2019 Interview for Paul Lewis
In this post I am reprinting the interview I did last winter for Paul Lewis, for his Lewis Daylily Garden. I am making this a text only version, while Paul's version contains a large number of images to complement the txt. I am printing this here for posterity and as part of group of pages detailing my breeding program. I highly recommend you visit Paul's Blog, Lewis Daylily Garden Blog. My article was split into two posts on Paul's blog. To read them, follow these links
Interview for Paul Lewis
paragraph intro about yourself…..
I was born and raised in London, Kentucky, where I still live on the farm that has been in my family for several generations. I have had an interest in genetics as applied to hybridization, breeding and domestication since childhood and I have studied genetics extensively since childhood. I chose to leave college to pursue independent research in the early 90s. I came back to my family farm at that time and began to pursue research with poultry. I also managed my mother’s business until 2005 to facilitate that research work. My research was focused on poultry and looked into a variety of topics, beginning with replicating the findings of previous researchers, then expanding to other questions of feather pigmentation (color) and pigment distribution (patterning) effects. Another important area of my work, which was ongoing throughout the other research on phenotype genetics, was research into immunogenetics (heritable disease resistance). While much of my research work was conducted independently, I also partnered with professional industry and university researchers on a number of projects that were related to, or based on, my independent research. I have published two books on poultry genetics for poultry hobbyists, one on color and patterning genetics and the other on the genetics of form and feathering traits. These are instructional books aimed at giving non-geneticists and average poultry hobbyists a set of guidelines for breeding desired phenotypes and as such are not volumes devoted simply to my research findings, but rather are aimed at helping average people understand how to apply the results of my research to their own programs in a practical and simple way. I see them as an interface between the science of genetics and the hobby of poultry breeding. I wrapped up my research with poultry, due to the intense workload and some health issues, in 2008, which then cleared me to begin to pursue daylily breeding, applying my experience and insight into the life sciences, hybridization, genetics, breeding and domestication to this new project.
1. How did you first get involved with daylilies?
I have been exposed to daylilies throughout my entire life. My maternal grandmother had daylilies on the farm long before I was born. My mother and aunt grew daylilies from my early childhood. I loved plants and animals, nature in general, from early childhood and being precocious (perhaps obnoxiously so) I had my own little gardens from the time I was five or six years old. H. fulva forma ‘Europa’ (the common ditch lily) was my first exposure to daylilies and the very first I grew, so ‘Europa’ is my point of reference for what a daylily should be. The first cultivar I had was ‘Winnie The Pooh’ (Wild - 1964) when I was 6 or 7 years old in either 1975 or 76. I also had a lovely cultivar called ‘Melon Balls’ (Wild - 1960) and the classic Frans Hals (Flory - 1955) at about that same time. Other daylilies that we grew from my early childhood included Linda (Stout - 1936), Angel Mine (Wild - 1966), Radiant Greetings (Wild - 1975), Kindly Light (Bechtold - 1950), Autumn Red (Nesmith - 1941) and H. dumortierii. The majority of our daylilies were either ordered from the Gilbert H. Wild catalog, the Wayside Gardens catalog or were plants we had found in ditch-lines and old house sites, or had traded or been gifted from other local gardeners.
I continued to grow daylilies throughout my childhood and teen years and was completely obsessed with them, but really had no awareness of the wider daylily world, AHS or daylily breeders beyond the Wild family and A.B. Stout. When I came back to the farm to start my research work with poultry, I also made gardens and moved the surviving daylilies from my old gardens around my parent’s house into those new gardens around my own house, and I started to buy new daylilies (not necessarily new introductions, but new-to-me daylilies). By this time, I had subscriptions to a couple of garden magazines and would find adds for daylily sellers in those. This began to introduce me to new sellers and new daylilies. I had a strong taste for eyes from early childhood, and so the new developments in eyes, and then eyes with edges, really stood out to me at that time. One daylily that caught my eye, and blew my mind, in the early 90s was Navajo Princess (Hansen - 1992). I bought this cultivar from Roycroft Daylily Nursery in 1997. I also bought my first tetraploids around this time, cultivars such as Bela Lugosi (Hanson - 1995), Nosferatu (Hanson - 1990), Mary Todd (Fay - 1967), Chicago Apache (Marsh-Klehm - 1981), Arctic Snow (Stamile - 1985), Custard Candy (Stamile - 1989), Benchmark (R.W. Munson - 1980), El Desperado (Stamile - 1991), Fuchsia Dream (Kirby - 1978), Nivia Guest (R.W. Munson - 1984), Paper Butterfly (Morss - 1983), Russian Rhapsody (R.W. Munson - 1973), Sovereign Queen (R.W. Munson - 1973), Winter Reverie (R.W. Munson - 1980) and many others. As well, I was constantly adding other diploids, some old and some new, just experimenting with different things.
I built my first gardens around my house in 1995 as my research work was in progress, but had not yet reached the massive, nearly out-of-control proportions it would reach in a few more years. As my poultry research did reach that level, I let the gardens go at times, sometimes for years at a time. I also had planted bamboo, and in time it spread through many of my gardens and ate them. In spring 2000 I bought some potted daylilies at a local box store and saw daylily rust for the first time. I didn’t know what it was then, but with my ongoing work with immunogenetics in poultry, I paid careful attention and took particular note that some of the daylilies were severally impacted, while others were only moderately impacted, while some seemed to not be impacted by the disease at all. I never forgot that and thought at the time that if I bred daylilies, an experiment in breeding and selecting for resistance to this pathogen would be in order. In 2003 my aunt built a house on the old farm and we began to build gardens for her, incorporating daylilies as a major feature. She also began to buy some newer tetraploid daylilies. By 2006 some of my gardens had been overgrown with weeds or bamboo for several years. In that year and the following year (2007) I dug half-clumps of all the remaining daylilies and divided those, taking divisions of each cultivar to my aunt’s garden and giving the rest to friends. I left the other half of the clump in place, just to see how much longer they could survive. At that time, I had lost some daylilies cultivars due to weed or bamboo cover, but many were still there. Many were still there in 2010 when I dug out the last of them and moved them to new gardens. I still grow some of those, while others have been lost or culled for one reason or another. A few have even made it into my breeding program.
The theme of making gardens and then letting them go is something I had experienced several times in my life up to that time. At times, people with a busy life, or who have life-changes that take up their time, may let their gardens go. It is nothing to be ashamed of. That is just a reality, even if it is hard for some committed gardeners to hear. People on a subsistence farm may not have time to pamper, weed regularly and divide plants every few years. People busy with their lives, other work commitments or new obsessions may have to let a garden go, no matter how much they love their garden, or they simply may have no choice. From childhood on, there have been times when, for whatever reason, the gardens here on the farm got neglected. This might have been depressing at the time, but in hindsight it was actually a blessing, as this gave me some important insight and information about daylily plants that I otherwise might never have known. The ability to observe that some daylilies will survive such treatment, and be there to be salvaged and resurrected years later, while other daylilies perished and were completely gone within only a few years, planted the kernel of an idea that has deeply influenced my work. Of all the older daylilies that survived in incredibly harsh conditions, weeds, bamboo, even black walnut tree saplings, Frans Hals, Linda and So Lovely proved to be incredibly resilient.
Further, we have all been taught that daylilies need to be ‘refreshed’ every three to four years, with clumps dug and divided or flowering decreases, but what I have been able to observe is that this is not true for ALL daylilies. For instance, no one is out in the ditches ‘refreshing’ endless masses of H. fulva ‘Europa’. What I was able to observe through my many years of growing daylilies, and especially through those years of letting the gardens go, is that not all daylily plants are created equally. This makes sense, when you consider that the major focus of hybridizers has been the flower, and you consider that there are several different styles of plant growth and clump formation/behavior amongst the species. As I have an eye for minutia and high pattern recognition, all of this information has combined to allow me to either see something others were overlooking, or to assign meaning and value to traits that others saw as unimportant or were ignoring. By going through periods in my own gardens where nothing got divided or cared for, sometimes for several years in a row, I was able to observe that there are a small number of daylily cultivars that do not decline, and will successfully grow and flower for many years without “crowding-out” the center fans or showing a decline in flowering or scape production, yet will still continue to increase, making large clumps.
The digging and redistribution in 2006 and 2007 made me think more deeply about the daylilies, and made me reevaluate my interests in them based on some of the observations I made then, along with my past experiences. In the late 90s I had considered starting to breed daylilies at that time, and even raised a few seedlings then, but it just didn’t pan out. All through the period of my poultry research I would periodically return to the daylilies, and I enjoyed their flowers every summer, even if they were growing with weeds. They had truly been a lifelong obsession, but had never broken over into a full breeding program, but throughout all that time, I thought about things I would like to breed for, if I did have a breeding program. I think that this long period of observation, experience and consideration gave me a strong grounding to pursue a breeding program, when the time did come. By 2008 my poultry research was winding down and I began to seriously consider that the time was approaching to start a daylily breeding program. I spent the period from 2008 to 2010 developing a game-plan in my mind for the program I would develop and what traits I would focus on, spending a lot of time online reading websites, message boards and looking at pictures. For the first time, I began to learn about breeders and programs other than those of A.B. Stout and the Wild family. In 2010 I began to purchase the cultivars that would become the basis of my breeding program.
2.Which daylily hybridizer or hybridizers influenced you in the beginning?
In the very beginning, the program of the Wild family was the only program I really knew about. Even though they sold daylilies from many other hybridizers, I somehow never really paid much attention to that. By the time I was in my early teens I learned about A.B. Stout, who really caught my interest because he was at the beginning and laid the foundation for the hybrid daylily. The thing I have always found so impressive about the Wild family program was the sheer scale of it. Over decades they produced hundreds of introductions that were all interesting, usually tough and hardy with good increase so that thousands and thousands of people had access to inexpensive daylilies and were introduced to these great garden plants. I first learned of A.B. Stout through the Wilds catalog, then through an article in a garden magazine, and learned he was “the father of daylilies”.
In the early 90s I found a copy of the A.B. Stout classic ‘Daylilies: The Wild Species and Garden Clones, Both Old and New, of the Genus Hemerocallis’, the rerelease from 1986 that has a forward by Darrel Apps. This was also my first introduction to Darrel Apps. I read that book cover-to-cover many times and was simply blown away by Stout’s insight and his breeding program. I also had A.P. Saunders’ book on peony breeding, and there are many parallels between the hybridization work of both men, both working at the same time, each laying the groundwork for the modern hybrid forms of the genus they worked with. The biggest difference was that Saunders had a large number of domestic cultivars of the species P. lactiflora and P suffruticosa to work with and to cross the many other species forms of Paeonia with when he started. While I took away many important lessons from Stout, especially in regard to the formation of the hybrids from the species materials that were available to him, and the amount of time and effort he put into selecting plants for breeding and release to gardeners, the most important individual piece of data I gleaned from his account was that he had created ‘Theron’ (Stout - 1934) in four generations from species materials, but had spent twenty years in the process. He had taken approximately five years per generation to evaluate the materials he produced and select the plants to move forward with in his breeding efforts. He didn’t take that long because he didn’t know what he was doing or couldn’t move faster. He took that long because he was patient and took his time to make sure he moved forward with the best plants, not just an eye-catching flower. Another important aspect to Stout that I think is often overlooked, is that in fifty years of breeding, he introduced one-hundred cultivars. His selective nature is obvious in the fact that some of his daylilies are still excellent garden plants and breeders, standing the test of time. Finally, I also obtained the Munson book, ‘Hemerocallis: The Daylilies’ ( R. W. Munson Jr. - 1993) in the mid-90s, and it was very influential on my thinking, especially his introduction where he points out that there are problems in the modern daylily and that selection focused only on flowers was accentuating those problems.
Beyond that, up until I began formulating a serious interest in building a program in 2008, I just never paid much attention to the daylily world, with my interest just being to grow daylilies, though I did know who Curt Hanson was and took some interest in what he was doing, probably based upon the cool names he was registering such as Nosferatu and Bela Lugosi (being a big horror genre fan). In 2008 I began researching daylily breeders, programs and individual species and hybrid cultivars in preparation for beginning a program. So early on, I started to reach out to breeders who grew species or had cultivars that intersected with my interests. I did this for a couple of years before I bought any daylilies or joined AHS, as I was just looking for information at that time and wasn’t ready to ‘jump in’ just yet. By this time I had already formulated some ideas about the program I wanted to pursue and the traits, in terms of both flower and plant, that I wanted to work with. With each person I contacted, I would explain my plans and ask for feedback, data or instruction, as well as suggestions of species clones or cultivars that might work for my aims.
Amongst those who were encouraging and extremely helpful from the first was Joseph Haliner. With his background in commercial plant production, growing and breeding Hemerocallis and Lillium, as well as having a good grasp on genetics, Dr. Haliner immediately understood the potential importance of breeding for rust resistance, and the strong possibility that such genes already existed within the genus and the hybrid population. Dr. Haliner also grew a large collection of Hemerocallis species clones and had hybridized with them, so was able to select for me a group of species clones for my work. He also offered me a great deal of useful data on using those species clones in breeding, and most importantly to my objectives, which clones could potentially produce viable zygotes when crossed to tetraploid hybrid daylilies. The first group of daylilies I purchased in 2010 to begin my program was a group of species clone from Dr. Haliner. Amongst those were Hemerocallis fulva ex Korea (Seoul National University, NA 54920, which was collected from a botanical garden at the Seoul National University by Darrel Apps and Barry Yinger in 1984), H. fulva ‘Hankow’, H. sempervirens, four clones of H. citrina and H. vespertina. H. fulva ‘Korean’, H. fulva ‘Hankow’. H. sempervirens, and H. vespertina, as well as one of the four clones of H. citrina, proved to be very important to my work.
Brian Mahieu’s program was an early inspiration, based upon the species backcrossing work he had done in his program, though my interest was to create a program at the tetraploid level. I had seen a couple of pictures on Brian Mahieu’s website of two seedlings he felt were a cross of an H. citrina clone with a tetraploid hybrid, which I discussed with Dr. Haliner. I also discussed Gil Stelter’s crossing of tetraploid daylily cultivars to fulva species clones. These two examples planted the idea that a species backcross program at the tetraploid level might work. Dr. Haliner confirmed to me that such breeding was not only possible, but productive and fertile ground for a breeding program, as he had experimented with such breedings and could offer first-hand experience and data. He was also able to make some suggestions on observed resistance to rust in the species clones he grew. The fact that, at nearly a decade later, I am still using some of the plants I obtained from Dr. Haliner in my breeding program means that his contribution to my program may exceed any other individual. Because he contributed the most important species clones I have worked with, along with information on how to use them, his contribution in many ways made my program possible. Dr. Haliner also suggested I look into a plant called ‘Implausibility’ bred by Nick Chase and to look at hybrids made from conversions of old cultivars that were close to species. He specifically recommended finding Tetrina, but I ended up going with one of its descendants instead.
In addition to the species clones from Dr. Haliner, three other plants have completed the base material for species or near-species materials in my program. All three of these were brought in during the second year of my program in 2011, and all three turned out to have high to extremely high rust resistance. The first, as suggested by Dr. Haliner, was Implausibility bred by Nick Chase. The second is Notify Ground Crew from Curt Hanson. Curt’s program has been a big influence on my work and several of his plants are also part of my program. The third is Ancient Elf by Jamie Gossard. So the species/near species base can be contributed to Mother Nature and Haliner-Apps-Yinger, Chase, Hanson and Gossard.
In order to make the program that I envisioned though, species materials alone would not have been enough. Like everyone else, I am in love with fancy daylily flowers and I wanted beautiful flowers in a diverse array of colors, with at least some of them being very clear colors in the near white-lavender-pink-purple range. Further, my obsession with eyes, and in particular the look of Navajo Princess, and petal edges of all kinds meant that I had to go to modern, fancy hybrids for those traits. I had noted over the years that not all of the eyed cultivars presented a well-opened flower which could obscure the gorgeous eye, and so I was particularly interested in well-opening and fairly flat flowers. In searches for daylily cultivar pictures on the internet in 2008 and 2009, I started adding the term ‘flat’ to those searches, and I quickly found Substantial Evidence by Richard Norris of Ashwood Daylilies. I was simply blown away! That was the form I had been seeing in my mind for years. I could imagine all manner of phenotype traits added to that gorgeous flat flower. There was only one problem - Substantial Evidence is a diploid, and I wanted to focus on tetraploids.
This ended up leading to a detour and expansion of my plans, but with a purpose. I knew in time that Substantial Evidence or some of its descendants would be converted to tetraploidy and could then be added to my tetraploid program, but in the meantime, I could work with Substantial Evidence at the diploid level and learn about its genetics. This could then offer me a better foundation for working with the Substantial Evidence family line at the tetraploid level when the time came. This is why I have any diploid program at all, though later, as I began making a serious attempt at breeding for rust resistance, and found that there were very few strongly resistant tetraploids, but numerous strongly resistant diploids, working with strongly resistant diploids became something of an insurance policy in case there was some reason a strongly resistant tetraploid program couldn’t be developed. In time, I found that I was able to bring together enough rust resistant tetraploids to make a viable breeding program that could produce both strongly rust resistant plants along with fancy, modern flowers. Finally, Substantial Evidence was converted and I am now working with its genetics at the tetraploid level, and with rust resistance genes in the mix to boot. When it comes to flower form, Substantial Evidence, and the vision and breeding work of Richard Norris, is at the base of my entire program and informed my program from the get-go.
One of my favorite color combinations is a near white flower with a bluish lavender eye, and from early on I suspected that such a flower would also be useful in breeding near white, lavender, purple and possibly pink flower colors, as well. In addition, cold hardiness is important to me, being in a temperate zone and wanting to produce daylilies that can flourish throughout cold winter locations. My experience with growing daylilies for several decades before I started my program had shown me that certain plants were not cold hardy, these often being plants bred in the deep south that showed the so-called evergreen foliage phenotype. Not all evergreens, certainly, but enough that I had noticed it on my own before I ever began reading up on the experiences of other daylily growers and breeders. To that end, I wanted to bring in plants from programs in very cold winter areas, and if possible, very clear colored and fancy flowered plants from such programs. I also grow peonies and was familiar with Nate Bremer of Solaris Farms from his work with peonies, and I knew he had a daylily breeding program, so I looked through is introductions to find some that I might want to add, reasoning that his location combined with his cultural methods and focus on strength, vigor and hardiness would mean that his introductions should have the type of hardness that I was looking for. When I saw that he had a near white, bluish lavender eyed cultivar with a lavender edge and a nice green throat, I had to have it. That cultivar is Solaris Symmetry. Nate’s dedication to hardiness and vigor has been an inspiration since the beginning of my program.
Those are the main breeders and cultivars that I started with and have become the major focus of all my work. I have added cultivars from other breeders, of course. One who I think has done some very good work is Robert Selman of Blue Ridge Daylilies. Two of my favorites from his program are Alien DNA and Thumbthing Special. One of the things I really love about Bob’s program is that he has taken southern-bred plants and bred from them to select a very cold hardy line of plants, thanks in large part to his rather cold microclimate.
John and Annette Rice of Thoroughbred Daylilies have a great program and many very fine plants. Like Robert Selman’s program, they have been able to use their environment to select for very hardy and vigorous plants that show lovely flower traits. I have used many of their plants in my program. I am especially smitten with their work in the late and very late season. My late to very late program is based around H. fulva ‘Hankow’, Sandra Elizabeth and Rice introductions, and it is the Rice introductions that have ‘fancied up’ that part of my program.
Curt Hanson is one of my favorite breeders. His program has been a huge influence on me. I love the massive plants, tall and thick scapes and amazing branching seen in so many of his introductions.
Mike Derrow of Adena Daylilies has a great program and is very selective in what he introduces. Mike is working with an incredible number of amazing plants and I expect some great introductions to come from his garden.
I am just beginning to grow a number of Karol Emmerich’s introductions, but I have long admired her Springwood Gardens program. Her work to breed up cold hardy plants from less that cold hardy plants is very sound, in my estimation. Her use of a greenhouse is not problematic because while she produces the initial seedlings from tender plants in the greenhouse, they then go out to survive or die in her extremely cold Minnesota location. This has allowed her to create cold hardy daylilies with fancy faces, and it has required real breeding work on her part, and real nerve and discipline to put those beautiful, tender faces out in the cold to sink or swim. One of the greatest attributes any breeder can have is the nerve and discipline to risk loss and heartbreak to achieve a goal. That matters, because it is just too easy to make that little extra effort to keep gorgeous flowering plants with lesser plant traits, but that is a sure way to miss your goals.
Darrel Apps has been a big influence to me. I think he is the most under-appreciated daylily breeder of our time. Darrel Apps work has been the work of a true plantsman, someone who really understands what plant breeding is. To daylily breeders only into tetraploids with all the fancy bells and whistles, his small reblooming diploids probably don’t seem too sexy, but if you really evaluate what he has produced, and then look at what he started with, that is the art of plant breeding! Anyone can buy some of the latest-and-greatest fancy daylilies and cross those and expect to get something right off the bat, but to just see a hint of possibility, make the outcrosses and then go through the generations required to recombine multiple genetic traits into individual plants, creating something new in the process, is what a real breeding program is. I have used several of his diploid introductions in my own diploid work to great effect, especially his red rebloomer Endless Heart, which has extremely high rust resistance, excellent rebloom and great breeding value for both traits. I have only recently begun growing some of Darrel’s tetraploids, but they seem to be sound, vigorous and hardy. However, having read Darrel’s introduction to Stout’s book many years before I started my breeding program, I was aware of him and so read all I could find on him and his breeding program at the beginning of my own breeding program.
The final breeder that made a big impact on me in the beginning of my program was George Doorakian. Already in love with the green throats and triangular eyes from Navajo Princess, cultivars such as Malachite Prism, Emerald Starburst and Rose F. Kennedy caught my attention right away. While I love the look of those cultivars, and it is an influence on me from Doorakian’s work to know that the trait can be greatly accentuated, the strongest influence from his program was how he pursued it. He decided what he wanted to do, he brought in plants he felt could accomplish that goal and he just patiently made it happen. That is very inspiring to me.
3.What were some of your initial goals for your daylily hybridizing?
From the start of my preparation for my program, I have recognized that there would be multiple points that I would want to focus on. Because of my background and experience, I knew I would never be able to just focus on one color, or one shade of one color, or one form, or anything else very narrow, at least not at the beginning of my program. To me, that is refinement work that one does long after they have established a sound program, or is what you pursue if you just want a nice, small hobby. My years of experience with daylilies had shown me that there were many points that needed attention, and perhaps the flower was the least of those, though there were areas needing attention there too. Over the years, my preference had moved more toward tetraploids. I love their large plants, thick scapes and heavy flower substance. Yet from the first tetraploids I had grown, something about them had the “whiff” of problems, especially the frequently poor pod fertility displayed by many tetraploids when compared to diploids, amongst other traits. My observations suggested that there were probably chromosomal imbalances due to how the tetraploids came about - chemically induced ploidy conversion - and possibly also from the hybridization process that all daylilies derived from, which may have then been intensified through chemical conversion. My interest in hybridization as both a force of evolution and a major mode of domestication meant that I was well-aware of the chromosomal imbalances that can occur in hybrids in both plants and animals, and especially in plants within polyploid materials derived from chemically induced conversion. Based on my many years of research and breeding, I knew that some chromosomal imbalances can be corrected when hybrid or converted material is backcrossed to species material. This has been done extensively in many other genera of domestic hybrid plant breeding programs, but has never been done to any extent in the daylilies.
The backcrossing with species that Brian Mahieu had done in his program was interesting to me as I was formulating directions for my program, however, I wanted to do that sort of work at the tetraploid level, as I felt this could “iron-out” the issues I saw in the majority of the modern tetraploid gene pool. Brian Mahieu had pictures on his website of two seedlings he felt were the result of crossing an H. citrina clone with a tetraploid cultivar, so this planted the idea. I also learned about the existence of Dr. Haliner from Brian Mahieu’s website. Brian Mahieu’s work had also influenced Gil Stelter to pursue creating cold-hardy tetraploid spider and unusual form daylily cultivars by crossing fulva species variants to tender tetraploid spider cultivars. These two examples suggested to me that a species backcross program at the tetraploid level was possible. My communication with Dr. Haliner gave me the direction and basic data to get started. He agreed with my assessment that there were issues that could potentially be improved through the backcross to species.
By “ironed-out” tetraploid plants, I mean plants that show the best traits of the species of the genus, in the sense of high fertility with vigor and ruggedness. I would then like to see these traits combined with the best traits of the hybrids; tall scapes that are well branched with high bud counts and interesting flowers in a wide range of forms and colors, with or without all the bells and whistles of the fancy flowers. I say ‘with our without all the bells and whistles’ because I would happily grow very plain flowers in a single color if that is all that could be accomplished on the type of plants I want to grow. However, I now know that I can produce this kind of plant with the fancy flowers we see in the most extreme modern lines, and while I suspected it at the time, I couldn’t be sure then. In terms of what the plant I am interested in represents, I have discussed that already a bit above. I will go into more detail about that here, but before I do, I want to detail the layers of my program, and how I have approached the development of that program.
In terms of the overall program, I have Goals and I have Ideals. Goals are more short-term and involve individual traits or groups of related traits. The goals are something to aim at, milestones to mark the way toward the ideals. The Ideals are more longterm, and are hopes about final outcomes, dreams to keep me moving forward as the goals are achieved. Here is a list of goals and ideals that I established at the beginning of my program.
- Identify exceptional species, species-like and fancy modern hybrid daylilies to use as base plants for line development. This goal will not be a fast or easy one to fulfill, and will require several years of observation. There is really no way to know if a plant will actually fulfill such promise without a period of testing under my observation and in my own conditions. Five years is generally the minimum time to make such a determination.
- The species and species-like material mentioned in the first point is to open up the gene pool of my tetraploid program, as the tetraploids represent the narrowest gene pool within the Hemerocallis. The modern hybrids mentioned above are to provide fancy traits not concentrated or revealed in the species.
- Begin to combine species and species-like material with exceptional modern hybrids to develop lines with species-like vigor, a widened gene pool, superior plant traits and fancy, modern flowers.
- Identify and reproduce plants that both form clumps that do not die-out requiring division to be “refreshed” and that also show good increase, creating strong, vigorous, long-lasting clumps for the landscape, but also plants that can be frequently divided for purposes of increase.
- Plant trait goals - strong and large roots, large and vigorous fans/plants/clumps, beautiful foliage, disease/pest resistance, strong tall scapes, high bud count, rebloom and/or bud building, tree-like multiple branching.
- Preferred foliage trait goals - senescent foliage (dies in late fall/early winter and stops growing), resting bud at or below ground level, late emergence of foliage growth in the spring, late freeze tolerance/resistance, attractive foliage in any color, but with dark, rich green preferred. A secondary segment of foliage trait goals is the production of plants with foliage that is semi-evergreen or evergreen that are rust resistant plants for warm-winter gardens, but that shows hardiness in cold-winter gardens, a low incidence of winter-growth in cold-winter areas (especially in warm spells in winter) and that show high frost tolerance/resistance during late spring frosts/freezes.
- Flower trait goals - fancy flower phenotypes combined with strong substance, strong sun and rain resistance and resistance to insect pests. I like all the visual flower phenotypes, so there can be a wide range of possibilities. I have a special appreciation of near white, both as a flower color and as the base upon which to layer anthocyanic colors such as pink, lavender, purple or red. I think near-white has special applications in the garden both to bring bright light into the garden and because they seem to handle high heat better than any of the other colors. I have a special fondness of eyes, and eyes with edges, and additional patterns in the eye are nice too. I like piecrust, fringed and toothed edges. I like sculpting in all its forms. I prefer narrow petals to round petals, but like both, and all the form variations. I am especially fond of very open, flat flowers, but I also like natural trumpet shaped flowers, as well.
- Actions - Identify plants with the above traits and begin to combine then, making the basis for lineages. In this phase, rarely will all traits be found together in any one plant (and when more than two or three such traits are found together, that is noteworthy and exceptional). The great challenge is to bring as many of these traits together in individual plants as possible.
- Combine the best select species/species-like plants with the most exceptional select modern hybrids, forming the base lines with both types in the pedigree.
- Remain patient and focused, using the best plants and selected, tested seedlings from them to continue combining the desired traits, continuously making individual plants that have as many of these traits as possible.
- Build lines that combine all the traits listed in the goals. This is done through braiding individual select species variants, cultivars and seedlings to continuously combine more and more desired traits, eventually creating individuals with as many of the traits as possible (hopefully all of them), then use these extraordinary individuals to breed lines with these traits.
- Continue to advance flower traits on exceptional plants. Once the goals have been met, the lineages have been set, and the Ideals reached, then the final goal can move into place - a simpler, smaller program that is based in flower breeding, selecting for new, advanced and complex flowers, but on superior plants derived from the long program of creating such plants that were infused with fancy flower genes from its inception.
I also developed a layering system for the plants I would use in my program involving a primary layer (the species and species-like material deemed ‘exceptional’ after a minimum of five years of testing), a secondary layer (composed of modern hybrid cultivars that had been rated ‘exceptional’ after a minimum of five years of testing) and a tertiary layer (composed of plants that have desired flower or plant traits - some may have flaws in other areas, so may not rate ‘exceptional’, and so might only make a minor contribution and then be removed from the program, while others become part of the secondary level over time).
In addition to the layering system that I would require to make a program representing the best of the species and modern hybrids, I also set an expected timespan for reaching Goals, and then reaching the point where I could expect to see the Ideals coming together. That initial timespan covers twenty years and is broken up into four, five-year segments.
- The first five-years - The period during which the initial base plants of the primary and secondary levels are determined. Tertiary plants may play some small role in this period, being identified through elimination from further testing to determine primary and secondary plants, after having contributed their genes to the program through their seedlings that display superior traits, and so become selected within the program. This period is singularly focused on testing and observation to identify individual plants with targeted traits. All breeding during this period is experimental, to determine breeding value for desired traits and select seedlings to form the second generation of the base plants. Species clones, hybrid cultivars and select seedlings are to be expected from this time-period, and by the time it is finished, I should have suitable material to base my breeding work upon. This is the period of meeting the initial goal of determining base plants.
- The second five-years - This is the period to begin to combine the plants selected in the first five years, combining primary and secondary cultivars, as well as crossing both primary and secondary plants with tertiary cultivars, to bring fancy flower traits or specific plant traits that are perhaps on lesser plants, onto the known-quantity of plants screened and of proven breeding value. This second period then forms the wider base that allows for the eventual production of BOTH the plant and the flowers I expect based on my goals and ideals. This is the secondary phase of meeting goals - proving breeding value for target traits and the individuals that display them, and beginning to blend as many of those traits as possible together, as well as spreading target traits throughout the entire population.
- The third five-year period - This period marks the time when initial selection has been completed, breeding value has been proven and complex combinations of traits can begin to be combined. This is the period where some goals should have been met, and while work toward goals is still ongoing, some of the ideals should begin to be visible within the population, at lest in small numbers. Focus on flower phenotypes can become a more prominent focus during this period within the superior family lines.
- The fourth five-year period - This period marks the time when many goals should have been met, and (at least) some of the ideals should be coming together within the population. The major work of this period should be to continue combining the goal traits, and increase the numbers of plants and family lines that express the ideals of the program. Within this period, and proceeding it, major focus can move toward the most advanced and novel flower traits, especially within this lines that have met all the plant goals and are the epitome of the overall Ideals in terms of plant traits.
A few notes on this overall plan. The time projection is based on Stout’s development of Theron, which took twenty years. The ideals of the program are not exclusive, in the sense that I reserve the right to grow, breed from and even introduce any plant that I feel is exceptional in any way, whether it meets the ideals of not. Plants which reflect important aspects of any of the goals, and which show exceptional expressions of any of those traits, plant or flower, may be of value, both to me and to other breeding programs. The overall ideals of the program are a place to arrive at, and not the journey itself. Along the way many important traits may be intensified and improved in the course of making the ideals a reality. This is the nature of a longterm breeding plan.
There is a specific traits I want to focus on a bit before closing out this section. It is plants that do not die-out in the center and that do not need to be frequently divided to continue to grow and flower normally. For me, such plants are the Holy Grail, and the development of lines of such plants is the priceless pearl found at the end of my Ideals. Because I made observations of this trait over many years before I started my breeding program, this has always been a central aspect of my longterm Ideal - the vision at the endpoint of my longview. We have all been taught that daylilies need to be ‘refreshed’ every three to four years, with clumps dug and divided or flowering decreases, but what I have been able to observe is that this is not true for ALL daylilies. Some of the non-rhizomatous species will grow in an expanding clump for many years without problems. H. dumortierii in our gardens here on the farm has at times grown in clumps for decades with no division and no ill effects, while consistently increasing, not dying out in the center and not diminishing. What I was able to observe through my many years of growing daylilies, and especially through those years of letting the gardens go, is that not all daylily plants are created equally. This makes sense, when you consider that the major focus of hybridizers has been the flower, and you consider that there are several different styles of plant growth and clump formation/behavior amongst the species. Since many species went into the origination of the hybrids, with little selection then applied to the minutia of clump formation/behavior, and most daylily growers digging and dividing regularly to increase for distribution, few people have probably ever realized or considered the variations in the plant to be of any relevance. However, my long experience with growing daylilies, my possibly unique set of observations, and a lifetime of experience and research in the natural sciences, hybridization, domestication, genetics, breeding and selection combined to present me with an opportunity to observe traits that might have gone unnoticed in other instances. I also have an eye for minutia and high pattern recognition. All of this has combined to allow me to either see something others were overlooking, or assign meaning and value to traits that others saw as unimportant or were ignoring.
What I have seen is that many daylilies will form a clump and then within two, three or four years they will begin to “crowd-out” in the center of the clump, with the central fans dying and leaving a ring of fans, often of reduced size, around the perimeter of the clump. These plants often also form a mound that extends up out of the ground, as new roots are growing on old, dead, dried, “mummified” roots. Left to their own devices, many of these plants wither away without division, while others eventually regenerate, becoming two, three or more new clumps in a ring around the old, dead, mounded center. Some species of Hemerocallis also show this plant behavior and it must allow them to slowly move around, making new clumps very slowly, sort of a ‘slow-motion’ spreading without rhizomes. My experience is that many individuals amongst the hybrids that show this plant behavior don’t tend to recover and eventually die out without digging and division, along with high inputs such as fertilizer and water. In a garden, none of this is acceptable or attractive, and so such daylilies really do require division every few years. There is variation in this type of behavior, with some individuals showing this behavior in just a couple of years, while some cultivars may take five years or more to hit this crisis point.
As I stated above, some species, such as H. dumortierii, also do not show this die-out/decline plant behavior. Obviously, rhizomatous types of daylilies won’t tend to show the die-out/decline behavior I have described either, but when I note cultivars that do not show the center-die-out/decline pattern, I am not referring to rhizomatous types, but to clump formers that can be maintained in clumps for many, many years without decline or deleterious problems. I have come to feel that this type of daylily is a true perennial, and that such plant performance is wildly preferable to most gardeners, especially those who have some life beyond endless garden busy-work. Time-and-time again I have been told by various people amongst the general public - some who are gardeners, some who are just average people who want a few flowers in their yard - that they don’t like daylilies “because they have to be divided every three or four years and that is just too much work, especially if you have more than a handful of clumps”. Many people want to plant a thing called a ‘perennial’ and walk away, then be able to enjoy it for years to come without having to do anything much to it, much like one would with a peony, a rhododendron bush or a flowering cherry tree. Over and over, I hear people complain about ‘perennial gardens’ based on the upkeep required in frequent digging and division, and I can’t disagree with their assessment. Other than us committed daylily fanatics, who has time?
I feel that the creation of such daylilies is an important longterm step in making the daylily more popular with the gardening public, and that this is essential to the future of the daylily. Further, it is the essence of the important work of plant improvement. We often forget that the daylily flower is not the plant and actually has nothing to do with the vigor, survivability or performance of the plant. The flower is merely the reproductive organ of the daylily plant. Yes, it is a beauty to behold, but it has nothing to do with the survival or survivability of the plant. Its only reason in nature is to draw the insects that will pollinate the plant and ensure the setting of seeds. The flower serves only to attract pollinators to create the next generation. As we are the pollinators now, we can make choices, good or bad, in what we select for - what plants we select to reproduce and what traits we choose to carry on into the future. Through that we can determine what future these plants we grow and breed have in the wider world.
The last aspect of my program that I want to mention, which has been there from the beginning, is that all the various aspects of my program are grounded in the possible. Because of my many years of growing the genus Hemerocallis, the experience I had gained in plant and animal breeding before I started my daylily breeding program, and the research I did about Hemerocallis before I started moving pollen, I knew that the traits I wanted to work with existed within the genus. The work of breeding and selecting for disease and pest resistance are well-established aspects of the applied science of plant breeding. My decades of personal experience growing daylilies had shown me the type of daylily plant-growth pattern that I wanted to focus on. A.B. Stout, through his writing, had shown me how he had made the initial hybrid daylily population. R. W. Munson told me what to watch out for in the introduction to his book. The work of the daylily community and generations of breeders had shown me what was possible with the flower, the scape, the visual effects of the plant in general. Adversity had shown me that some daylilies had incredible endurance and survivability, and what traits were advantageous for the potential climatic extremes of my area. The Chinese, and other East Asian cultures, showed me that the daylily is far more than just a garden flower. Growing a wide range of daylily cultivars over several decades had shown me the good, the beautiful, the bad and the ugly - the desirable traits, as well as the undesirable traits that were being allowed to concentrate into the plants through being ignored when only the flower was the focus (the bane of all domestic breeding programs - progressively narrowing focus on minutia), just as Munson pointed out. My own artistic aesthetic informs my love and understanding of colors and forms.
To me, it was important to approach my program from a place grounded in the reality of the genus. First, because I wanted to accomplish my goals, and second, because I didn’t want to waste years chasing impossible dreams. You see, I don’t necessarily want to make something that doesn’t exist. I don’t care about making a ‘true blue’, or ‘true white’, or a specific shade of red, though others are welcome to do that if it interests them. I am happy with bluish-lavender and purples on the blue end of the spectrum. I am fine with near-white. What I want is to improve the daylily, making an even finer garden plant than we already have. Some daylilies can be a great garden plants, but they can be even better. I know this because I have had the pleasure of observing what some few daylily plants are capable of. Just as we have selected fancier and fancier flowers, we can also select plants with those finest plant traits, combining and intensifying them, and we can do that while still continuing to select fantastic, beautiful and cutting-edge flowers. It simply requires finding the right plants and making use of them, even if that means we have to take a detour for a decade or so to combine all the traits together. That is called breeding. I am not looking to turn the daylily into some other type of plant, but to improve and refine the marvelous plant that the daylily already is. Within the range of what is already in existence in the flower traits, there is a lifetime of work to be done just to combine those flower traits that already exist into every possible combination they could occur in, and to then get those flowers onto really fantastic plants. New and novel flower traits will likely continue to emerge, but I wonder, if that is all we collectively pay attention to and focus on, what kind of plants those new flower traits will end up on?
4.What are some of the initial challenges you faced with your hybridizing?
The greatest challenges I faced initially were in finding both the information I needed to make educated choices, and to then find materials (actual plants - species clones or hybrid cultivars) to build the program I envisioned. This was especially true for finding fancy, hybrid tetraploids that could meet the base-criteria I required for a plant to become part of my program (even my tertiary layer requires a certain level of desirable traits). Of course, there were no problems with finding the flower traits I liked. All you have to do is be willing to spend a lot of money and, voila’, you can have all the fancy flowers you want, but finding those fancy flowers with superior plants underneath them is a whole other level of challenge.
Finding Dr. Haliner and the initial base species was a stroke of pure luck, one of those synchronistic events where the right person with the right information (and in this case, right plants) just happens to cross your path at the right time. He then directed me on to finding Implausibility and Notify Ground Crew. I found Ancient Elf by chance through web searches for the keywords “rust resistance”, “tetraploid” and “fertility”, pointing me to the hybridizer’s description. I then found, quite by chance, a local grower who had it and sold me a big clump of it for nearly nothing. He didn’t want it any more because it was “so plain”… I tried Solaris Symmetry because I thought it might be quite hardy due to its point of origin and because it was the least expensive “blue-eyed white” that was fairly new that I had found. It turned out to be the most important plant I have grown and used. Honestly, I could have just used the four species and species-like base plants, and Solaris Symmetry, to produce a great program, but I continued searching for materials, as I wanted to work with a wider range of plants, knowing that genetic diversity is always desirable, and so I was always looking for other plants with superior traits. Though I have found a fair number of good plants, not many have been exceptional or extraordinary, but there have been some, as I will discuss in another question further below.
Finding rust resistance was exasperating. I am certain there are multiple genes for resistance to rust in the Hemerocallis, so it was important to me to find as many resistant plants as I could within the time period I had set aside for rust resistance screening, to attempt to amass a wide range of genes for rust resistance. Finding resistant plants at the diploid level is not that hard, as about 25 to 35% of diploids that I have trialed show moderately to extremely high resistance to rust. What was much harder was to find rust resistant tetraploids. My experience suggests that rust resistance is very rare amongst most tetraploid lines, likely due to the original, narrow gene pool the tetraploids were created from being predominantly susceptible to rust (but who could have known that then?). My experience with screening tetraploids for rust resistance is that only about 2 - 5% of tetraploids show moderately high to extremely high resistance to rust. The irony is that the first four species and species-like base plants that I brought in (H. fulva ‘Korean’, Implausibility, Notify Ground Crew and Ancient Elf) all show very high to extremely high rust resistance. Over time, I was able to locate other hybrid tetraploids with more modern flowers that either showed higher levels of rust resistance or that had some breeding value for the trait, but it was a nerve-wracking, back-breaking, expensive and time-consuming effort. I also want to stress that when you do locate rust resistance in tetraploids, it is just as genetically stable and heritable as at the diploid level. There is not a problem with tetraploids not being able to be resistant, it is just that most aren’t. When you find those that are resistant, they are replicable, with the first generation results depending on whether the genes of the parents in question are recessive, dominant or some combination of both, just as in the resistant diploids.
Resistance to thrips is even rarer in daylilies than rust resistance, both at the diploid and tetraploid levels. Finding plants with high levels of resistance was like finding a needle in a haystack, but I did find some. Again, the irony is that both Notify Ground Crew and Solaris Symmetry have excellent thrip resistance, with Solaris Symmetry being one of the best for this trait I have located. Whooperee and Spider Man are two other tetraploids that show very high thrip resistance, and Tis Midnight is probably the best diploid I found for the trait. I found no statistical difference in resistance for thrips between diploids and tetraploids. While we often just think of thrip damage as being spots on an anthocyanic-colored flower’s petals, any color can be effected, and the damage can also manifest as enations (bumps, horns and thorns) on the backs of the sepals, and severe attacks by thrips can cause bud drop or even scapes that wither and never mature to flower.
Locating plants that show the foliage combination of leaves that die-down in the late fall or winter, go into dormancy forming a resting bud, stay underground for the winter (even if the winter gets warm) and then emerging late in the spring but also showing resistance to late spring freezes, but then also don’t showing summer dormancy, was extremely difficult, though again, Ancient Elf and Solaris Symmetry show these traits with Solaris Symmetry being very good for all these traits. You might find any one of these traits on a given plant, but it is very hard to find them combined. Just buying plants registered ‘dormant’ or bred in the far north is no guarantee of finding plants with all these traits (or any of them). As with the clump style that doesn’t die-out over time and require “refreshing”, most people probably aren’t even aware of all these traits to even be selecting for them. The extreme winter weather of the far north make it difficult to select for some of these traits, as everything goes into “dormancy” and stays that way in such climates through most winters. Without the extreme freeze/thaw cycles that I see in my location, observing some of these traits would be very difficult, so no one can be blamed for not selecting for traits if they can’t observe them. A further surprise is that you will occasionally find some of these traits on plants that are not dormant. For instance, some few evergreen or semi-evergreen plants I have grown show exceptional freeze tolerance to late spring freezes, while some few other evergreen/semi-evergreens do not start to grow during every warm spell and wait until fairly late in the spring to start growing.
Another trait that has been difficult to locate and requires patience to identify is the trait I have mentioned of plants that can grow for a long time without division and that don’t die-out in the center or diminish, but that also increase so that division is not just possible, but productive. My experience of the trait over the decades is that it takes at least five years to determine if a plant has this growth habit. In three or four years, some plants will have self-eliminated, but you need to go to at least the fifth year and it doesn’t hurt to observe a clump for a decade or so. Slow work, but very rewarding when you find such a plant! The trait is as rare in both diploids and tetraploids as thrips resistance, probably because it hasn’t been recognized to be selected for (or no one cared to select for it because it requires patient observation over a long period of time…and isn’t about the flower).
My test matings over the last many years now show me that all of these traits that I have mentioned here are heritable and can be selected for in a breeding program. Finding such plants to start with is very difficult though. My experience is that most daylily breeders find questions about these traits to be frustrating, as they are often unfamiliar with them. It can be hard to describe these traits to someone who hasn’t noticed them on their own. I have spent the last decade or more just developing the terminology I use to describe them, and that has often emerged by trial and error through discussing these trait with other daylily people while hunting for such plants. In my experience, daylily breeders can tell you a great deal about how the flowers of their cultivars look, maybe some information about the performance of their plants under their conditions, and that will usually be limited to registered foliage type, scape details, bud count and other very obvious traits. I have been told multiple times by many daylily breeders, when requesting information about these traits in preparation to buy plants, that these traits that I am looking for “don’t matter”, that “only the flower really matters” and/or that “no one will ever care about such traits”. Few hybridizers allow clumps to stay in place for long periods of time to know how a clump may do longterm, though a few do. Most in the north don’t know any details on rust resistance and many will react defensively or negatively if you ask about it. Most in the south spray for rust. Data about thrip resistance is hard to get because so many people spray their gardens or ignore the damage the thrips cause. Most programs are fairly high input, even when breeders say they “don’t pamper their plants”, so details about how they do under adversity is usually not available. My experience is that I would obtain eight to twelve cultivars and, if I was very lucky, one or maybe two would turn out to be useable. One remedy I found was to just focus on people’s older introductions that were not as expensive, or that I could obtain from secondary sellers, so that I could look at as many individual cultivars as possible and so have a better chance of finding one or two plants with some of the traits I was looking for. The process was frustrating, but I knew that once I was past the first ten years of my program, I would have found enough plants for a program, even if that was only a tiny number of individuals and wouldn’t need to continue to trial new plants from other programs, unless I just wanted to. I wasn’t looking at that initial investment as something I “had to recoup”, but just the price of admission. And really, the few that gave me the traits I was looking for have been invaluable.
5. How many seedlings do you grow each year?
That has varied. The first year I produced significant seeds was in 2011, when I produced about 10,000 seeds. The next year, in 2012, I produced about 20,000 seeds. In 2013 I produced about 50,000 seeds. 2014 I produced about 100,000 seeds. 2015 and 2016 were quite out of control, with the largest seed productions I have ever made. 2015 saw about 250,000 seeds and 2016 saw at least double that amount, somewhere in excess of 500,000 seeds. 2016 marked the end of the first five-year period of my program. I began to move to the next phase in 2017, and a key to that phase was to reduce the workload, and so I produced about 50,000 seeds that year, and then in 2018, I again reduced the number of seeds to about 20,000. I am now moving down to 10,000 seeds per year or less, and that is the range I hope to stay in for the foreseeable future. There may come a year in the future when I choose to make a larger number of seeds for some specific reason, but for now, I feel that I can make significant progress in my program with the small and manageable number of around 10,000 seeds each year. In the longterm, I am hoping that by the time I am near or past the twentieth year of my program I can go down to producing just a couple or so thousand seeds per year.
6. What are some of your favorite daylily introductions from others?
Well, Hemerocallis fulva ‘Korean’ is just lightening in a bottle, in my opinion - pure magic! For my work, it is the most important of the species clones. H. f. ‘Hankow’ is a close second, and its magic is the very late season it flowers in, on top of its great plant traits. H. vespertina is the best of the yellow species in my opinion. I realize these aren’t hybrid introductions, maybe introductions from Mother Nature, but they are important to me and my program, and so I have to mention them, especially the two fulva clones. H. fulva ‘Korean’ has turned out to be one of the most resistant daylilies to rust I have grown and tested, and to have extremely high breeding value for rust resistance. H. fulva ‘Hankow’ is also very resistant to rust with breeding value. H. vespertina have shown extremely high rust resistance and breeding value (though I have not had any success in producing viable seeds from taking H. vespertina to tetraploids).
Implausibility, bred by Nick Chase, which is H. fulva ‘Europa’ x Ed Murray. Fertile with tetraploids and a nice, bright red with a massive plant and tall scapes, it has contributed greatly to my program. The plant doesn’t produce much rhizomatous growth in my garden and the clump doesn’t crowd-out in the center over several years of growth. It can make a very large and attractive clump, though it has less thrip resistance than I like.
Notify Ground Crew from Curt Hanson, which has Tetrina and thus H. citrina genetics in its ancestry, as well as the tetraploid conversion of Purity (Traub - 1949). Curt Hanson’s program has been a big influence on my work and several of his plants are also part of my program, though none hold quite the level of prominence that Notify Ground Crew does for my work, though Women Seeking Men is close. Notify Ground Crew is highly fertile both ways and has made major contributions to my program. The plant itself is exceptional and the original clump in my hybridizing garden was finally divided this year at eight years, was still intact with only minor die-out in the center of the clump and was still blooming normally. Notify Ground Crew also shows quite good thrips resistance.
Ancient Elf by Jamie Gossard, which is made from a cross of the tetraploid conversion of Itsy Bitsy Spider x the tetraploid conversion of Nutmeg Elf, both of which are close to various yellow daylily species. I consider this cross a stroke of genius, with Ancient Elf the best of its all siblings. Ancient Elf has been extremely important in my work. It is extremely fertile and extremely rust resistant, and the plant itself grows well, increases well and doesn’t show serious die-out in the center of the clump or decrease in flowering after five years + of growth in a clump. However, it only shows moderate thrips resistance.
Substantial Evidence by Richard Norris is a favorite, and probably my favorite flower form. In growing it I learned that it has high rust resistance and breeding value for the trait. It is because of Substantial Evidence that I did any work with diploids, but my goal was always to work with it at the tetraploid level. I knew it would eventually be converted, and I am now working with those genes at the tetraploid level. I also really like the tetraploid conversion of Siloam Medallion, which shows moderate rust and thrips resistance and is fertile both ways for me, and I love Butter Cream, which I feel is the best of the tetra Siloam Medallion descendants that have been introduced. I have been working with these two as a complimentary line for Substantial Evidence at the tetraploid level.
Solaris Symmetry from Nate Bremer is probably the best all-around modern fancy tetraploid I have ever grown, and one of the best daylilies in general. While its rust resistance is lower than I prefer, it is actually a superior plant to any of the species/near species base plants I have mentioned above, plus the very clean, clear flower coloring. The flower is a lovely near-white with a bluish-launder eye and narrow edge, narrow petals and a very green throat. The flower is very pretty. In terms of the plant, it is actually the best daylily plant I know of and it breeds those traits. I planted a two fan division in the spring of 2011. I bred from it that year, the very first year of my own hybridizing. It is one of those rare and exceptional plants that can make a permanent planting that doesn’t “crowd-out” at all, diminish, or decrease flowering over many years without division. The foliage is attractive, deep green and is what most people would call “hard dormant”. That is, it looses all leaves in the winter and forms a bud underground that doesn’t emerge until fairly late in the spring, and even then shows extremely high resistance to late spring freezes. The scape is tall, strong and well-branched and it has a good bud count, with the flowers well spaced. It is pod and pollen fertile, though it takes a couple of years to show reliable pod fertility. The pollen is strong. The flower shows extremely high thrips resistance, especially for an early-early flowering cultivar in my garden, and it passes this trait very well to many of its seedlings. There is instant rebloom and in most years there is some late summer/early fall rebloom. The instant rebloom scapes tend to be the most pod fertile for me. The rust resistance is only moderate, but it has breeding value for rust resistance and produces a higher percentage of resistant seedlings when crossed with resistant cultivars than most moderately resistant cultivars I have tested. The only flaws, for me, is that the rust resistance is lower than I prefer to see and the pod fertility is lower than I prefer. However, the many other exceptional traits, and the extremely exceptional combination of so many desirable traits into one plant, makes it a real standout, and something above and beyond almost every other tetraploid hybrid cultivar I have tested for potential breeding use. I truly consider it to be extraordinary, and that is stated with over forty-years of growing and experience with over two-thousand cultivars and species of daylilies.
Alien DNA by Robert Selman is a very good plant that I love. I love the whole family of cultivars that Bob has developed from Alien DNA. Of all those offspring Alien Galaxy is my favorite. Alien DNA is a truly remarkable plant and a gorgeous flower. The dormant and hardy plant shows high rust resistance and the exotic flower shows high thrips resistance. It shows breeding value for both of those traits.
Thumbthing Special by Robert Selman is the best yellow tooth/fringe edged pink flower I have grown. It is a strong plant with an excellent flower. The plant shows moderately high rust resistance and thrips resistance, and shows breeding value for both traits.
Redneck Red, from John and Annette Rice, is a huge plant with tall scapes and is very rust resistant. Other favorites from John and Annette are How Lovely You Are with moderate rust resistance and a stunning round clear pink flower on a white base, Best For Last, which is a lovely lavender with heavily ruffled yellow edge in the late to very late season, Stella Kane, which is a late season bright pink with lovely yellow to white teeth, and Rouen Cathedral, which is a light pink with fringy/toothy edge and is a very late bloomer.
Women Seeking Men is a wonderful plant and is my second most used breeder from Curt Hanson’s program (Notify Ground Crew is the most used). The plant is magnificent, making a large clump and producing those amazing scapes with the oak-tree branching that just makes me smile every time I see it. The flower is large and always looks good. Pod fertile and easy to use, I have produced gorgeous seedlings from it. With moderately high rust resistance and good thrips resistance, the only flaw is that in my conditions it is not a fast increaser, though it is a moderate increaser. My oldest clump is now five years old and hasn’t die-out in the center or diminished. I love Curt’s sculptural pleated introductions and I have used several of them. Another favorite from Curt’s program is Crisis Management, which is a seedling of Bill Fall, but is a massive improvement over its wonderfully colored parent in terms of the plant (foliage appearance and scape), and it still has that wonderful red coloring. Just like Bill Fall, Crisis Management is also very rust resistant, is fertile for me both ways and shows good resistance to thrips.
Vision Seeker, By Mike Derrow, is a favorite. I haven’t grown it for a long time, but it has shown extremely good thrips resistance with a vigorous plant and gorgeous scapes with wonderful branching. Carl Caught It is a stunning purple by Mike on tall, well-branched scapes that are just eye-popping in the garden. I have not tested either of them for rust resistance, as they were brought in after I had completed my five-year base plant rust resistance testing, but they have been impressive plants so far and have shown excellent thrips resistance. Vision Seeker was the only eye/edge pollen I used in the 2019 breeding season.
My love of both big green throats and triangular eyes goes back to Navajo Princess. Janice Brown, the pollen parent of Navajo Princess is another favorite with a striking green throat, as well. Navajo Princess can be a bit tender here, especially in harsh winters, and it is fairly susceptible to rust. Janice Brown is a registered semi-evergreen, but behaves as a “hard dormant” here, loosing all its leaves and forming a resting bud that is very late to emerge in the spring. Janice Brown also shows high rust resistance. Navajo Princess can breed rust resistant seedlings, so I suspect it carries some recessive rust resistance genes from Janice Brown. While Navajo Princess will die-out in the center after a few years and needs to be refreshed, Janice Brown grows extremely well for a long time without any die-out or diminishment, or reduction in flowering. I have grown both for many years. Janice Brown is one of the cultivars that helped me to realize that there are daylilies that can grow without problems or division for long periods of time. It also survived under heavy weeds and even bamboo. I have also grown the tetraploid conversions of both Navajo Princess and Janice Brown. Tetra Navajo Princess diminished its first winter here, but I did get a few flowers the next spring and was able to pollinate several flowers of my best Ancient Elf x Solaris Symmetry seedlings. I lost tet. Navajo Princess the next winter, but the seeds I produced with its pollen were good and I saw the first seedlings from that cross flower in 2019. The tetra Janice Brown conversion is a strong plant, as strong as the diploid original, and I have used it in breeding a good deal.
Another favorite is Mystical Rainbow, which also descends from tetra Janice Brown, which is the pod grandfather of Mystical Rainbow. The plant behavior of Mystical Rainbow is very similar to Janice Brown, and the petal color and throat are rather similar as well, with the addition of the frequently patterned eye. Mystical Rainbow is the pod parent of Solaris Symmetry, which also has the Janice Brown plant traits and green throat, though with Solaris Symmetry, the plant is even better than any of its family. Another important cultivar in my program is Pacific Rainbow from Nate Bremer, which has Mystical Rainbow as pod parent. The flower is very similar to Mystical Rainbow, but the scapes are much taller and more well-branched, and again the same fine plant traits seen in the family line. Finally, Beach Party Pedicure by Susan Gold is currently my favorite patterned cultivar, and also has Mystical Rainbow as the pod parent. It shows the green throat of the family line and the plant has been good so far, though I haven’t grown it long enough to have any longterm data on it. One thing I have learned over many years of breeding and research is that when you locate a good family line, you should fully exploit it.
In line with the green throats, Malachite Prism, Emerald Starburst and Rose F. Kennedy all have been of interest to me. I have the suspicion that these all have some level of descent from the Janice Brown family line, in one way of another. RFK was introduced in 2007, the year before I started looking into daylilies to develop my program. I knew I wanted that big, green throat in my program at the tet level, and that I could focus on green throats from other tetraploids to lay the groundwork for bringing it over my own seedlings when its conversion or seedlings of its conversion became available to me. I did grow the diploid version of Rose F. Kennedy, but I have not grown the diploid version of Malachite Prism, only the tetraploid conversion. I have not grown Emerald Starburst, but I have used the pollen of its tetraploid conversion. I found diploid RFK to be a mixed bag. A plant with very high rust resistance and breeding value for that trait, but with poor thrips resistance and little breeding value for thrips resistance. The plant itself was a non-increaser here. After four years, the original two fans were still two fans. Some of its seedlings showed better increase, but some didn’t. I gave the diploid away in 2018, but I do have some nice seedlings from it at the dip level with its good traits plus improvements over its lesser traits. The tetraploid conversion of Malachite Prism grows well, increases and is fertile. The rust resistance is moderately high, while the thrip resistance is moderate to low. It is better on the rebloom scapes, as thrips are less a problem in the mid to late season here. I should see the first seedlings flower from tetra Malachite Prism in 2020. I was given a small amount of pollen from tetra RFK several years back and have one excellent, vigorous and highly rust resistant seedling from that pollen. I am now working with several introduced seedlings from tetra RFK. I will see the first seedlings from them begin to flower in 2020.
There are so many other cultivars that I like, a lot I even love, but these are some of my very favorites and some of the most important plants in the formation of my breeding program. I couldn’t even begin to list all the cultivars I like, and this list is probably longer than it needs to be already, so I will leave off here.
7. What are some of your favorite daylilies that you've introduced?
Of all those I have introduced so far, The Spice Must Flow is my favorite. I only introduce daylilies that I think are exceptional. Now that might be in various ways. They can’t all be equal and they can’t all match the full Ideal, at least not yet, but they all have to have something extraordinary. One of the major points, of course, is extraordinary plants, so some of my previous introductions are exceptional plants, then some are exceptional because of their very high rust resistance or resistance to thrips. A few are introduced based upon their exceptional flower traits, but they also have to have at least one exceptional plant trait in conjunction to the flower, so even those that are introduced mainly for the flower have something going on beyond that. Two good examples of my introductions that they major factor is the flower are Lavender Feathers and Wabi Sabi, but both also have extremely high rust resistance and breeding value for rust resistance. Phoenician Royalty doesn’t have the extremely high rust resistance, rating moderately high at B level rating, but has an amazing, huge plant, very tall scapes, and a large, regal purple flower with high thrips resistance. Vorlon Encounter Suit has an extremely fine plant that flourishes and looks gorgeous in the garden throughout the growing season, and have a beautiful flower, but only moderate rust resistance. None of my high rust or high thrip resistant introductions have a flower I don’t love. I simply won’t introduce a daylily that doesn’t have a flower I don’t like, no matter how good the other qualities might be, but I will introduce a gorgeous flower or very fine plant, or one with very high thrips resistance, if the rust resistance is only moderate, especially on dormant plants where the rust resistance will not be as important to cold-winter, northern growers. So, anyhow, back to the actual question…
The Spice Must Flow is in many ways the template for my vision of the ideal plant. It is one of my favorite plants I have produced to date, and is the largest plant I have ever grown, either other people’s introductions or my own seedlings. Some of its seedlings though are proving to be in the same size range. The scapes are very tall and hold up wonderfully. I hope to increase branching from the four or so it has to six or more in future generations, but that is refinement work, and the scapes on Spice are good, as is. I love the flower on Spice, as it is really striking in person, though it is hard to photograph. The flower is very velvety, and is layered colors that don’t appear brownish in person, but is orange background layered in purple with a very dark eye and green throat. I love Spice and still breed from it heavily every year, and probably will for years to come, which means it is always in low availability and will likely remain so for a long time to come, even though it increases very well. The clump can get really huge, doesn’t die-out in the center and can be composed of dozens of large fans while still producing new fans with the clump getting bigger and bigger every year. The seedlings to date have been amazing, large with tall, strong scapes and in a range of colors and forms. I have seen some lovely light to medium pink as well as purple seedlings form The Spice Must Flow. I am excited every year to see the new seedlings from Spice. The rust resistance of Spice is moderate, with high thrips resistance, but I have produced very rust resistance seedlings from Spice, and it combines a remarkably high number of my desired traits, which gets it near to my “Ideals”.
Amongst my diploid introductions, my favorites, so far, are probably two of my 2020 introduction, Substantial Princess and Feathered Dragon. Substantial Princess, a seedling produced in the 2011 breeding season from Navajo Princess x Substantial Evidence. It is amazing. First, the flower is just WOW! with the look of Navajo Princess and the form of Substantial Evidence. The plant is the “hard dormant” type with very strong late spring freeze resistance and extremely high rust resistance. The foliage is a dark attractive green. The plant reblooms really well here, both instant and later summer rebloom. The scapes, buds and flowers show very strong thrips resistance, and the plant is very fertile both ways. It is the best of both parents and combines a remarkably high number of my target traits into one plants, which takes it into the range of “Ideals”. Feathered Dragon is a big step forward in my unusual form purples, combining extremely fine plant traits with the gorgeous crispate, pinched UF flower form and coloring, and offering very consistent expression of cristations, as well. The branches and bud counts are really great. I think Feathered Dragon will be a very useful breeder for many years to come and is a big leap forward in very advanced daylily flowers in combination with advanced plant traits and extreme rust resistance. I have produced some stunning seedlings from Feathered Dragon and am still breeding from it.
I think that Temple Of Bacchus is an important plant, being an F1 cross with h. citrina and the tetraploid cultivar Papa Smurf. I don’t know the ploidy of Temple, but it has bred for me very easily with both dips and tets. If I had to guess, I would say it is a triploid. I think it has a lot to offer both diploid and tetraploid breeders, but especially tetraploid breeders, where its H. citrina genetics bring in a whole new dose of species genes, but in combination with an extremely well-colored, advanced, clean blue-purple. The high fertility is such a benefit, allowing Temple to be taken in a lot of directions. I have seen some amazing seedlings from Temple. In summer 2019 I was extremely excited to see my first seedlings from tetra Frans Hals x Temple of Bacchus. They looked like some of Stout’s early work, but in electric colors, mostly bicolors, some on a near-white base and others on an electric yellow base. I have also taken Temple into the tetra Substantial Evidence lines that I am working with to very nice effect.
Both Mount Doom and Ziggy Played Guitar are favorites, and they have both been very popular. Vorlon Revelation is an amazing plant in person, even more stunning than in pictures. While they may seem simple, my small reblooming types like Substantial Substance and Substantial Glow are really much more than a picture might reveal, showing advances in the flower for the small reblooming diploid types along with extremely high rust resistance. There are some very good plants in the new 2020 intros. One that I especially love, both for what it is and for its incredible breeding ability is Impressionist At Heart. Barbie’s Dream Flower has been a favorite flower of mine since its first bloom. I could wax poetic about all my introduction, but I would recommend if anyone wants to know more about any of my introductions that they look at my website ( http://www.sundragondaylilies.com ) where I have all my introductions listed and if you click on the name of any of my intros you will be taken to an information page where I have a lot of information about each introduction and tend to wax poetic and be long-winded, as if I am introducing a daylily, I have thought a lot about it and have a lot of data to convey and a lot of thoughts to share about it.
8. What are some of your fondest memories involved with daylilies?
I have a lot of good memories involving daylilies from childhood. I remember the excitement of getting those big wooden boxes of daylilies in the mail from G. H. Wild and Son and how amazing it was to see those big divisions, dried and cut back hard, and they only shipped in late summer. I remember planting those plants with my mom, aunt and grandma. I remember the excitement of my aunt buying a one gallon potted Stella De Oro from a local nursery for my birthday back when Stella was a really big deal in the 1980s. I also have some cherished memories that I have made more recently during my breeding program. Seeing things that I had visualized unfold is always magical. The growth of the first scape and then the first flower on The Spice Must Flow was one of those moments where you are lifted out of time. The first flowers on rows and rows of seedlings from Ancient Elf x Solaris Symmetry was amazing and is something I will never forget, as it was the moment I knew I was going to be able to achieve the program I wanted. The results of backcrossing hybrid cultivars to H. f. ‘Korean’ blew my mind, because they come out much better, much fancier and more advanced, that I had expected. When the first of those seedlings bloomed, I was really amazed and excited. The results of many crosses of Substantial Evidence were amazing when they first flowered. A good example was when I saw the first seedlings flower from the cross of Navajo Princess and Substantial Evidence. Observing row after row of wildly rusty seedlings, then finding one here and there, surrounded by rusty plants that was clean was always outstanding. Even more so was to find a high percentage of non-effected seedlings or even and entire row, when they are completely surrounded by heavily rust-covered seedlings. Finding smooth, clear buds and flowers without spots on a plant when everything surrounding it is covered in enations and damaged flowers from thrips is always an outstanding event. The fond memories from childhood all center on good times with my family, while the fond memories made during my breeding program all center on the revelations of what was possible, finding exceptional plants for any number of traits, and seeing things emerge in reality that had just been a picture in my mind’s eye.