Did someone say Renaissance??


A Daylily Robin Posting by Mick Morry

Dec 05 2008

Reprinted with Permission

Hello Robins

Thank you for all the neat emails. I hope I gave enough info in the posts and private emails. Yet still more questions have been brought forward so I will address them too. Why not since we seem to be on a roll here. In my last couple of posts I was talking about orange, and in my last post, I named a number of higher end oranges that would be great candidates for hitting it hot. There are, I have to say, a lot more really wonderful oranges to work with than the ones so recently introduced, and so in this post I would like especially to acknowledge some older crosses that my mother and myself have and still keep around and use such as: MAUNA LOA, ROCKET CITY, BLACKBERRY SHERBET, OLD TANGIERS, FRANK SMITH, TIGGER, ALL FIRED UP, CARROT, HIGHLAND PINCHED FINGERS, and a few other really obscure older crosses and tet conversions I lucked into.

This very last season my mom got a 7 inch plus gorgeous cream orange, like orange sherbet in the center going to a more vivid orange as it extended outwards. It was I believe OLD TANGIERS X SUN MOON STARS. My mom posted a photo on our website in her 2008 seedlings that does not do it justice. It is our practice to do what John Peat told me many years ago--"Never show your best photos of a plant. Show photos of your plants as they are absolutely dead average and let the customer see them better later on in their own garden". This is our practice. I knew why when we bought a large collection of his line a couple of months after he made that statement to me. We flowered his cultivars and felt immediately compelled to email John and tell him how incredible his line looked in our garden. He sent back photos of his cultivars that I had mentioned and lo and behold the flowers were nearly identical to the flowers we sent him photos of. John had, indeed, held back, true to his word and I became one of his strongest supporters due to his word - practicing what he preaches.

I absorb every great comment or practical piece of advice, wherever I get it from. I do not care if a person is new to the game or in a lifetime. This is a form of art and you are born or at least attracted to this form of expression--so even the freshest newbie can have an area, a new set of eyes, or a knowledge that propels us forward. One's perception is everything as this is a visual art form. Because hybridizing is not simply mixing paint, we are in fact at the mercy of a cultivars prior genetics. This, combined with how a colour was created out of its genetic background, affects us in more ways than we can possibly conceive.

However, the biggest issue for any hybridizer must be to know the colour palette first and foremost. Can you imagine Da Vinci being asked how he got the the Mona Lisa looking so real?

"Leonardo your colour of Mona is so real--how did you do it?

"Well I used a green undercoat to simulate veins, blood supply and muscle tissue then went to flesh tones and built up muscle structure over that."

"How did you mix green?"

"I don't have a clue--I just swirled paint together until green came out... I know I am a genius".

LOL! That's where we are at this point. We are now in the period I consider to be the true Renaissance of the daylily, and some of us still are having trouble figuring out how to mix our paint. It's getting a little embarrassing! <BG>.

I am a Generation X-er. That means I am selfish, overindulged and tenacious--right? (My mother is here beside me nodding heavily!) My mindset is lets not leave very much to venture into after the bunch of us have finished playing with daylily genetics. Beginning about 10 years ago and continuing, I suspect, for the next 30 or so, puts us smack dab in the middle of what I think will later be described as the wonder years, the golden age of daylilies. I think very little will be left to be uncovered or invented by following generations. They won't have colour to invent and maybe even forms will be sewn up completely. You never know. It will then come down to complex faces and features all coming together at once.

I believe we see this already starting to happen in leading edge plants such as Linda Agin's incredible line. Her NANCY'S QUILT has a serious 4 or 5 coloured pattern, a triple-coloured edge, teeth, and on and on. Oh IMPORTANT. Linda Agin's tooth line is solid here in the north. All of her teeth show up in force in the north too. I cannot more highly recommend her line than to just say go after them northerners, especially Red Friday and Alan Lane Agin. I love her Botox, which is not toothy, however, the most because of its heavy edge. Jeepers the monster ruffles on that are the 10th wonder of the world.

If this is truly the Renaissance then I think it behooves us to breed like it is and leave very few masterpieces worth creating after the greats of today are gone. As with the creative renaissance that produced great works of art and music we must focus as seriously as they did and use the masters as an example of getting creativity flowing.

And yet, despite where we are, and the endless possibilities, we are still confounded by how to mix our darned paint! Some masters we are!!! Now I am not saying be conceited and think we can or will have it all mastered. My point is that I think we think big, dream big, breed big, and bold and breed like we belong in this most important time line in daylilies. If you live to see the next 20 years I believe we will see daylilies become living masterpieces with the aura of stained glass, and with eyes that may have 30 colours painting forms very near to what modern paintings do for complexity and expression that we see today. Patterns and forms are getting incredibly complex.

Every year I so look forward to hitting Hyridizers' Corner and I check every website there and elsewhere. I try to check out every site dip or tet and see where the trends are and who is advancing what. Every year I find new exciting trends and developments, new sets of eyes looking at things differently, new and old individuals moving the envelope forward. You never let me down. Each year you all thrill me with your new eye candy. The talent out there is immense. All it needs to go over the top is a bit more focused deviation -- more like science project style breeding, as we really don't have it all figured out yet. I just want it to happen and part of wanting that is encouraging people to exercise their imaginations and mix it up a bit more. Someone focusing on one or two colours is admirable to a point, but doesn't it get boring somewhere along the line too?

Some of the best hybridizers of all time such as Oscie Whatley didn't, in my view, venture far enough outside of their comfort range -- their favorite colour range -- and exploit what they could do by going for the improbable or maybe even the impossible... who knows? Can you imagine where Oscie could have brought a good northern dormant purple or red, if he had explored and deviated even slightly more in some of the other colours? Imagine the size he could have made purples if he had experimented in that direction, especially when you consider the dinner plate sized yellows such as the waxy, near waterproof, SOLAR MUSIC that he created. That is a masterpiece. So is BUTTERCREAM. We will never know now what he could have done for colour for us all had he spread his focus wider and embraced the unknown. I think he was heading there, but it was too late for it to become a focus in his later life.

Sometimes you need to force yourself out of your comfort zone. In animal breeding I had to stick to a formula and never ever bend it or disaster. Here though I have a blank sheet in front of me with only the limitations of colour knowledge and stubborn genetics to hinder my imagination.

So guys like Oscie are gone and we thankfully have His yellow range that is to die for to bend well into this 21st century. I know I very nearly worship his SOLAR MUSIC and BUTTERCREAM and will continue to use them. And I will use them in the ways I wish he had used them and try to take them forward, as I am sure others of you are also attempting.

If you only want to breed white, do so. However think a bit more about mixing in even just 5 or 10% of you hybridizing efforts each year and pick a different colour each season to see where it takes you. You could be that missing master of colour we need working diligently on one of the difficult colours or hues. The best possible hybridizer of blues could be a solid yellow breeder that never even looks at another colour outside of yellow. Time is cruel. It could take another 3 lifetimes to get that magic mind to the problem again. Never assume your game is easy and will be sewn up next week. Blue orchids still don't exist though they are getting close despite 100 years of concerted breeding folks. They are still waiting, still trying. Green, blue, black, and white at their truest purest level are still problems and one of those four colours may be a real tricky one. We just don't know at this point. You won't know until you try it to find out if you have the piece of knowledge and or a hunch that turns out to be the clue that opens the Pandora's box in a colour range.

Thanks all, stay tuned for future colour essays. I will post them on the Robin come time.


Mick Morry
Avalonia Daylilies and Whippets, AHS region 4, zone 4b/5 where colour is your friend!