Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bob Selman - Breeding For Dormancy

A Window Into Breeding Strategies:
Breeding For Dormant Descendants From Evergreen Cultivars

Profile: Bob Selman of Blue Ridge Daylilies

Example: Family line descending from Destined To See and Julie Newmar

One aspect of daylily culture that we often discuss and think about is foliage type. For those of us not in the deep south, evergreen foliage can be troublesome. For those in the far north, evergreen foliage can be a disaster, though that is not to say that all evergreen cultivars are tender or unable to survive a very cold winter. However, many are tender and even more do not flourish in the north and may never increase or even decrease until they vanish over a number of years. While many of us north of the deep south would prefer dormant foliage, those in the far north are very dependent on dormant foliage in order to have daylilies that really flourish in their chilly locations.

This can create a certain set of unique problems, as many of the most unique and lovely advances in flower phenotype occur in breeding programs in the deep south and on evergreen foliage. Many of these breakthrough plants are very desirable for northern growers and breeders, but they may not flourish and often do not even survive. I know of people using greenhouses to keep these tropical beauties for use in their breeding programs or who spend the exorbitant prices these cultivars usually cost only to use them as pollen parents for one season knowing they may well succumb to a real northern winter - in other words, they are treated as extremely expensive annuals just to get their advanced genes into a breeding program. 

I understand both of these practices and that they have their uses at times, but there are instances where people who are in areas that are not as extreme as the far north for cold, but cold enough to not be in any way "warm-wintered", are able to take advantage of their ability to maintain some of these tender evergreens for a few years in order to bring their advanced genes into dormant offspring and therefore create plants that can be of much greater use to northern breeders and growers. What can be surprising is that because these breeders may not have the big name recognition of some of the deep south hybridizers, often their cultivars may not be extensively grown in the north. That is a shame and many northern growers keep buying expensive, tender evergreens when they could be buying dormant or cold tested semi-evergreen plants from advanced breeding programs, which could be of much greater use to their breeding program and more permanent in their gardens.

One such breeder is Bob Selman. I am growing many of Bob's introductions and have found them remarkably good plants with many advanced traits combined on dormant or hardy semi-evergreen foliage. His introductions tend to have medium to tall scapes with multiple branching and good bud count. In addition to being cold hardy, they tend to have beautiful foliage and multiple nicely. Yet, for all this, I am often surprised that so many northern growers and breeders are not aware of many of Bob's introductions and are not growing them extensively. I have to say that is their loss and they are missing out on an opportunity to both take advantage of Bob's hard work in breeding up hardiness and dormancy and to more quickly advance their own programs.

As Bob is located in Alexander, North Carolina, which is near Asheville, I suspect that most northerners just hear the words 'North Carolina' and think, "Oh, he is in the south - his plants can't be too hardy", but that is not the case. In fact, Bob, though further south than my garden is located in Kentucky, is in a very cold microclimate and his garden is always a few degrees colder than mine. It is important to understand that while Bob is technically in zone 6/7, his microclimate, due to being at a very high elevation in the Blue Ridge mountains is really more of a zone 5 microclimate and is often still having snow and frost weeks after frost has ended in my garden. 

For this reason, Bob's plants should be considered "northern bred" as his microclimate is in many ways closer to mid-Ohio than it is to "southern and warm" North Carolina. For that reason, I have to say that any northern grower not considering Bob's cultivars is missing out on some great cultivars as well as some northern adapted and cold hardy genes involving many advanced traits that I often hear Northern breeders say they want more of in their own programs.

One excellent example of Bob's work with breeding up cold hardy and vigorous daylilies from evergreen cultivars that can be tender or difficult in the north is the family line of cultivars he has developed and introduced from crossing Destined To See with Julie Newmar. For the balance of this post we will look at some of these wonderful introductions.

I have been told by many growers and breeders that both of these evergreen cultivars, while extremely beautiful, can be difficult growers in northern gardens. I know that even in my zone 6 garden, neither are standouts in terms of growth or performance. Even though neither are standouts for performance in cold regions, the flowers show many desirable traits and so Bob decided to see what he could get from them in terms of improved plant quality combined with their lovely flowers. Click on the purple highlighted names of any of the cultivars in this post to go to the AHS database for the registration data for that cultivar.

The first introduction from this line came in 2010 with the lovely STRIKING DISTANCE, which is a cold hardy semi-evergreen.

Striking Distance - 2010
32" height - 6.5" bloom - Midseason - Semi-evergreen

Then in 2011, the next introduction from this cross came in the form of MASTER OF DISGUISE, which is also a cold hardy semi-evergreen. As you can see from the pictures below, MASTER OF DISGUISE can show a very variable face from day to day, thus the name. 

Master of Disguise - 2011
28" height - 6.5" bloom - Midseason - Semi-evergreen

Above three pictures - A remarkable range of faces on Master of Disguise...

After the introductions of 2010 and 2011, 2012 saw three more important introductions from this breeding - SUSAN OKRASINSKI, LAND OF THE SKY, and ASHEVILLE SKYLINE. SUSAN OKRASINSKI is the first dormant Bob introduced from this lineage, while LAND OF THE SKY and ASHEVILLE SKYLINE are both cold hardy semi-evergreens.

Susan Okrasinski - 2012
28" height - 6.5" bloom - Midseason - Dormant

Land Of The Sky - 2012
29" height - 6" bloom - Midseason - Semi-evergreen

Asheville Skyline - 2012 - 
 28" height - 6.5" bloom - midseason - Semi-evergreen 

While Bob didn't introduce any more of this line in 2013, for 2014 there are some very exciting cultivars coming from this line. To me, the most exciting new introduction is JENNIE SIVYER, named for one of Bob's friends, as it is a second generation offspring from the original cross of Destined To See x Julie Newmar. JENNIE SIVYER is an offspring of STRIKING DISTANCE  x LAND OF THE SKY and is a dormant, showing the progression of foliage type from evergreen grandparents to semi-evergreen full sibling parents to dormant F2. As well, JENNIE SIVYER has a 38" scape, which is nearly a foot taller than the parents or grandparents. This shows the progression toward advanced plant traits through selection. Lastly, the flower is lovely.

Jennie Sivyer - 2014 
38" height - 7" bloom - Midseason - Dormant

From the original cross of Destined To See x Julie Newmar, there are also two more introductions coming for 2014. As Bob's Blue Ridge Daylilies garden will be on the National's tour this year, these two introductions will be bus gift plants for the 2014 National Convention. They are ASHEVILLE WHITE WINGED DOVE and ASHEVILLE SUNLIT RAINBOW. Both are dormants and show remarkable flowers, with the former showing, to me, the most remarkable and advanced patterning of any of these introductions.

Asheville White Winged Dove - 2014
27" height - 6" bloom - Midseason - Dormant

Another view of Asheville White Winged Dove showing a different face. As with most patterned daylilies, the patterning is variable, but always lovely. Note that in both face types, the "doves" are still there!

Asheville Sunlit Rainbow - 2014
30" height - 6.5" bloom - Midseason - Dormant

This series of introductions show how selection can be used to move in any direction. By crossing two evergreen cultivars, both carrying dormancy genes, Bob was able to produce both hardy semi-evergreen and dormant offspring and by then making sibling matings between those offspring, he has been able to go even further, not only making improvements in the foliage type, but also improving scape height, branching and bud count while still retaining and refining the lovely phenotype of the original faces of the grandparents. 

This is a good lesson to us all in breeding, but the most important lesson may be that Bob has such cultivars available. I hope those of you in the north who hunger for advanced flowers on hardy dormant and semi-evergreen plants will take notice. Using any of these cultivars, or others where Bob has done similar work with other lines, can accelerate your program and keep you from having to wade through the hundred of plants it takes just to get to that next step in your own program. Plants like these shown in this post can help you move forward more quickly in your quest to breed away from evergreen foliage and toward dormancy on an advanced and lovely flower.

To see more of Bob's fantastic introductions, go to his website at
contact Bob by email:

You can also find Bob's cultivars listed at the Blooming Auction and the Lily Auction

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.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different...

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Just some pretty pictures of some pretty flowers with no commentary.

These are some of my favorites from the 2013 season. I will say that if a cultivar is pictured here I like it and think it is nice on at least one or two levels, possibly more. Being pictured here though does not imply anything beyond "I like it". :-) They are in alphabetical order though. This is a large post, with 38 images, so on slow internet services, this may take a while to load.



Baby Blue Eyes

Bela Lugosi

Belle of Ashwood

Bill Fall

Blast of Blue

Brocaded Gown (Tetraploid conversion)

Clean Slate


Edna Selman

Frans Hals (closeup)

Frans Hals (group)

Garden Portrait

Heavenly Angel Ice

Heavenly Final Destiny

Insider Trading

Karen Stephens

Malaysian Monarch

Mama's Cherry Pie at sunset on third rebloom in August

Mary Lightfine



Oceans Eleven

One Step Beyond

Pack Hunter


Pigment of Imagination (sans stamens and anthers)

Rainbow Candy

So Lovely

Some What Odd

Sour Puss

Spacecoast Irish Illumination

Spider Miracle

Stare Master

Substantial Evidence in the early morning

Supreme Empire

Swamp Apparition


Wilson Spider