In this installment we look at realistic goals for our projects. Not everyone can or will have the same goals. What I outline here is my ideas concerning the goals that the entire daylily community might have overall or in the broader sense. However, each person's goals may vary, as their conditions and interest will vary. Some will have more ambitious goals, while others will have less ambitious goals, and that is ok. We can't all have the same goals, as we don't all have an equal situation or interest. There is no one goal that is 'right' while others are 'wrong'. I simply don't work from an 'either/or' proposition, but rather, from a 'both/and' position. It is up to each person to find the point that works for them. For my part, I believe we need a diversity of goals and interests, some working on the plant, others on the flower, some on both. In that way, we can push all the boundaries, and not just one or two. Please know that no matter what you decide you can or cannot do, I support you and appreciate your contribution to the vast and varied world of daylilies! Read on...
I believe that both approaches have been too extreme, ignoring the common middle ground where average breeders, hobbyists, gardeners and landscapers reside. Fear and uncertainty have certainly been a big part of this, but in addition to fear, I see a certain kind of laziness that manifests as a fear of the effort, as well as a lack of good information on realistically breeding for disease resistance that has caused a lot of uncertainty and only contributed to this situation.
I manage a garden where this is the approach we have taken and now our annual fall outbreak is barely even noticeable unless you go out and start actively looking on the undersides of the leaves. So how was this accomplished? By removing the highly susceptible altogether and only keeping or adding those with high resistance and/or immunity, most notably by dividing those of that nature in the garden and increasing the plantings of those cultivars and by then judiciously and slowly adding new cultivars that have been shown to have some resistance and then removing any of those that failed and increasing those that have shown suitable resistance in that garden.
I consider this approach to simply be an aspect of garden maintenance and building. With experience, you too will come to realize that not everything you plant succeeds and some things fail and must be redone, replanted, rethought. This is life in the real world. However, this garden is not a breeding garden and in such I would take a different approach, but I think the approach I have taken in this garden is a realistic approach for the average gardener.
There will be a difference in what is maintained by a collector who is spraying their garden, by a breeder who is responsibly trying to continue improving the entire daylily and the average gardener or landscaper who wishes to grow daylilies. The first of these may wish to spray, the second may even spray for part of the year, but the last two aren’t likely going to spray and until we acknowledge this fact and begin to think of their interests, we condemn our beloved plant to a future of obscurity and infamy amongst such people, especially in warmer areas. Ask yourself this – How many average gardeners or landscapers use tea roses?
Further, my personal approach to various strains of rust will be to simply note how a given cultivar showing high resistance over many years responds to a new strain that it has susceptibility to and then to cross it to a cultivar that shows good resistance to that strain. Thereby I can combine genes for resistance to various strains of rust. In other words, as rust continues to mutate, my work continues, so there is never a point at which one is ‘done’ and has developed ‘proven lines of daylilies that can never get rust’. In reality, there is no such thing, so rust resistance becomes just another trait that the breeder is observing, recording information about and selecting for, just as any other trait such as branching, foliage type, sun-fastness, water resistance of flowers (non-water-spotting), etc. In the end, time and time again, we see that most breeders can walk and chew gum at the same time…I believe selection for rust resistance is just another aspect of selection and nothing more.
Elimination of the most susceptible individuals becomes the most important aspect of breeding programs. The more of these that can be eliminated as future breeders or introductions, the better it is for the potential resistance of your overall gene pool. In other words, exposing your seedlings and eliminating the highly susceptible becomes the most important aspect of breeding for resistance along with using cultivars and seedlings that have shown consistent resistance over a long period of time and in multiple locations. We will look at these points in much greater detail when we discuss breeding strategies.
For our next installment, we will consider the importance of identifying consistently resistant cultivars...