Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bud, sepal, scape, leaf, and bract colors.

We live for the glory of the flower: but the garden presence of the plant

Sunday, September 21, 2008


The Problem:

Oscie Whatley wrote something I considered very wise. "Don't breed something you can already buy." Breeding is slow and takes a lot of effort compared to buying outright. Even a $200 daylily is cheap compared to 3 years and the dozens or hundreds of seedlings worth of effort to get something as good. If you succeed.

But I want a lot of daylilies that nobody has bred yet. We all do! I can only breed a few of them, because I'm personally limited to about a thousand seedlings a year for a very few goals. So who will breed these for me: who even knows what I want?

Most of the daylily breeding going on now is not what I'm looking for. I want diverse daylilies for many purposes, but the vast majority of daylily breeding is for midseason, short, large, round, eyed, edged, southern tetraploids in dull colors with poor northern performance. I don't reject those: I just want more choices in different seasons, heights, sizes, colors and forms.

A Solution:

Collaboration. Working together to breed for a large diversity of goals.

First we have to explain the goals to each other, to persuade ourselves that we'd really like to have daylilies that (for example) rebloom in many colors from mid-May to September, even if they are not bleeding-edge gaudy. Or that are 4 feet tall and bear small flowers with the June perennials.

Next, we have to assist each other in the breeding. Here are 5 ways we assist each other.

(1) Share pollen.
(2) Share parents.
(3) Share seed.
(4) Share seedlings.
(5) Introduce seedlings.

Pollen: when breeders visit each other, frequently they'll share pollen (with permission!) Usually, there's an abundance of pollen. Sometimes we mail pollen to each other as well. It costs us nothing except exclusivity.

Parents: our knowledge about named parents (and our supply) can help others tremendously. Helping others to know that a scarce parent will give great results and helping them get it can improve our effectiveness as breeders.

Seed: it's easy to produce far more seed than we can grow. Why just sit on it? Let others grow and select from it! What would you get in return for the labor of making and distributing the seed? I propose a simple deal: the breeder gets a fan from whatever the grower selects. (If the breeder wants it.)

Seedlings: all breeders select seedlings that are important for breeding goals, but not good enough to introduce. We need to share these around to advance our goals. We can also share future introductions as guest plants with other breeders so that they can use them earlier.

Introductions: getting a new variety out to the public is not trivial. They need to be increased, publicized, sold and shipped. We can increase, advertise and introduce for each other.

I've done all these things. I receive pollen from Sobek, Apps, and many others during my visits, and sometimes mail pollen. I've exchanged breeding parents with Potter, Kamensky, Apps, Sobek, Mahieu and others. I've received seed from Potter and Sobek, and given seed to Sobek, Derrow, and many others. I've long sent out my seedlings for trial, increase, and breeding before their introduction to Kamensky, Derrow, Sobek, Kendall, and others. I've introduced and advertised for Kendall and Deschenes, and now Harmon is introducing for me.

Collaboration has worked well for me. I've developed my own network for collaboration, and so have many other breeders. I'd like to expand and open up a network for lots of people, centered around this blog.

Initially, I'll start with my own breeding goals, inviting people to participate by growing seedlings. We can expand into all the other activities in the next year or so, and bring in other people's goals and seed.

This site is inspired by the Open Source Movement, which is responsible for much progress in software development, including the free software movement. Instead of profit-oriented specialization and centralized top-down development, the Open Source movement encourages wide participation in development and design to create software that is robust and meets the needs of a really wide audience. Nobody is excluded by ownership issues: if you want a feature, you can simply add it. Examples include Wikipedia, Linux, etc. We already work very much in that way in daylilies: all I want to do is make the process more efficient and steer it to include my own goals.