Tuesday, December 13, 2016

...With Gratitude and Thanks

...With Gratitude and Thanks

Looking Forward to 2017

This is a blog post I have long been planning to make, but life happens, one thing comes along and then another, and I often get distracted from writing all the things that come to mind. However, a recent conversation with a friend has prompted me to go ahead and make this post.

While speaking with a friend about daylilies, I was asked about my honest thoughts of the daylily community. My immediate answer was that I love the daylily and the daylily community. It was one of those immediate answers that requires no thought at all. We continued on with our conversation, discussing many aspects of our breeding programs, but the question I listed above left me thinking about this article that I have wanted to write to the entire daylily community.

The most important thing I want to convey is that I accept, approve of and full endorse whatever aspect of daylilies that any give person wants to focus on. Be that a home gardener with a few daylilies, serious collecting, growing for resale or breeding, I think we need you all. To speak directly to everyone interested in daylilies, but especially to breeders, to all breeders, I can only encourage you to proceed with whatever you are currently doing, whatever fills you with joy.

I joke often that there are currently more daylily breeders than there are registered daylily cultivars (which isn’t quite true, but is possibly close), so there is room for many, many directions to be looked into and pursued. The daylily world is large, vast and deeply diverse, both in terms of the many, many breeders and the many, many registered cultivars and species clones that are available to any person who wishes to breed daylilies. For every person who wishes to breed daylilies, for whatever reason or goal, there are likely to be daylilies from which that direction can be pursued.

I want to stress that in reading my blog posts, it is important to remember that their first purpose is to serve me as a public diary, where I am giving you glimpses into my process. It is important to understand that. My blogs are not written to serve as guidelines for your program, or as a criticism of any other programs, but rather to serve as guideposts for myself, my interests and criteria, guideposts in where I have come from and where I hope to go. If you find something in my writing that interests you, some method I use that you would like to experiment with or implement in your own program, I can only encourage you to do so, but if you already have an established program, I do not in any way mean to suggest you should drop any aspect of your program to adopt aspects of mine.

One service I hope to provide in exposing my own program development is to offer sound advice in established breeding techniques for those who are either just beginning a breeding program or who are looking for new techniques to enhance their current program. I draw heavily from my own experiences in a lifetime of breeding animals and plants, as well as from established scientific plant and animal breeding techniques and methods. I would never seek to ask anyone who is happy with their current program, their aims and focus, to change to match my ideas. Please always be aware of that.

So why do I not want you to adopt my practices, if I think they are sound and usable? Because I support your right to pursue your own dreams and to encourage diversity. With the many people who are breeding daylilies, there is simply room for every type of program. Some will focus on one thing while others focus on other areas, and some will focus on more than one single focus-point. Through that diverse focus, the many programs and directions, the overall gene pool of the domestic Hemerocallis is enhanced.

Now I will be the first to admit that I see some potential problems in the daylily world. One is the ‘follow the leader’ phenomena where one person uses a cultivar and is successful with it and then large numbers of breeders seem to jump on that bandwagon. Far too often, the latest-and-greatest-and-most-popular may have problems in spite of a near-mystically-treated break in the flower phenotype, and these problems can become very magnified in the domestic Hemerocallis gene pool when a single plant or family line is given heavy focus in many, many programs. This is similar to the ‘single sire’ phenomena known in many domestic animal breeding communities. This creates a narrowing of the gene pool and a reduction of the subsequent beneficial traits that other lines may offer.

Another problem is that far too many seem to only want to focus on the flower to the exclusion of the plant. Along with this, the use of intensive cultivation methods, intensive spraying of chemicals for any and all problems and use of extremely artificial environments all contribute to masking problems and to potentially concentrating those problems into the overall gene pool. While this can be a problem, it doesn’t have to be a major problem, nor does it have to become a weight around the neck of daylily breeders.

How do we avoid the pitfalls of these problems? By encouraging a diversity of programs that all work together to create a large and balanced gene pool within the domestic Hemerocallis population. So, for instance, I do not consider my program, with all its efforts to test plants for genetic strengths, to be a replacement for other programs, but as a complement to those programs. If I seek to encourage anyone to use any of my techniques, it is simply by providing information that can be used to create programs that are complementary to the ‘Only the Flower Matters’ (OTFM) programs.

I want to be crystal clear here, though. I do not disdain or disparage any ‘Flower Only’ programs. They are essential! They push the envelope in terms of flower phenotypes and where would we be without them? What I encourage is not an end to such programs. In fact, I can only express my deepest thanks and gratitude for all the breeders who are pushing that edge, constantly pushing the flower traits forward. I ONLY want them to continue. I use some of the flowers these programs produce. I will continue to watch for real breaks within these programs, and they will continue to occur, much to the delight of all.

However, as these flower breaks occur within programs where less emphasis is placed on such traits as the plant, survivability without intensive care, extreme hardiness or disease resistance, it will be incumbent on all the breeders who can work in a less singularly-focused program to apply their skills to taking these amazing flower-break genetics into hardener and more diverse lineages to stabilize them and assure both the continued existence and advances of these genes and to ensure they reach the regular gardening public in a form they can properly manage and enjoy, enhancing the reputation of the daylily and increasing its popularity with the general public. 

In this way we increase the diversity of the daylily and increase its appeal. This is a group effort. None of us live in a vacuum and we each are impacted by and strengthened by each and every person who picks up some pollen and moves it around their daylily garden. As always, I only want to stress that the entire daylily community, all the many diverse directions and persons, are a part of the whole cloth of the daylily world and the continuation of the ever-expanding Hemerocallis gene pool.

In closing, I just want to thank you all simply for being yourselves, and doing what you do. Continue to do it! In the last six years of discovering what I want to work with, I have encountered many wonderful people and have enjoyed those interactions. I hope to get to know many of your better from this point forward, as I plan to be more available to the general daylily public. Throughout this preliminary stage of determining where my focus would go, I have been less social, purposefully, in order to not be too influenced by the directions of other breeders, so I could stay focused on the program I wanted to develop and what plants worked best for me to start that program. Now that I am at that point, I am excited to be in more contact with all the great daylily folks out there in the big, wide daylily world.