No such thing as a stupid question!
Posted on the Robin by Mick Morry (Dec 12-08)
Re-printed with permission
First of all our heart goes out to all who have lost power in the latest ice storm to hit the USA. I hope Ted White and all the others affected by this are not without power long. I can relate all to well to your struggle and hardship--especially the no heat, no water, and no light past 5 pm in the house thing. We lost our power yesterday for 5 hours again. I say again as we lose our power 4 times or more a year, including twice in the hottest most humid days of summer and twice this winter alone, so far. We lost power for 27 hours a few weeks back in late November, and, as I already noted in previous posts, lost it for 19 days during the 1998 ice storm -- the worst ice storm ever to confront eastern North America to date.. I fear ice storms more than I do just about anything. Try sleepiing, dressed in multiple layers of winter clothing in nights that are -20 or -25 while you listen to the trees over your house scraping the roof and creaking and groaning and sounding on the very verge of breaking -- off their limbs and into the roof of your house. That alone is a nightmare, but imagine then the roads are impassible and you cannot get to anywhere where there will be food, or water, or fuel (if you have a generator) without venturing out onto streets you shouldn't be on. We pray for a speedy fix to your problem. Stay strong and help one another through it, please!
I have really enjoyed all the different view points and angles that each hybridizer brings to the table. A number of you have sent me seedling photos to show areas that you or someone close to you is evolving a new direction or look. BRAVO!!! I found for myself that the biggest move I had to do was to just step up to the plate. Breeding anything well is just like exercise. You must sort of push yourself at times to keep at it and not get tired or frustrated--or be so gung-ho that you injure yourself in the process. This is a very physical hobby, so you must try to minimize the back breaking issues and reduce workload so you don't wear yourself out.
Every hybridizer bar none that is comfortable with how their program is designed and played out--did so out of adjusting a thousand factors--based on advice, and tips and angles based on thoughts of others. No one hybridizer will ever have it all right or know all the variables to everything. This is a field so complex and vast that it will very likely take thousands of individuals with busy minds forever working every angle to find out everything. Even then there will be surprises --there always are.
Personally I find it important to develop a program that is you and forget how the other guy is doing it--other than taking a point here and a point there. If you are lucky and especially when you are just starting out--you can find an operation that gives you a lot of ideas that will work for you. However you will only be able to use 40% or so of any operations MO. There are so many variables just within a different cities weather system to effect you in more ways than you wish to know.
I also believe that you must first adopt steps/strategies other hybridizers had to do in your region. Not all parts of a region are the same at all. My region 4 has many different temperatures, and weather patterns. The region 4 area is huge--too big in my opinion so you have the variables that run from Nova Scotia, and Maine and New Hampshire, where temperatures tend to be more temperate, to the more severe -- Vermont, Quebec, eastern Ontario, northern New York, where temperatures are colder and conditions usually more severe. There are so many towns that have completely different weather systems and temperatures though just short distances apart. In our case the distance of 4 kms during the 1998 ice storm meant we were kept without power for 19 days while persons just 4 kms NORTH of us found more moderate conditions and were without power for just three or four days. The only benefit, and I say this honestly, of living where we live is that rust cannot, never will (barring an accelerated global warming) survive our winters, nor could many of the insects that survive in crops that are sorely damaged by things such as Asian long horned beetles etc. We are still, thankful, a boreal forest, but for how long, with global warming, is a moot question. For now our winters make southern advanced invasions of insects and parasites nearly impossible to grow and become worse but global warming seems intent on moving the marker further and further north to the peril of us all.
So right there is the very first step I have to consider in hybridizing in my region. I have no choice but to to seriously evaluate my climate -- not just now but going forward. I have been to the Canadian experts -- the Central Experimental Farm scientists of Canada and I have talked to everyone who can discuss climate change and everyone who has ideas to offer on where we go from here, and where we could be / might be/ should be in 10 years from now. I have gotten so many views it has spun my head. I began to think privately to myself that I had gotten myself into way more complex genetics that I had faced in orchids but luckily my gut has been wrong - so far.
I still believe that daylily genetics are the easiest to bend and maintain the genes I have been blessed to play with. My buddy Bill Maryott said more or less the same thing, to me one time. He mentioned that he was seeing how much easier daylily genetics were compared to Iris with which he was intimately familiar as a long time hybridizer of those plants. Iris are, he reported, more stubborn to make leaps in, perhaps because many of the biggest leaps had already been made.
Daylilies still want you to play with them - NOW. They are the dogs, the cats, the horses of the plant world. They are made to be with humans because we have interjected our time and focus on them, and tamed them--for lack of a better word--just like we did favourite pet species. We have interfered with their genetics in a fashion similar to what we did with the demeanor of the now gentle pet species people cannot seem to live without now.
We recognized daylilies now as that perfect tame -- so to speak -- plant. They are beautiful and easy going just like those special breeds of animals that are smart, affectionate and made to live with human beings. We must evolve our thinking in plant genetics as much as we do the rules and truisms that makes modern society work, adapt and grow in positive productive ways.
The most important thing to do early on in the game after you have figured out your focus and type of traits or colours you wish to breed--is to find out how your garden works and what it will take for you to keep it lean and mean. It takes time to observe and calibrate light levels through a variety of seasons and assess what trees or bushes or other obstacles need to be cleared, removed or moved. While you are honing your garden you must find out about all the other chemicals and fertilizers and additives, poisons, and on and on. Any of the larger well established hybridizers can help you with this stuff. This is the easy stuff to find out, at least for getting good honest answers. However things change on almost every other question.
First and foremost there is your region, zone, garden, city, and even your microclimate within your own garden that has to be considered as it may have a totally different temperature or light level hat actually pushes it into a new zone. This is a mini micro-climate in action. So some natural factors or features of your property has may help at the same time as others may hinder you. At our place we have so much snow melt and bad ground elevation. We get serious spring flooding and If we hadn't taken the advice of guys like John Peat--we could have been trying to cope with flooded flower beds (as we were early on) and been utterly miserable, dejected, and defeated. Instead, by analysis of what our garden was doing to us, we were able to adapt the garden to suit the plant, rather than adapt the plant to suit the less than full hospitable environment. .
To reiterate, getting content and comfy with your program involves adapting your program a step here and a tweak there. Do not do anything that your gut tells you is wrong. Research that topic more and get many view points. Your instinct is so important. 99% of the time your gut is right. Learn to trust it. If you inner voice is saying "dude that is inbreeding gone wild", then do yourself a favour and avoid doing that cross or buying that plant. Whatever the case is trust that hunch.
Even when you hear advice you think it absolutely true, from someone you have reason to trust but they are not gardening in your space, my advice is, be thankful and pleased with the help, but at the same time be analytical, and skeptical, and assess your situation based on your observations. Test a small section of your program on those iffy hybrids for growing in your zone and be methodical and be premeditated to a fault, especially when the life of your line is at stake. Asking that second opinion or even third, fourth and fifth is less detrimental than leaping in blindly feet first. Always test the ground before you put your full weight to bare.
I am a blend of hybridizers and big growers in both the south and north. This has created a unique confluence of thinking on what works -- definitely --, what may work - possibly, what may not work - almost certainly -- or what may never work in my zone and region. Anyone hybridizing in this environment of possibilities knows that out of this you have to pick and choose what works for you, and out of your results assemble a unique approach and style blended out of all those ideas and doctrines. At our place we do our best to take what we need and works for us and discard the rest, accepting we will make mistakes.
John Peat says it all the time--there is no such thing as a stupid question. Now if you ask the same question every 5 minutes--then maybe there is a medical problem that that needs serious attention<BG>. For the rest of you there is simply no stupid question. Knowledge is power. Just like the Baby Boomers liked to say when they were younger, "never trust anyone over 30", and my generation X-er's said "question authority"--meaning you must ask questions even if you think they old boring questions. Don't always believe what is said to be the only route for you. There may be a few things that need other viewpoints or angles to get desired results in. If you don't ask questions , you never get those varying ideas and experiences. The more views, advice and angles you implement the faster, easier and more successful your program will become.
Some people will need to hit pretty to pretty. Some will need complex bookwork. Some do minimal bookwork, but tons of planning. Each person has his or her own perfect fit. Adopt what is comfortable and ditch everything you can safely ditch that doesn't work for you. Some areas you will never avoid doing ugly, time consuming work in, but you can simplify it or limit the time and expense it takes to get the nasty stuff you don't like doing done.
Remember you are never trying to copy a grow situation completely. Everything that makes up your region, from weather to light levels, to humidity, to barometric pressure and sea level must be taken into account. In Dallas, Texas, they rot so many plants each year it blows my mind. Up here I rarely seen a rotted plant except for newly transplanted southern plants with severed roots that did not seem to make the transition northward. So in a case such as this you wouldn't be looking for advice from me, but from a Jack Carpenter or a future hybridizer extraordinaire, such as Chris Von Kohn, who lives sees rot at a high level in his Texas garden.
If you have rust problems then go hunt down an expert on trying to remove it from existence in your garden and is breeding to halt or stop rust. John Peat would be that kind of mind I would hunt down to answer such a question. If I was having difficulties with tetra conversion I would beg of Pat Stamile or Phil Reilly ,Jamie Gossard or Dan Trimmer to give me any of the advice they could give me and I would hope with those sharp minds I would find the answer I need. Be humble, be polite, and ask lots of questions. We all did and most of us have not forgotten that simple truth, and pay the debt that many of us feel we owe back for the time given to us. It only makes sense to share as they have done in the past with us. We are the guys that now need to return all the favours we cashed in and do it in turn with the next generation of hybridizers. There is room for everyone, and every viewpoint.
I can honestly say that nearly every post I have ever written and put up on any of the robins or garden forums has been based on someone asked a question that I felt deserved as many viewpoints as one could get. I get inspired to write, based many times on what someone feels is a simple or stupid question . There really is no such thing as a dumb question.
Oh lastly. I noticed in my selection of ELEGANT CANDY in my top 100 list that I mentioned SPECIAL CANDY, instead of ELEGANT CANDY--when talking about trying to out think ELEGANT CANDIES colour. Special Candy was the plant I picked above it and my string of thought was moving fast and must have been still thinking about that fantastic SPECIAL CANDY. So for the people that asked me for permission recently to re-print it for other journals and robins--please correct that. I can live with the typo's I guess. Man I noticed I spelt dyed as died. Not quite the same thing<BG>.
Oh well you do see by the volume of writing I do that I do spell everything correctly--just not always, every time in the same email. Like I was saying recently nothing is perfect!
AHS Region 4-zone 4b/5--where winter is not your friend.