Thursday, January 3, 2019

Wabi Sabi

Wabi Sabi
(Sdlg# SMSE2)

2019 - Reeder - Diploid - 
Spider Miracle x Substantial Evidence - 
40” scape - 12” flower - 3 branches - 12 buds - Midseason - Extended - Dormant - Unusual form: spatulate-cascade

Huge flowers with sandstone petals and slightly paler sepals with lavender-rose overlay above huge lettuce green throat fading into chartreuse.

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Wabi Sabi is a lovely and strange flower that is equal parts beauty pageant and horror show. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic art which utilizes natural objects, aged and worn items and unusual shapes and forms. A traditional Japanese aesthetic stylewabi-sabi is central to a world view centered on the acceptance of the transience of all experience and the recognition of the imperfection of all things. I think nothing could represent that sentiment better than a gnarly, weird, drift-wood, sand and kelp colored flower from a species where each flower is only open for one day (though in truth, owing to the Substantial Evidence ancestry, the flowers of Wabi Sabi often take two full days to open). 

This seedling derived from an entire summer of putting SE pollen on Spider Miracle flowers, and only getting one pod. I have never had success with Spider Miracle as a pod parent, but I did get this pod with SE, and from it grew Wabi Sabi, which was a standout from its first flower. I got everything I had hoped for (big, green throat, flat flower form, UF, large flower) plus traits I didn't expect (the interesting color, the giant flower, the very bizarre look and the great rust resistance and breeding value.) I honestly expected something a little more tame, and more intermediate to the two parents - not this extreme and weird oddity!

This flower never looks 'right', which is what always makes it so fabulous. To begin with, it can be truly huge, and I have measured flowers on it as large as 19" when they are flattened out, and with a standing measurement of 15"! The flowers average 12" standing, with smaller flowers in the 8" to 10" range and large ones in the 13" - 14" range.

The shape of the flower is basically extremely opened and flat with petals and sepals that are long straps. Not quite thin enough to be a true spider, it is definitely an unusual form. The sepals frequently quill and twist, and the long, spatulate petals often pinch and twist. The large throat is very green, in the celery range of chartreuse and the throat holds up well through the day, with minimal fading. 

The color of the flower is 'light flesh' to 'sand' to 'driftwood-beige' to 'beige-stone-with-a-rose-overlay'. The flower is by no means a "jewel-tone", but the effect in the landscape is highly visible and noticeable from a distance because the color is light and bright, and the flower is large and held up on tall scapes. Their endless shenanigans create a wild and weird array of looks from 'driftwood' to 'earth snakes' to 'carved-wooden-flower' to 'bizarre orchid'. Occasional polytepal flowers look like big, beige spiders, which is marvelous and revolting all at once. :-)

The scapes are, honestly, a bedraggled mess :-) They are tall, occasionally near 4', with 3 branches, 4 in rare instances. The scapes have the form of driftwood just as much as the flowers do. The scapes are a nice dark green color, but with the weight of the huge flowers, heavy rain or high wind can cause the scapes to lean or fall. The occasional shorter scapes hold up the best. You have to deadhead, as several of the large, faded flowers can literally collapse the scapes. You can see in the picture below that even I had deadheaded this one, and I almost never deadhead, attempting to select toward nice closing and self-cleaning flowers. 

I have found that the scapes that want to lean can be woven into each other to form something of a living obelisk that then holds up. You can see that in the picture below. It requires no pole or tying, and lets the whole thing hold up for display, but I would never call Wabi Sabi a well-behaved "garden daylily". I suspect this one may be of interest to collectors, breeders and possibly those looking for a very different garden display, but I see no commercial future for this one! Lol! It is too weird to have mass-appeal, I suspect. Of course, to me that is part of what makes it so special :-)

For breeders, though, Wabi Sabi has a great deal to offer beyond its weird aesthetic effect. The foliage is floppy and bedraggled, but it is at least a dark green color. The plant tested extremely rust resistant through all five years of my rust resistance screening, and this is possibly the most important aspect of this introduction. It never showed any rust through all five years of testing, scoring A+ every year, so a five-year A+. It has also shown very good breeding value for both the amazing and weird flower, interesting colors and very high rust resistance. Thrip resistance is only moderate, but pairing with a very resistant mate goes a long way toward improving the thrip resistance in seedlings.

I have bred from Wabi Sabi extensively from the first year it flowered in 2013. Some of its seedlings have also gone through four years of rust resistance screening with high scores. While Wabi Sabi has been nearly pod sterile, its pollen is extremely fertile. Pods have been extremely difficult. You can see a rare one in the picture below.

Note Temple Of Bacchus behind Wabi Sabi in the above picture. In this late afternoon picture, you see Temple Of Bacchus flowers beginning to close for the day, but before the next round have started to open near dusk. The look of Wabi Sabi in the garden is always striking, but in the picture above from 2015, when all the bamboo had been killed to the ground by the polar vortex from two previous winters, the dead-wood look of Wabi Sabi was extremely striking and fitting with the dead bamboo backdrop, creating a true Wabi-sabi garden experience. You can see in the above picture how large the flower is when established and at clump strength.

The breeding potential of Wabi Sabi is very exciting. The plant, which is bordering on 'total mess', is easily improved through good mate selection. The scapes are easily improved through going to shorter, stronger scapes. Large flowered mates can create large flowered seedlings. I have bred Wabi Sabi heavily through my other diploid lines, as well as in multiple backcrosses to the Substantial Evidence family line (its pollen parent). You can see in the slide below from my 2018 Monday Night Lights presentation multiple seedlings, each interesting in its own way. The ability of 'sand-colored' Wabi Sabi to produce very blue-purple seedlings is noteworthy.  

The seedling below, from 2018, is an amazing combination of form and coloring, along with pattern. The pod parent is Phoenician Royalty while Wabi Sabi is the pollen parent. You can see the lovely rose-stone color of the petals with a bluish-lavender overlay, while the sepals are a cream-beige-rose combination. An eye is visible on both petals and sepals. The pattern on the petals is in concentric layers of various shades of stone, sand, bone and cream suffused with golden-yellow and all above a chartreuse throat making the flower look like a starburst of chevrons in lovely, subtle tones.

The slide below is from my 2019 Monday Night Lights presentation and details more about Wabi Sabi. The statistics discussed are the extreme high end and don't represent the actual averages, which is the basis of the registration numbers.

Wabi Sabi
Pictures Through The Years

2013 was the first year Wabi Sabi flowered. This is one of the pictures I took of the first flower it ever produced in June of 2013. It was a standout from its first huge, weird flower!

Super-quilled and super-pinched in 2015. The dark, celery green part of the throat really stands out in the pic, in part due to my having pulled the stamens for pollination the night before.

Nearing Dusk in 2015, feeling very cascade that day!

Late evening in 2016. Flower substance is thick much like the pollen parent, and holds up well without significant slicking or melting. The color holds throughout the day as does the green throat. This is one of the most normal flower days I have seen, with little pinching, quilling or cascading. It is still quite weird and lovely even then.

In heavy rain, demonstrating the good substance and rain-fastness of the color and the flower texture.

Big stretch! Approaching cascade and ready to hug the world... like a rosy-brown octopus that masquerades as driftwood.

A favorite, and extreme, day. This look is extraordinary and reminds me of perhaps an oncidium orchid for form, perhaps with a touch of paphiopedilum orchid thrown in in terms of form and color. A very variable flower that is consistently weird! A wonderful breeder with many uses in a diploid program.