Sunday, February 3, 2019

2019 - Looking Forward

2019 - Looking Forward

The View from the Garden and Plans for the Breeding Season

2019 will be the ninth year of my program and the eighth year of breeding in my own garden. 

As I mentioned in my post on the 2018 season, the majority of the gardens here had major reworking last year, so the gardens will not be at their peak this year. Only the seedling beds will be a source of continual excitement. For anyone hoping to see a good display, 2019 probably isn't going to be the best year to visit. For those who are interested in the selection process I use, it might be an informative year, but all of my best, older seedlings have been split up for line out and further testing. In my experience first year line outs of a fan or two do not give much of a show, but it is important to me to make observations of this stage, as some few do much better after division than most, with most being average, and a few then showing very poor performance in their first year after line out (possibly being eliminated, if it is bad enough). 

My personal gardens don't include any real display gardens. When the hybridizing garden and line out beds are fully grown, they can be quite spectacular, but aren't really laid out to be public spaces. They are laid out to be convenient to work in. I expect things to begin to be partially regrown in 2020, with the garden again at peak growth by 2021. The reorganization I have made to the line out bed, and that I will continue to work on over the next couple of years, should lead to a much nicer space for viewing my plants. If I were prone to betting, I would bet on 2021 being the right year to visit to see the gardens looking full and nice again. 

Korean Queen, above and below, in 2015 as a mature seedling clump. It was moved from this seedling bed into my hybridizing garden in the fall of 2015 for further testing. Shot above is in the late afternoon, while the one below is earlier in the day in cloudy conditions. Note the effect of late freeze damage on the leaf tips on that clump. 2015 saw severe last spring freezes, and was then followed by six weeks of intense heat and drought and I don't water the seedling bed. so this is quite good performance for any cultivar that shows some susceptibility to late freeze damage.

The summer of 2015 saw my 2011-bred seedlings in full maturity and so a lot of selection happened then. That was my first foray into dealing with a large number of select seedlings. I did not feel I was at the point to line out most of these seedlings, nor did I have the space to do so on that level at that time either. I moved them as whole clumps into the hybridizing garden for further observation, so even though they were full clumps, taking them up and moving them set them back in 2016. Anyone who saw my hybridizing garden in the extreme heat, a 6-week drought followed by a 6-week monsoon and deer damage of 2016 must have thought a lot of clumps of daylilies looked particularly bedraggled! :-)

Korean Queen in 2016, the first season of flowering after being moved in the fall of 2015 as a full clump. If you increase the size of the picture, you can see that branching and bud counts are reduced in this picture, as compared to the picture above from the previous season before the seedling had been moved. 

While the flowering of a full clump diminishes some when disturbed and moved, a heavy division is even more of a set-back. When a clump is divided down into smaller divisions, and especially when taken down to single fans, in most instances, there will be a range of reduced performance in the first year divisions. This can include whether the plant flowers or not at all, how the flowers look, the height of the scape, the number of buds and the number of branches. Some plants suffer from division much more than others and take longer to recover. Some few recover quickly and vigorously.

Korean Queen shows excellent recovery after division. Divided in the fall of 2017, here it is in the 2018 season blooming well and normally, though branching, bud count and scape height are less than in a mature clump. This is still remarkable recovery and performance.

In my work, one focus has been on those plants that bloom within the first year after division with a reasonably sized double fan division or a large (for the cultivar) single fan. However, such a division flowering doesn't mean that it will bloom normally (or beautifully), at the registered height or branching/bud count that first year. In my evaluation I am not looking for the impossible, just more vigorous constitution. I may give allowance to a plant that takes two years to flower again if there are other exceptional traits, but I try not to do this too often. It is standard practice in commercial daylily growing to take clumps down to single fans to increase them. Some may only go to double fans. While I like to send a larger division if I can, it is important for me to know that my plants can go down to single or double fan divisions without significant damage. Fast recovery is important also, and exceptional flower performance in the first year, consistently, on divisions is an extremely desirable trait in the realm of 'plant traits'.

What will be very exciting to me this year though is the breedings I am preparing to do. Truly, a new day is dawning in my program, where I am no longer in the testing phase to figure out what is a good breeder, but using those that have proven to be good performers and breeders over the years they have been here. Many plants in this category have seven years up to a decade or more of provenance here in my garden. A great many of these are my own seedlings. Amongst my own seedlings, except for a tiny few from before my official program beginning year of 2010, the oldest will be 8 years old in August of 2019. The seven and eight year old seedlings went through the entire five year rust resistance screening program. I will now begin to make my own select seedlings central to all efforts, with the original base plants and secondary/tertiary level cultivars from other hybridizers becoming accent plants to return to for backcrossing.

Above, flower of select seedling from 2011 breeding season flowering in hybridizing garden, below, the plant of the same seedling.

Another thing that is exciting, and that I greatly anticipate, is seeing the first flush of flowers on seedlings bred in 2017. They won't all bloom, but enough will to give some significant ideas on how those matings combined. The first half of the 2017 breeding season was completely given over to Solaris Symmetry pollen, with about 95%+ of matings at the tet level using this single pollen parent. 2017 was the last year for experimenting with a base plant at a large scale. I haven't devoted a huge amount of use to Solaris Symmetry pollen since 2012, focusing on Solaris Symmetry as a pod parent and observing its grandkids. By 2017, with the rust resistance testing phase passed and Solaris Symmetry having proven time and again to be an excellent plant and parent, I decided it was time to make one final season/garden-wide long cross. This included backcrossing Solaris Symmetry to all the select seedlings I have raised from it in the past. So I will see a whole range of types of crosses, from wide outcrosses to type breeding (flowers similar to Solaris Symmetry) to backcrosses to offspring to the large number of seedlings I have from selfing Solaris Symmetry that year (yes, its pollen was used so extensively, I even used it on itself!). This will be the largest single data collection I have done on Solaris Symmetry, and the first I have done with it as a major pollen parent. I am just jittery to see what range of variations it makes!

Solaris Symmetry at sunset 2018

The seedlings from the second half of the 2017 breeding season will be equally exciting, as I focused on only a handful of pollen parents, with an emphasis on flat form. I was able to use my own late flowering seedlings that summer and there will be a wide range of interesting seedlings in the late category.

Wookie Goddess

A major breeding strategy will involve using the pollen of my select seedlings (especially the most longterm tested ones) that were broken up for line out testing last fall. While these will not give a good show, all the ones that bloom will likely give good pollen, and the ones that perform the best next year in this final major test will become the main pollens used in 2019. Most of my seedlings from this part of the program show good pod fertility and I have used those seedlings predominantly as pod parents, so this year, with none of those plantings full established, their pollen will become the focus for pollinations in 2019, and they will be allowed to rest as pod parents. I will be able to move the pollen of the select seedlings over select cultivars from other hybridizers, some of the base plants in my program and my own seedlings that have not been moved and can reliably have seeds set on them. 

Hybridizing garden 2018. All of the tall yellow seedlings in the background of this picture were lined out last fall. I did leave a triple fan division in place of each seedling, but they will take time to recover and look impressive again. 

I think of creating a breeding program much like braiding strands or cooking. In braiding, you take separate strands and turn them into one stronger strand by looping them through each other. A fitting description of breeding strategies. In cooking, you are mixing different ingredients - stirring, steeping, concentrating, folding-in and mixing - until you get something that is no longer the ingredients, but has become a thing of its own, with its own unique flavors and essence. I would say that I am finally at the point where I am no longer adding lots of ingredients (though we may "season to flavor" later on by adding something special from other programs), and am now beginning to see the ingredients take shape and prepare to bake. Over the next five or six years, the recipe will be baking.

Bed of four and five year seedlings in 2018

Beyond the breeding season, as we move into late summer and early fall, there should be another round of digging, dividing and lining-out seedlings for further testing. I think that I have done enough work in the gardens (shifting things around, donating superior but excess plants, culling inferior plantings and building new infrastructure) over the last five years, and especially the last two years, to have created a new trajectory and a new system of work and focus. This will be the first year I will working with the new garden layout and I am excited to see how it is going to run. 

I hope you all have a wonderful 2019!