The realities of growing and hybridizing

 across multiple climatically different regions


A Daylily Robin posting by Mick Morry  Dec 4th 2008

Hello Robins,

Bill Maryott just said one of the most important things that is so often overlooked. Where you live strongly impacts the colour, size, eye complexity, colour depth, base colour, level of pleating, sculpting, edge, and teeth of the daylilies you grow in your garden, in your region and your zone. Those of us who have it growing in our gardens north of the Mason Dixon line know that GOD SAVE THE QUEEN does not have teeth north of the line. It is, however, a very weather-resistant, huge, audacious purple that is still a must in a northern program -- just don't expect teeth like you have seen in southern photos. This said, I am sure teeth will come out of Mort's new line being bred in Kentucky because Mort's line is now going to be a northern tooth program and now the southerners will not see the teeth to their full potential. Bank on it. That is why with a southern tooth cross Bill Maryott can't see the teeth, and nor will anyone north of him unless they live in an area where high humidity and summer heat are ideal.

Northern teeth belong in the north and southern teeth belong in the south. I know this is a harsh judgment, but it is true and I can certainly prove it to my satisfaction based on observations in our own garden here in zone 4b/5. My fiancée Jennifer Patterson only breeds teeth. She is in 3 years now and will see her real big first batch of seedlings bloom in 2009. She owns nearly every good toothy cross out there that we have acquired through buys from hybridizers or off the Lily Auction. As a graduate in horticulture she is hooked on analyzing what the plants are doing in our garden and why, and she analyzes as well the other plants out there to assess why they perform the way they do where they come from. She has identified a number of problems anyone breeding for teeth should be aware of -- there are questions about how fertile some of them are, and a lot of the toothy plants do not breed well (or at all) both ways. In addition there is the dilemma that what looks like a good tooth in the south, as Bill mentioned, is scarcely visible in the cooler northern climate.

In terms of fertility, Jennifer bred what I thought was going to produce way too much seed in 2008. I saw the pods she had set and thought "Girl you're nuts. Where are you planning to plant all these seeds?" I felt that way right up until we opened the pods and saw how many crosses had mushy seeds or pathetic seed counts. The dead average southern toothy cross she was using was routinely offering only 1-4 seeds per pod. That is ahem, LAME. A good full form with a good standard edge can throw 20 or more seeds when intelligently bred and it has been our manta here that we just won't touch stuff that throws weak seed counts or breeds one way.

Enter problem number two. Too many teeth do not breed both ways. This is dark territory to venture into and is compounded by problem number three. Very southern bred teeth do not exhibit the same teeth, and certainly not as big, here in the north, although a few programs do. John Peat, Dan Hansen, and Luddy Lambertson have at least 3 or 4 that do. So the book isn't totally closed on this one. My honest best advice for anyone into teeth as they are affected by environmental issues such as humidity and heat--buy within your basic zone and region. If you live in New York state then go see any of the "northern" operations from Kentucky and Ohio north in the US or to the provinces of Ontario and Quebec up here in Canada. (I put quote marks around "northern" here because we in Canada know what northern really means -- and for us the "northern" guys in Kentucky are really southern when you contrast their climate with ours. They are, at the least, a happier blend of north and south than we can currently achieve -- at least till global warming embraces us to a greater degree than it has already.

Secondly, colour can and will be different across the map on any given cultivar. When there was finally had enough of my TWICE IN A BLUE MOON to make it a modest release, I had to show 3 photographic faces of it -- two taken in my garden in different weather scenarios, and a third, taken in Tennessee where it shows an entirely different, southern face. I remember when Dan Trimmer felt he had to apologize to his customers that bought ELISA DALLAS, as it's base went to a cream more north, instead of staying a clean super white. But it is no one's fault, least of all his. In fact, it is not even within the control of a hybridizer to be able to guarantee the same face across multiple growing zones and different season lengths. Daylily purchasers need to know that environmental factors, climate, summer temperatures, humidity and and light levels and where you live on the earth in relation to the equator will effect what a flower looks like and how it performs. It all comes down to the complexity of colours mixed with the science of understanding weather and plant habits. It really is a science to absorb it all, in a way that something static like your stamp collection could never command and keep your attention because it never changes. That's why you found something super complex to collect and bend, right?

Teeth, hooks and nobs seem to be the only form of edges that are temperamental. The chicken Phatt or beaded or super ruffles or even angel wings come up north and in my town keep virtually all, if not better, of what they had down north. Why? In our case, we are in a huge land mass called the Ottawa Valley and that gives us a short by very hot summer bloom period with very, almost excessively high humidity. When that happens we enjoy edges that parallel the best of the south. While our winters are a living hell some years the summer is the absolute perfect weather for blooming big ruffles and for producing tremendous seed counts outdoors--even rain doesn't effect our seed producing capabilities. But if it is cooler, drier, more overcast, as it was for a good chunk of the summer here this year, this translated also into no teeth. It's as simple as that. Colour falls into the same territory. Where you live north vs south east vs west will dictate your daylilies height, size, bud count, colour and edge.

Today Robin member Catherine Cook sent me a photo of one of her seedlings. It is a pink very clean, very bright yet soft pink with a light violet edge and pattern. It looks like a more interesting Art Gallery Surrealism. The parentage is MEET JOE BLACK X MOMENT IN THE SUN. She asked me if the colour combination of the cross was possible or whether it might have been a mislabeled seedling. I felt it is such a good question and example that it should be discussed on the robin.

Catherine this cross is possible and the reason why is that yellow carries somewhere around one-fifth the beta-carotene of orange. Yellow is the opposite colour of blue. This is why a yellow with a blue eye is so clean and just so wow. Look at Jamie Gossard's VIVA LE PIÑATA, or Ted Petit's OCEANS 11. Yellow makes blues come alive and intensifies and electrifies them. It can change the hue or overall eye colour as well, so don't expect a miracle to happen every crossing. However you should know it is my practice that all my blues meet yellow at some point on this property. MEET JOE BLACK has a deep eye. This light shade of pale blue meets violet that came out of Catherine's cross is, I believe, the aftermath of beta-carotene, blended with that J.T. Davis is in there too I believe. So the white factor rears its head. White does the same sort of diluted breeding that you got, which would be recessive genes from a grandparent brought forward, dominating the base and diluting the eye. Black x yellow or orange eyed flowers will always make violets, blues, reds. This is exactly what I talk about when I refer to breeding outside the box. This is how blue is made from scratch.

The other routes to blue are to take a deep violet eye or deep purple eye and cut a solid pink such as AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL at it and you will be close. Then cut it to crosses such as BIG NAVY, BLUE DESIRES, CRAZY IVAN, GAVIN PETIT and other adventurous deep eyed crosses and hit the other half of the seedlings with crosses such as DOYLE PIERCE, TEXAS BLUE EYES, LINDA SIERRA, and the other best closest mid range toned blues. The last crossings I would do for that seedling would involve going back in with yellows and oranges after you deepen the eye. So breed the very next generation with oranges and yellows after you deepen that eye. I would hit a deep eye and then hit orange to it and watch the kaleidoscope of colour that emerges dazzle you.

Ciao all,

Mick Morry, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada-Region 4-zone 4b/5-(Where winter cold temperatures and a seasonal touch of snow promises to blanket our still exposed daylilies overnight tonight)