividing them into multiple divisions. Mix other genera of flowering plants with your daylilies if you like. Take stock of all the materials you have for the area you will be planting.

Get the measurement of the area you have to plant and figure out how thick you want to plant the divisions you have to work with. I prefer to plant daylilies in alternating rows. If row one has plants at 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc., then the next row has plants at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, etc. The third row then returns to the same pattern as the first. This creates an X-shaped grid planting and gives the daylilies better spacing. I prefer that no daylily is closer than 24" from any other daylily around it, but with smaller cultivars or in smaller spaces, you might squeeze them into as little as 12" apart in each direction. For very large daylily cultivars like Notify Ground Crew or Eos At Dawn, a larger spacing of 2 1/2' to 3' in each direction is best. Do your research to determine the spacing grid you will need, then proceed to plant in the X-grid formation. You can break up the outer edge of the grid so that it is not too symmetrical, if you want a more natural feeling or you can use the X-grid to do more symmetrical or formal arrangements.

Depending on your area, you may choose many different ways to form the garden. If on level ground from which you can approach the accent plants from any direction, use shorter background fill cultivars to allow the accent plants to be on display. If you are working with an incline, you can play with heights to get different effects. In situations where you are working from a viewing edge to a terminal endpoint such as a wall or other border, work from short to medium to tall, just as you would in a traditional walled perennial garden. In that setting, you can use accent and background in every layer and at every height. If you are working with containers on a patio or enclosed garden, use whatever strikes your fancy, keeping in mind that you might have a very good situation for using nocturnal flowers for night viewing and that both short and tall cultivars could have applications.

The background plants do not have to all be the same, but if they are close in color or tone or fit into a theme (say shades of a color that move from darker to lighter versions) they will tie the planting together into something that makes sense up close and at a distance. The accent plant can be one cultivar, or multiple cultivars. Do what you want with the accent plants, but some sense of theme amongst them will make the planting have more cohesion. Examples would be all light colored background and all dark colored accent, or all simple, short pale background plants with toothy edged, taller accent plants, as just two examples.

Regardless of what you decide to combine, remember that it is your garden. Do what makes you happy. If playing with light in the garden makes you happy, then by all means give it a try. If you have a planted garden and don't want to change your own wonderful themes, then just try viewing gardens as manifestations of lighting and atmospheric effects and enjoy the show.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

2019 - Looking Forward

2019 - Looking Forward

The View from the Garden and Plans for the Breeding Season

2019 will be the ninth year of my program and the eighth year of breeding in my own garden. 

As I mentioned in my post on the 2018 season, the majority of the gardens here had major reworking last year, so the gardens will not be at their peak this year. Only the seedling beds will be a source of continual excitement. For anyone hoping to see a good display, 2019 probably isn't going to be the best year to visit. For those who are interested in the selection process I use, it might be an informative year, but all of my best, older seedlings have been split up for line out and further testing. In my experience first year line outs of a fan or two do not give much of a show, but it is important to me to make observations of this stage, as some few do much better after division than most, with most being average, and a few then showing very poor performance in their first year after line out (possibly being eliminated, if it is bad enough). 

My personal gardens don't include any real display gardens. When the hybridizing garden and line out beds are fully grown, they can be quite spectacular, but aren't really laid out to be public spaces. They are laid out to be convenient to work in. I expect things to begin to be partially regrown in 2020, with the garden again at peak growth by 2021. The reorganization I have made to the line out bed, and that I will continue to work on over the next couple of years, should lead to a much nicer space for viewing my plants. If I were prone to betting, I would bet on 2021 being the right year to visit to see the gardens looking full and nice again. 

Korean Queen, above and below, in 2015 as a mature seedling clump. It was moved from this seedling bed into my hybridizing garden in the fall of 2015 for further testing. Shot above is in the late afternoon, while the one below is earlier in the day in cloudy conditions. Note the effect of late freeze damage on the leaf tips on that clump. 2015 saw severe last spring freezes, and was then followed by six weeks of intense heat and drought and I don't water the seedling bed. so this is quite good performance for any cultivar that shows some susceptibility to late freeze damage.

The summer of 2015 saw my 2011-bred seedlings in full maturity and so a lot of selection happened then. That was my first foray into dealing with a large number of select seedlings. I did not feel I was at the point to line out most of these seedlings, nor did I have the space to do so on that level at that time either. I moved them as whole clumps into the hybridizing garden for further observation, so even though they were full clumps, taking them up and moving them set them back in 2016. Anyone who saw my hybridizing garden in the extreme heat, a 6-week drought followed by a 6-week monsoon and deer damage of 2016 must have thought a lot of clumps of daylilies looked particularly bedraggled! :-)

Korean Queen in 2016, the first season of flowering after being moved in the fall of 2015 as a full clump. If you increase the size of the picture, you can see that branching and bud counts are reduced in this picture, as compared to the picture above from the previous season before the seedling had been moved. 

While the flowering of a full clump diminishes some when disturbed and moved, a heavy division is even more of a set-back. When a clump is divided down into smaller divisions, and especially when taken down to single fans, in most instances, there will be a range of reduced performance in the first year divisions. This can include whether the plant flowers or not at all, how the flowers look, the height of the scape, the number of buds and the number of branches. Some plants suffer from division much more than others and take longer to recover. Some few recover quickly and vigorously.

Korean Queen shows excellent recovery after division. Divided in the fall of 2017, here it is in the 2018 season blooming well and normally, though branching, bud count and scape height are less than in a mature clump. This is still remarkable recovery and performance.

In my work, one focus has been on those plants that bloom within the first year after division with a reasonably sized double fan division or a large (for the cultivar) single fan. However, such a division flowering doesn't mean that it will bloom normally (or beautifully), at the registered height or branching/bud count that first year. In my evaluation I am not looking for the impossible, just more vigorous constitution. I may give allowance to a plant that takes two years to flower again if there are other exceptional traits, but I try not to do this too often. It is standard practice in commercial daylily growing to take clumps down to single fans to increase them. Some may only go to double fans. While I like to send a larger division if I can, it is important for me to know that my plants can go down to single or double fan divisions without significant damage. Fast recovery is important also, and exceptional flower performance in the first year, consistently, on divisions is an extremely desirable trait in the realm of 'plant traits'.

What will be very exciting to me this year though is the breedings I am preparing to do. Truly, a new day is dawning in my program, where I am no longer in the testing phase to figure out what is a good breeder, but using those that have proven to be good performers and breeders over the years they have been here. Many plants in this category have seven years up to a decade or more of provenance here in my garden. A great many of these are my own seedlings. Amongst my own seedlings, except for a tiny few from before my official program beginning year of 2010, the oldest will be 8 years old in August of 2019. The seven and eight year old seedlings went through the entire five year rust resistance screening program. I will now begin to make my own select seedlings central to all efforts, with the original base plants and secondary/tertiary level cultivars from other hybridizers becoming accent plants to return to for backcrossing.

Above, flower of select seedling from 2011 breeding season flowering in hybridizing garden, below, the plant of the same seedling.

Another thing that is exciting, and that I greatly anticipate, is seeing the first flush of flowers on seedlings bred in 2017. They won't all bloom, but enough will to give some significant ideas on how those matings combined. The first half of the 2017 breeding season was completely given over to Solaris Symmetry pollen, with about 95%+ of matings at the tet level using this single pollen parent. 2017 was the last year for experimenting with a base plant at a large scale. I haven't devoted a huge amount of use to Solaris Symmetry pollen since 2012, focusing on Solaris Symmetry as a pod parent and observing its grandkids. By 2017, with the rust resistance testing phase passed and Solaris Symmetry having proven time and again to be an excellent plant and parent, I decided it was time to make one final season/garden-wide long cross. This included backcrossing Solaris Symmetry to all the select seedlings I have raised from it in the past. So I will see a whole range of types of crosses, from wide outcrosses to type breeding (flowers similar to Solaris Symmetry) to backcrosses to offspring to the large number of seedlings I have from selfing Solaris Symmetry that year (yes, its pollen was used so extensively, I even used it on itself!). This will be the largest single data collection I have done on Solaris Symmetry, and the first I have done with it as a major pollen parent. I am just jittery to see what range of variations it makes!

Solaris Symmetry at sunset 2018

The seedlings from the second half of the 2017 breeding season will be equally exciting, as I focused on only a handful of pollen parents, with an emphasis on flat form. I was able to use my own late flowering seedlings that summer and there will be a wide range of interesting seedlings in the late category.

Wookie Goddess

A major breeding strategy will involve using the pollen of my select seedlings (especially the most longterm tested ones) that were broken up for line out testing last fall. While these will not give a good show, all the ones that bloom will likely give good pollen, and the ones that perform the best next year in this final major test will become the main pollens used in 2019. Most of my seedlings from this part of the program show good pod fertility and I have used those seedlings predominantly as pod parents, so this year, with none of those plantings full established, their pollen will become the focus for pollinations in 2019, and they will be allowed to rest as pod parents. I will be able to move the pollen of the select seedlings over select cultivars from other hybridizers, some of the base plants in my program and my own seedlings that have not been moved and can reliably have seeds set on them. 

Hybridizing garden 2018. All of the tall yellow seedlings in the background of this picture were lined out last fall. I did leave a triple fan division in place of each seedling, but they will take time to recover and look impressive again. 

I think of creating a breeding program much like braiding strands or cooking. In braiding, you take separate strands and turn them into one stronger strand by looping them through each other. A fitting description of breeding strategies. In cooking, you are mixing different ingredients - stirring, steeping, concentrating, folding-in and mixing - until you get something that is no longer the ingredients, but has become a thing of its own, with its own unique flavors and essence. I would say that I am finally at the point where I am no longer adding lots of ingredients (though we may "season to flavor" later on by adding something special from other programs), and am now beginning to see the ingredients take shape and prepare to bake. Over the next five or six years, the recipe will be baking.

Bed of four and five year seedlings in 2018

Beyond the breeding season, as we move into late summer and early fall, there should be another round of digging, dividing and lining-out seedlings for further testing. I think that I have done enough work in the gardens (shifting things around, donating superior but excess plants, culling inferior plantings and building new infrastructure) over the last five years, and especially the last two years, to have created a new trajectory and a new system of work and focus. This will be the first year I will working with the new garden layout and I am excited to see how it is going to run. 

I hope you all have a wonderful 2019!

Friday, January 25, 2019

2018 - Looking Back

2018 - Looking Back

The Year in Review

With all my planned work for late 2018 and early 2019 finished, I can now take some time to reflect on the year that has just passed. 

An odd year with tremendous rain, the first thing that stands out in my memory is the advancements in flower phenotype I saw in the seedlings from the last three years of my rust resistance screening program. I have now seen each year that was screened in flower, including both F1 outcrosses and second generation seedlings from some of the oldest, five-year screened F1 seedlings, and I feel like I have an excellent, diverse base to select first level and secondary base plants. Some seedlings will undoubtedly be used in breeding, but only become tertiary, perhaps not even making the cut to stay in my program, with only some of their genes remaining in descendants. The process of selecting truly superior plants, both in terms of performance and breeding value, is to spend some time with them, observing through multiple years, and making selections over time based upon longterm performance, both in the garden and in the seedling bed. But I digress...

The winter of early 2018 was warm and rainy and then cold and rainy/snowy/frozen repeatedly, with the obligatory warm spells sprinkled in between. The cold lasted well into April here, and so all faster-growing daylilies (which emerge from winter rest after five seconds of warmish weather), and any plants that had the temerity to come out early, were repeatedly blasted. We lost many plants of many genera that appear to have simply rotted in the ground. I have never seen peony take such a hit! Both types were effected, with the herbaceous taking the most damage, but the woody types also sustained substantial damage, which I have never seen before. Tree peony usually show high frost tolerance here. I also lost more daylilies in the winter of 2018 than I have ever lost in winter before, however, that was only about 32 cultivars and no seedlings. While the cultivars that died did show some consistent features such as foliage behavior or frost susceptibility, the other points were rather random, covering plants that had been in the garden for over a decade through established plants to plants that had been here for only a year or two. There was not a significant loss of one or two year plants though, so it wasn't just new plants being lost. For instance, the remaining clumps of Nivia Guest, which I have been growing here since in mid-1990s, were decimated last spring. While the winters for the last four or five years have been gradually wearing it away, I don't think we have any of it left now.

However, that harsh, killing winter and spring were not just something to mourn! They also offered the opportunity to observe what survived, how well those survived and what their performance was. As one would expect, there were a lot of problems in the early/early group. The late freezes and cool, rainy late spring made the display poor on many early/early cultivars. However, as usual, Whooperee and Spider Man looked good. Solaris Symmetry gave its usual good performance. I was further able to observe the seedlings that I have been selecting for good performance in the early/early flowering season. I was very happy to see that the majority of the seedlings that have had three or more years of selection for good early/early performance continued to give excellent performance. Amongst those, the most note-worth is a seedling that has consistently been my earliest flowering tetraploid, always showing great performance here in this difficult season in my garden. It is a 2019 introduction - Eos At Dawn - and was germinated here in August 2011.

The 2018 spring shipping season was good for me, though I overdid myself several times. I was very happy to distribute some of my own introductions to several daylily breeders. I look forward to seeing how they use them in breeding, and hearing how they have done! My flower season begins about the time I finish shipping, with just a couple of weeks in between. Those are always busy with weeding! With all the rain, weeding was a major theme all year!

Solaris Symmetry 2018

The season itself was rainy and hot, much like a tropical rainforest.  Weed growth (as well as plant growth) was extreme. I had very good flowering on most things from the early season on. Early/early (as always) was the most damaged, with any sign of damage from the difficult spring showing less and less as each part of the season unfolded. I had to be very careful all summer, as my pinched nerve was in overdrive and everything I did irritated it and threatened 'an episode'. While most of my summer was spent battling a verdant display of weeds, I also took time to do a few pollinations that I thought were important. I did everything I could to take care of myself and not precipitate a physical injury and didn't end up with a full episode of pinched nerve, so that was great, and the breedings I accomplished this summer, I think, were very important for the future of my program. Even though the year was productive, it was painful, my shoulder was frozen and every time I bent over T4 threatened to pop out of place. For whatever reason, typing caused me tremendous pain in my shoulders all summer and so unanswered emails have stacked up and multiple planned blog posts didn't get written. In spite of all that, it was a lovely year!

2018 Garden Images
(More text below the pictures)

I love the combination of the bright, hot, magenta coneflowers and the cool, pale yellow daylilies in this shot.

The cool blue-gray of the fescue grass combined with the hot coneflowers and neutral green of Sun-hosta makes a nice effect here. A rock garden border leading into a wildflower border, leading to a daylily bed.

Soft, lavender-pink coneflowers serve as a backdrop to daylily 'Orange Velvet'. 'Orange Velvet' usually blooms on taller scapes in this particular location.  Short scapes in my gardens seem to correlate with instances of late spring freezes. This one grows in a very open location and many things around it suffered from late spring freezes in 2018.

Tall, well-branched daylily seedlings in a border planting including Asclepias, Crocosmia, Echinacea and Solidago. These are select seedlings from my breeding program that are being tested for landscape applications in mixed perennial borders. The branching and bud count of the peach-orange seedling (center) is quite nice. 

Seedling Bed - 2018

Hybridizing Garden - 2018

During the spring it became obvious to me that I had to make a big shift in plantings in 2018. That was one reason I was disappointed that I couldn't do much in the summer, but I was able to make two donations of older cultivars, which freed up a great deal of space to rearrange many of my plants, especially in my line out bed. I was so grateful to the people from both clubs who came and dug the plants! You all did me a huge service there, and I hope the plants benefit the clubs!

Seedling Bed

By August I felt like I could dig again and I began moving things, digging plants to ship and digging seedlings for line out. It became clear to me through the season that some major changes had to happen in the large mixed flower gardens. I had begun removing old plantings that have been in place for a long time, many having proven to be lesser performers over the longterm. I started that work the previous summer (2017) and completed it (for the most part) this fall (2018). 

In the spaces where these plants were removed, select seedlings and my own introductions have gone back in their place. This is further testing, starting by putting in single, double or triple fans (depending on what was available) and seeing how they perform, in the process allowing them to become established display clumps. Three different major display beds have received this treatment. These daylily plantings will not really look great again until 2020 to 2021, but with a mixed flower garden, there will still be some flowers of other genera of plants, as well as the few established daylily clumps that were retained. Things planted last year will start to give a show this year, being full mature in 2020, while those planted in fall 2018 should be at peak by 2021.

One of the mixed flower beds that was overhauled in 2018. The addition of chainlink fencing has kept the deer out, and gave us the feeling of security to go ahead with this big garden overhaul.

Another large section of the garden was being grown as a perennial bed in the style of a prairie or field, but using plantings of native and garden perennials mixed together. In recent years, it has become hard to manage. A tiny piece of Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon' made its way into this bed and is threatening to take the entire larger garden, while I made the mistake of leaving some native, volunteer Clematis virginiana in the bed (because it is lovely!) that had become gigantic and spread by seeds aggressively in the bed. A long border has been worked in behind this over the last three years and is now mature. So I have mowed off the part of the 'wildflower' bed where the Houttuynia and the Clematis are growing. 

A section of mixed border bed

This allowed me to reshape the entire layout of the large garden this wildflower bed is part of. I have removed some of the desirable plants from this bed last fall and have more to do in the spring. I also added a large number of new daylily plantings and will be adding more in the next year or two to bulk up certain of the background areas. Because I now want to accentuate the mowed area (which will be worked back into grass) between the two main sections of this garden, while letting the long, narrow border bed become the main backdrop, I will want to make some slight changes in where clumps of tall daylilies are worked into the back line of the front bed. I expect the back border bed (which due to its shape is very easy to weed) will give a good show, as much of it is mature. New daylily plantings added to the wider, eastern end of this border won't give a full show next year, and won't be fully mature until 2021, but gardens seem to be constantly evolving things, in my experience.

I would like to report that for the first year in several years, we have no deer damage in this garden. Tall chainlink fencing seems to do the trick! Notify Ground Crew here with 6' fencing. While deer can jump a 6' fence, the addition of rows of barbed wire at the top, slanting outward, makes the fence secure from deer, as they don't have good depth perception and won't attempt to jump because of the combined height and top strands of barbed wire.

With all the new room that I had opened up this year, I lined out over 100 seedlings from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 for final testing. I culled out some things from the hybridizing garden, though less than usual. Many of the lined out seedlings also came from the hybridizing garden. I then replaced those seedlings in the hybridizing garden with new select seedlings from the seedling beds, allowing another cycle to start. There won't be much to see in the hybridizing garden this year, as so many things there are new plantings, with only about fifty older, established clumps of select cultivars from other hybridizers to give a good show. It will be a great year for evaluating division recovery, though!

Seedling bed

Even though I removed 100+ seedlings from the seedling bed last year to move to other locations for further testing, the seedling beds will still be quite full, and will probably be the only beds here where things will look full and mature. Most of the plants removed from the seedling beds went into the hybridizing garden, line out garden or one of the mixed flower gardens. All of those gardens were in one way or another overhauled and so the majority of daylily plantings are new and won't give a great show for a couple of years, but in the end, the show will be better, the weeds easier to control and I can continue testing my plants to select for excellent performers.

Hybridizing Garden

In November, after all the planting was finished, I had a chainlink fence added around my line out bed to make a more secure final testing field that is well-protected from deer. Most of the plants I donated to daylily clubs in 2018 came out of the line out bed and I  managed to refill all open slots, but there is still lots of room to expand over the next few years into this bed as new line outs are ready. I am in no rush to fill it up! Space, I am finding, is the most value thing possible in any breeding project!

New chainlink deer fence around line out bed.

Once the fencing was done, I then moved on to making 150 slides for a future presentation, preparing the new introductions for 2019 and updating my website. 2018 was gone, and it seemed like it had gone very quickly once I finished up all my work and gave it a moments thought. On to 2019, with high hopes for new seedlings and new breeding schemes! Best wishes for you and your garden in 2019! :-)