Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Rain Question

When I was a college lad pining away for a lost love who ultimately married me, I wrote a little poem with a cutesy touch....words dispersed across the space of the page.  The last lines went,

"and ask myself
the rain question.


Too much time on my hands or something.

This morning it is rainy.  It's not the volume we need, but it's a tad more than nothing.  Kathy and I bounded out of bed at 5:30, saw it wasn't raining yet, and dashed outside to gather pollen.  The rain finally came.  Between showers I took more daylily pictures.  I like to document the way the flowers react to temperatures and also how they bloom differently from day to day.

This is Phil Korth's GRACE LIKE RAIN looking better than I've seen it in the bast three years and probably looking best with raindrops all over it.

Nearby is the kind of chalky white daylily I prefer above other shades of white.  This is Patrick Stamile's WHITE MOUNTAIN.

By comparison, Phil Korth's AUGUST WEDDING looks like a creamy surface on a melon base color. 

This is is Larry Grace's BLUEGRASS MUSIC.  When I felt the rain begin to fall I grabbed the only blossom I'll see this year and brought it inside to collect the pollen.  Why only one flower?  There's some kind of malaise affecting how the daylilies grow, and many think the oddities are related to the mood swings of our weather gods this year.

The background on this flower is some sort of off-white.  The shades of blue and the pattern are what I love about this flower.

The strongest color in my entire collection belongs to David Kirchhoff's BETTY FORD, a strong contender for the top award this year and one of the best reds by the reigning master breeder of red daylilies.

In the vicinity is OBOE D'AMORE by Mort Morss (pictured below).  The large warm center of this daylily evokes memories of the warm center in the tone of the oboe d'amore, which makes this daylily a strong marker for the remembered sound, just as David Kirchhoff's MARIA CALLAS has a quality of color easily as rich and complex as the sound of Maria Callas at her best.

Here's a daylily that almost never opens well in my garden, but did a passable job this morning, and which has a color that is really a study in unreconciled genetic conflicts.  It's REGGIE MORGAN by Ted Petit and its complexities are the main reason for breeding with it.  If I weren't a hybridizer, I wouldn't grow this daylily because the weather here seems to inhibit full, flat opening most of the time.

A much better Ted Petit daylily in my garden, virtually perfect every day, is OCEANS ELEVEN.  I can't imagine ever tiring of this one.  I remember a poem of Rubert Brooke that begins, "O, Death will find me long before I tire/ Of watching you..."

Try to imagine OCEANS ELEVEN as a pastel yellow flower, just try.  The recent weather has prompted the advance of "melon" tones within the color of this one, giving the pastel yellow a toasty look.

Speaking of blue centers, you may notice concentric zones of bluish color on the face of OCEANS ELEVEN.  I see them today also in the eye of Mort Morss's BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE, which is coming into its own as the plant adds mass.

If the weather "toasted" the pastel color of OCEAN'S ELEVEN, it ramped up the furnace warmth in the orange of Bill Maryott's OKTOBERFEST, which is an eye-catcher in any quality of color it displays.

Another quality of daylily color is called "polychrome," which involves blends of yellow, cream, gold, and pink, though not always on the same flower.  Curt Hanson's THE GOLDILOCKS EFFECT is said by Curt to be the best polychrome.  I don't believe he's being a huckster to say so.  In my experience, Curt simply calls them as he sees them and is unashamed to announce which of his are the best.  I love this one!

If you hybridize, this is a fantastic parent.

There's a unique daylily here named THE BAND PLAYED ON by Patrick Stamile.  It's a rusty russet color with a black violet eye and edge.  I go for very dark and mysterious flowers like this.  My clump put up three scapes, all in bloom, so here are "The Three Tenors!"

Finally, back to blue purple and a fine example of the achievements of the late Ron Valente from Maine, CASCO BAY DELIGHT.  On many mornings, this doesn't open fully until late in the morning, but this morning it was flat open when I went out at 6.  I'm very glad I brought this into the collection.  I doubt that Ron Valente ever registered an average daylily.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Daylily Patience

When you hybridize daylilies, rain can change your plans.  When I walked outside this morning to see what was in bloom, I saw the gray clouds moving in and a rainbow caused by the low angle of the sun at 6 am.  The first drops fell a few minutes later, then a steady shower spoiling all the live pollen.  I didn't want to spend several hours using frozen pollen after the showers passed.  There were competing priorities, you see, and so I excused myself for later in the week.

Patience is hard.  I didn't use to have it.  If a new daylily didn't do well in its first season in my garden, I would lose interest and put it in the plant sale.  This is a form of insanity, but I excused myself, as no one else would think to do so!

I hope I have learned my lesson.  Here is Nicole DeVito's CALL ME BLUE, which she kindly sent me last year from her Central Florida nursery.  I love the white flowers with blue eyes, so this was a welcome addition.  Nicole posted this photo on her web site.

This is what my plant looked like when it bloomed in my garden last summer a few weeks after arrival here.

It's nice, but it lacks the pizzaz of Nicole's photo.  A decade ago I might have been disappointed, but now I know to just leave the plant in place and let it build a root system.  It's in a full-sun location where I water a lot, so it has all the right conditions to thrive.

This morning I saw the payoff for patience.  After a year, the plant now produces a flower easily as bold as Nicole's photo.

Worth the wait, I assure you!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Daylily Color, Form, and Substance

This morning I waited until 8 am to take pictures of the daylilies.  I noticed that when I take pictures at 6, the sun is just over the trees and the light is orange red.  At 8 the sun is not orange red any more and the light is oblique.  Remember that; it will be on the test.

Color, form, and substance work together to please or disappoint.  I like vibrant colors as well as pastels.  I like a variety of forms and even some colors that are blended and mysterious.  But I dislike a daylily that opens with one petal sticking out like a bratty child sticking a tongue out.  I dislike color that seems dull.  I dislike substance that is flimsy and can't take sun exposure.  On top of that, some daylilies begin to decompose in mid-afternoon, while others hang in there until after dinner.  I try a lot of different cultivars to see how they perform here, and if they struggle, if they can't take the weather or the sun, or if they start to break down in mid-afternoon, I try to send them somewhere better.  Or, if the case warrants it, I will destroy the plant rather than "contribute" it to my club's plant sale, thus spoiling the fun for an unsuspecting bargain-hunter.

No, the place for a lousy daylily is on the compost pile.  Alternatively, you could try giving it to one of your enemies as a gesture of friendship.  Socrates, were he still around, would poo-poo the notion that harming an enemy is a form of "good."  Somewhere or other Plato records Socrates as leading a group of friends through a discussion of justice, and he puts them into the unwelcome position of admitting that doing evil to an enemy is an evil thing, and evil in the atmosphere poisons the doer as well as the done to.  Something like that, I think.

Let's start with hot color.  This is John Allgood's ELIJAH, and it's entirely about the joy of hot, hot orange with red in it.

The hybridizer and landscape designer Darrel Apps told a story once about giving a lecture in which he showed an advantageous landscape use of a mass of this daylily.  Someone came forward after his talk and bought every plant he had available.

Here's an example of clear bright red on a big flower with an open form.  This is Van Sellers' ALL AMERICAN CHIEF, a daylily that's wildly popular everywhere.

I bought this daylily for Kathy last summer after she swooned over a clump of it in a tour garden.  I've always loved this one since I first saw it fourteen years ago.

Here's a cooler color, a dark bing cherry violet bred by my friend Phil Reilly in central Florida.  This is called MARVELOUS MADNESS.  It was wide open at 6 am this morning and the color was still good when I looked again at 3:30.

This is a new plant this year.  The scape is a lot shorter than registered, but I'm seeing stunted growth throughout the garden, randomly, this season.  One of my own seedlings which measured 28" high last year is blooming on 10" scapes this year.  Oi!

Things can go blacker than this.  Here is Jamie Gossard's DARK MONKEY, also new this year, for Kathy's spider and UF hybridizing.

I'm keeping an eye on a huge rose pink one by Phil Reilly named GWENDOLYN ROSE.

Like MARVELOUS MADNESS, this one opens early and perfectly.  It is over 6 inches across the face of the flower.  With such wide petals, the overall impression of this dusty rose confection is of something called "full-figured" in daylily circles, and elsewhere.

We're cooling down now, looking at medium lavender purple and blue.  This is a sister seedling to the one I posted yesterday by my friend, Subhana Ansari.

I'm very taken with the look of this blossom.  I don't know if it will make seeds yet, but this morning I put pollen from Steve Moldovan's PIECE OF SKY on this in hopes of something miraculous.

Finally, one of the few tiny daylilies I grow.  This is Grace Stamile's LITTLE BLUE ANGEL.  I bought it two years ago because this was the best blue eye Grace had yet achieved, and I wanted to have it in my garden as a presence.  I am so glad I did that.  Thank you, Grace!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Today's Best Daylilies

This is a post about blue and orange.  I've declared them today's colors.  Pictured above is Mort Morss's KARELIA, photographed this morning around 8 am.  I love the proportions of this flower face, the size of the blue eye with respect to the size of the petals, the width of the sepals, and the beautiful way the flower opens itself for viewing.

Here's another blue-eyed one I like a lot, Patrick Stamile's BLUEBIRD BUTTERFLY.  I prefer the more creamy background color of KARELIA.  Some days, the creamy custard color of BLUEBIRD BUTTERFLY shows more of a near-white look, and I like it better.  This photo shows the various shades of blue and violet in the eye.  I had never noticed this pattern in previous years of growing it.  Nice!

Here's a new favorite.  It's a seedling sent here for testing by my Bay-Area friend, Subhana Ansari.  The delicacy of these clean colors thrills me.  No, it didn't rain today.  In my haste to water this bed, I forgot to take the pictures until the sprinkler had made a few passes.

Now here's one that is "blue" only by inference.  It's Frank Smith's BUBBLING UP, the result of crossing the black-eyed off-white CRAZY IVAN with the blue-eyed creamy flower, BLUEGRASS MUSIC.

I am only crossing this with blue-eyed mates.  I want to see if I can get something this bold in blue and white tones, as there are a gazillion off-white daylilies with black purple eyes and edges already on the market.

Now to the color orange.  I find orange a source of visual refreshment in the garden.  There are some fabulous modern daylilies with orange backgrounds and red or reddish eyes.  Here is Dan Trimmer's punning TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD.  "Hey, Boo!"  I love the ruffles and that jazzy eye,

Dan has introduced loads of great orange daylilies.  I'd love to try them all!  Here is his PORT ORANGE, named for a Florida coastal town northeast of Enterprise, where Dan lives.

There is so much going on with this flower in addition to its size and its ruffles.  The bright green throat is politely outlined in red orange.  I love that it has always opened this flat before I'm outside to check the garden.

Equally impressive to my eye is Frank Smith's MATTHEW KASKEL.  This is a big flower that's always perfectly flat when I walk out before breakfast.

Finally, back to blue.  This is Ted Preuss's BLUEGRASS MEMORIES, a fabulous dark purple flower with a dusty blue eye and edge.  I had no idea it had this exceptional beauty from the pictures I'd seen.  My Nikon D5000 digital SLR has a sensor that has proven exceptionally good with blue and purple tones.  The color below is exactly what I saw in the garden this morning.

Kathy and I grow about 800 varieties, which is too many by several hundred.  She asked me tonight at dinner if I ever discard a daylily.  I said my aim is to keep eliminating all but the best, like BLUEGRASS MEMORIES.  She was prompted to ask by the large number of creamy yellow daylilies that don't interest her or offend her sense of protocol.

Here's one we both love to hate.  I have a big clump of it and I will decline to name it here.  Those of you who grow it will recognize it at once!  This is a showstopping daylily on the days when it doesn't zipper itself closed.  It has a heavy ruffled edge, you see, but lacks the genetic programming to make the flower pop open despite the busy convolutions of the edges.  As a consequence, of the three days it has been in bloom so far, I'd rate it poor, poor, and impossible.  This will not stay here much longer.  I keep it for breeding because it turns out that the offspring don't inherit this problem.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Duckworthy Days

Yesterday morning the ducks of Hidden Lake assembled on our piece of shoreline and reminded me of why I so love where we live, and why I named our place "The Duckworthy Estate" on the day we moved into the house in 2010.  When I was a wee lad my family lived on the shore of what was called a "lake."  It was actually a dammed up stream that flowed through New Egypt, New Jersey.  My younger sister and I were not allowed to walk across the dam on the way to visit my grandparents.  We had to go an extra block into town and play it safe.

The "lake" was wide enough for small power boats to cruise short distances back and forth from the dam up to a narrow place where boating wasn't fun or possible.  My dad owned a canoe, so canoe rides through patches of lily pads on the lake are part of my memory of boyhood.  We passed an old "ice house" and my mom explained the old-time practice of harvesting blocks of ice in winter and packing the blocks with sawdust inside an ice house so there would be ice in warm months.

We fished with bamboo poles over the wire fence that surrounded our small yard.  This was catch-and-release style, catfish and some "sunnies."  Sometimes after supper Mom gave us pieces of bread to toss to the lake ducks.

I feel enchanted by the view of waterfowl cruising our small lake.

We usually have the sound of alto wind chimes in our life.  Here's the set I bought myself as a retirement present two years ago.  It hangs over our patio.

While I took this picture a pair of swallows flitted overhead.  I turned around to see what they were up to and noticed the nest they've built on a deck beam.

Out in the yard the clumps of blue Siberian irises we brought from Vermont have come into bloom.

The daylily season began for real on May first, when little yellow BITSY came into bloom.  That plant was a Father's Day gift almost twenty years ago.  Three other daylilies were in bloom in the back yard yesterday, all new arrivals a month ago.  Here is Jane Trimmer's DRAGONFLY DAWN.  It has been blooming on "Florida scapes" for several weeks.  Lately the appearance of the flowers has picked up as the roots have begun to establish themselves.

The eyezone is composed of several bands of color.  The Trimmers highly recommend this cultivar for breeding patterns.

Here is Jamie Gossard's PHANTOM WARRIOR, part of a small collection of Tet. spiders and unusual forms I assembled so that Kathy Bouman can explore the fun of hybridizing.

And here is Jane Trimmer's LAVENDER ECHOES, a large flower with a gray blue eye surrounding an applique pattern in the throat.  Very complex and quite pretty!

Yesterday Kathy learned how to collect pollen and freeze it in gel caps for future use.  If not exposed to prolonged heat or moisture, a gel cap of frozen pollen can be refrozen for subsequent use.  I have some frozen pollen that I've used for more than five years.  On the other hand, I've spoiled a gel cap of pollen in less than a minute by dropping it onto wet grass!