Monday, February 17, 2014

Stare Master - 2012 - James Spencer

Stare Master - 2012 - James Spencer

STARE MASTER - 2012 - Spencer, J.

In this blog I will be featuring Jim Spencer's fine 2012 introduction STARE MASTER. I grow this cultivar and I can report that it has many fine qualities. Jim sent me two small fans in summer of 2012. I put one fan in one garden and another fan in the main hybridizing garden in order to test it under different conditions. Both of those gardens got heavy rust that year, but STARE MASTER didn't show rust in either location. I was impressed by that and anxiously waited to see it flower in 2013.

This picture of STARE MASTER shows the nice budding of the scape in front as well as the lovely patterned eye of the open flower.

I was pleasantly surprised by STARE MASTER in the 2013 season, and again, no rust in either location. In addition, Jim "received" rust on plants from Florida in 2013 and he also noted that STARE MASTER did not show any rust in his garden. However, the apparent rust resistance is not the only thing that sets STARE MASTER apart. Let's look at some of those points.

A lovely shot showing the nice foliage as well as the beautiful faces on this young clump.

Jim is a very cautious breeder, taking a long time to evaluate a plant for many traits before introduction. For instance, STARE MASTER was bred a full decade before it was introduced and Jim spent many years observing it. The parentage of STARE MASTER is (Benz seedling {Seedling x Mighty Aphrodite}) x TET PRISCILLA'S RAINBOW. 

Some of you may know that Tet. Priscilla's Rainbow often throws seedlings with the tendency to scape blast. Being aware of this, Jim took a long time to observe S.M. to be sure it did not have this problem. Three other promising siblings were culled out over the years for scape blasting, including one with a very striking face, but year after year, S.M. has held up and has never shown full scape blasting.

Here we see rain soaked flowers showing no spotting and holding up beautifully after a heavy shower.

While S.M. doesn't show scape blast, that is not its only good quality. One extremely important factor is that S.M. is a hard dormant, going fully underground here in my Kentucky garden and does the same in Jim's garden just east of Knoxville, TN. Also, S.M. doesn't emerge early, being one of the last dormants to come up in my garden, so it doesn't seem to get a lot of late frost damage like those dormants that emerge early at the first hint of warmth. These dormancy traits make S.M. very useful for the production of Northern patterns by crossing to tender Southern evergreen patterns to increase dormancy and hardiness.

Jim says that its garden nickname was "always perfect", and the flower is remarkably consistent and lovely in both very hot and very cold weather. Rain does not cause any problems or spotting with the flower. As well, Jim says, "With the best root system in my garden, I imagine this is why it handles a drought better than most." I find far too many people ignore the roots and their impact on performance. I was impressed that Jim had noted this factor.

Here we see Jim measuring one of the flowers on STARE MASTER. While Jim registered S.M. at 6 1/2", it occasionally goes larger. The flower above is 7".

The flower itself is a very lovely peach with a small pie-crust edging of gold. The eye is patterned with layers of violet/lavender with darker veins on top of layers of yellow and green with more violet and lavender rings and shading all on top of the bright green throat. Both petals and tepals are patterned. With Priscilla's Rainbow as the pollen parent, you can see the heritage in the eye and the nice flat face. For me, this is a very important point - the fully flattened main petals. 

In far too many of the popular patterned cultivars now on the market, we see inwardly rolled petals, sometimes referred to as "canoed" or "pinched". 
The above picture of Heavenly Island Music shows the extreme inward curling, canoeing or pinching trait seen in so many of the current patterned cultivars.

Some people like this and feel it gives a 'spatulate' look, but to me, it is a major fault and is not a real spatulate. Some say it allows the tepal pattern to show, but I feel if you want to see the tepal pattern, you should breed thin petals rather than rely on these rolled, flawed petals to achieve the same look. The biggest flaw, to me, in the rolled inward petals is that it covers and obscures the fine pattern in the eye of the main petals. STARE MASTER is very important as a breeder as it is one of the few patterned flowers that has consistently flat inner petals all the way down into the throat.I am working with STARE MASTER to impart flat petals to patterned breeding, to increase rust resistance in my lines and to bring in hard dormancy to my patterned breeding lines. Jim says that S.M. is fertile both ways with pollen much easier. I have not gotten pod set on either of my young clumps to date, but I have made no special effort either. Instead, I use S.M.'s strong pollen on other patterned plants almost exclusively. It is possible I will see pod set as the clump becomes more established. I suspect that if the plant were pampered, or perhaps planted in shade or potted up and kept in shade, that pods may well be more easily achievable. Jim has set pods on S.M. and I know he makes no special efforts and doesn't pamper his plants either.

A lovely side view of STARE MASTER in the evening that shows the many lovely features of the flowers - gold pie-crust edge, nicely opened petals with no pinching, beautifully patterned eye and bright green throat.

The face of STARE MASTER may be seen as old-fashioned by some who think the only plant that has merit is the very latest-and-greatest, cutting-edge face, but the many great features of STARE MASTER offers the very best that Tet. PRISCILLA'S RAINBOW has to offer. While there are some cultivars that have been introduced from Priscilla, her genes have not been fully exploited to date and STARE MASTER is in my opinion one of the very best, if not the very best, of Priscilla's offspring.

I asked Jim about his thoughts on taking a long time to introduce a seedling and if that had a negative impact on the cultivar, as the face might be seen as old-fashioned. Jim said, "I was reluctant to introduce an older seedling, but when guests would stop and stare and ask, "What is this?” I changed my mind." I am glad they did! Jim also told me, "The name STARE MASTER derives from the effect it has had on garden visitors over the years."

Even amongst the many very recent patterned cultivars I grow, STARE MASTER stands out and already shows much better performance, with its dormancy, flat petals and consistently beautiful flower with no spotting, than many other patterned cultivars that have gotten a lot of attention.

The registry stats for STARE MASTER are as follows:
STARE MASTER - 2012 - James Spencer - Tet - 28" scapes - 6.5" flower - Midseason - Bud count: 21 to 25 - Branching: 3 way - Rebloom - Nocturnal - Single - Almond with muted eye.

In registering this cultivar, Jim used the mid-averages for height, bud count, branching and flower size, rather than the very highest or largest. In some instances, he has seen scapes with 5 branches and up to 30+ buds per scape, as well as slightly taller scapes and larger flowers (see above picture), but didn't want to register it with the maximum, but rather with the average numbers. It is important to point out that Jim does not amend his soil, fertilize or irrigate his plants in order to breed and select for those that perform well in average garden conditions. For that reason, people who do fertilize and/or irrigate or otherwise pamper their plants are likely to see even better numbers and performance than Jim has noted.

I hope you too will consider growing STARE MASTER, especially if you are growing plants in the north. As well, for those breeding for patterns, especially in the north, I can't recommend STARE MASTER highly enough, both for the many fine qualities of performance including the flat main petals and the high rust resistance, which is so lacking in so many other patterned cultivars available today.

For more information on STARE MASTER contact Jim Spencer at
*STARE MASTER is only available in very limited numbers at this time*

This picture shows the nice pattern of rings in the eye on both petals and tepals. STARE MASTER will be an important breeder for future patterned cultivars.