This is something I wrote some time ago for our local collection of lily-tales: The Trumpeter. It is out there now, and I cringe to re-read things, but at some point it must have seemed a good idea to share it, because I pasted it here for the future. I guess today is the future. :p
Let me begin with Seedling_5666, which flowered two summers past. It may now have gone to lily heaven. It could be among the many bulbs out there in boxes crying for attention. I won't know for a year or two. This baby is thanks to three (that I know!) Tasmanian breeders. People we have lost but whose lilies live on. I transferred the pollen between parents, but it is thanks to Kerry Smith, Joe Hoell and Brian Dutton that this lily bloomed for me, so I wish to share it. Even if I never see it again, it remains a special part of summer. A lily met upon the way.
Now, back in time. Collectively, it's summers long long ago, but effectively we can over-look temporal punctuation and reflect upon a single summer. Childhood. During the summer of childhood I was a nascent hybridist busy among the flowers; as innocently as any bee. I could barely have conceived of an "over 30 years hence", let alone have supposed I would still be looking for The Lily in that time. (It was surely just a few winters' sleep away, right?)
What hopes do you have when you start hybridising lilium? A specific goal? A thrill in being the first to lay eyes upon some ineffable beauty you can't quite imagine? Satiating curiosity?
I was, in the beginning, simply curious and ambitious. A natural scientist; an artist. I can't delineate the two. Growing life was a sweet triumph, already experienced: cuttings, divisions, sowing seeds of varied genera... but to combine genes of two lovely flowers and see what happens...? Ooohh... move over Dr. Frankenstein!
Summer past is peppered with varieties that are redolent now of pioneers in lily-breeding: 'Pink Champagne', 'Hawaiian Punch', 'Vonnie' 'Trenwell', 'Charlie', 'Wildfire'. An historic pioneer is a curious concept when you really think of it. But anyway, there were breeders to admire and their works to acquire. Yet as I pollinated - and dreamed of lilies as-yet unknown - I did so largely in ignorance of their effort and significance. Too, when a breeder passes, it seems their works acquire the glow of an opus. So it is that long-ago summer was also graced with already long-ago lilies and their esteemed (yet care-free!) creators. Those such as 'Black Beauty' and Leslie Woodriff, and the North hybrids from Dr. North; 'Jillian Wallace' by Roy Wallace... did it still exist? Beyond those, flitting through the mists, were plant hunters discovering little marble lilies and regales hanging from cliffs! Romanticised, idolised!
Yes, I think whilst my contemporaries were reading Smash Hits, I was reading about the adventures of Kingdon-Ward and Duchartre. Alas, alack, what ever did I miss? Hmmm....
I transferred that first swipe of fluffy pollen with no small expectation; 'maybe' pictures in my head and a heart full of optimism. But of course the babies would be beautiful! Of course. Surprising maybe; a little unpredictable, like a good adventure, but beautiful one and all! In a mere two years a cohort of delights would bloom; all name-worthy, unique, glorious!
And they did. Every one delightful, every one aglow. Of course they enchanted - who wouldn't be enchanted with a creation of their very own? What else but wonder could keep summer fingers busy and stained with pollen? Thankfully though, talk of naming them was only excited chatter. They were not good lilies. They remain residents of summer past. Happy ghosts.
Ask any precocious 12 year old if they can imagine the degrees of patience, practice, searching, study, understanding, hope, experiment, trial, retrial and growth from error involved in decades of breeding... hmmmm. No one told me this was work!! Results just happen, don't they? Just a dab. Or to be correct, a daub.
So I dreamt. After falling into the land of lilies and discovering a fantastical place to explore with unbridled relish, it is finally becoming clear, more than 30 years later, just how intently our predecessors built upon their work and one another to hopefully spare us from rolling the same rock uphill, over and over. (Hint: wild lily populations are 'new' rocks - go gather those genes!)
Is it true that DaVinci carried the Mona Lisa around all his life; touching, retouching, unfinished? I wonder. Australia, including Tasmania, has and has had, a good share of great breeders; inspired growers working with lilies generation upon generation, to perfect a picture of hardiness, vigour, and beauty. Is the work ever done? We talk about, and aim for, a 'finished' lily. One whose character is substantially unflawed. This baby we may unleash upon the world. But is it The Lily we dream of, or one we meet upon the way?
The truth is - with few exceptions - most of our babies haven't the health or merit to warrant a second glance from anyone but their mother! The breeder is never finished. The more crosses you make and seeds you sow and seedlings you grow out to flower, the more you observe, the more you learn, and consequently the more particular you become about your standards. Aggghhhh! Add to this that The Lily that took root in your mind during the summer of long-ago (a stray seed that fell between your fertile eyes) grows ever onward as you feverishly daub; shifting, changing, evolving... and your children fall ever further away whilst creeping ever closer to your goal. Present your children to the world now? Complete with ceremony of naming and dissemination? Ha! Well, they're just not right... they're incomplete... their pedicels are 5mm too short! They are Tom-kittens all of them; a disgrace to the party! Dishevelled, ill-dressed, (un-dressed!) rude, and in need of finishing!
Oh, the torment! When one wakes up a frosty morn to find row upon row of blind, unkempt poly boxes, managing somehow to fix you with a gaze of reproach, what has become of summer long, long ago? Unpot meeee..... uuuuuunpooooooot meeeeeeeee! Weeeeeeeed ussssss! Sorrrrrrrrt ussssss! Feeeeeeed usssssssss! Gaaahahahaaa! Does it dawn that maybe, in searching for the needle, collecting more hay made the job so much harder? Did Woodriff ever run, screaming, from his lily fields in horror?
But this is a phase. This too will pass. They say, in the search for The Lily, "go broad, go deep". In that order. Meaning, firstly widen your genetic interest to capture as much of quality as you can. Find the ones that grow well for you, that like you, that capture your imagination, that have potential... want the perfect Lilium pumilum for your plan? Raise hundreds. Thousands. Select The One. Use it with everything! Raise the babies, choose only the few best, then drill down. Mine the genetics you have selected. Focus. Narrow. There are gems down there!
Hyperbole aside, it is good advice. It has come from many of the greats, both living and departed. They were wise. I look out over my nursery though and think maybe, just maybe, I got lost somewhere. In the excitement of expansion I may have gone jussst a little over-broad. Then I think of summer. Summers soon. Somewhere in this genetic ocean are the building blocks I need. Many, many of these babies are gifts from great breeders, with years of dedicated selection behind them. They are already great works. Lilies like seedling_5666. As varied as they are between themselves, each group is a product of drilling down and bringing out those traits the breeder saw in their mind. As I follow the butterfly from dream to dream; bloom to bloom, I feel the anticipation repairing. The right permutation of genes is closer, sleeping. Summer optimism springs eternal!
The Lily is out there. She's out there.
Milk thistle. We fed it to our rabbits. It's soft. It bleeds a milky sap like bitter lettuce; old lettuce. Before we ever got round to generations of selection. It arrives on the wind. It thrives. Goldfinch feast on those seeds and still there are more. Plenty. With no thought and no care it provides. And when our eyes are tired of seeing weeds and are surprised, the colours are pure and the shapes are radiant and the textures sublime.
When I see the date of my last blog entry - November 8 '18 - I realise it has been a very long time since I checked in here on the forum. Somehow it is easy to get lost when there are so many essential things that need time and attention. While 'luxury' parts of life just get shelved. Do we all put parts of our lives away in time capsules until easier days when we can return to them? Not that I should presume that I now have surplus energy to be 'back' and participate. I have a moment, so let's spend it in the garden, in autumn.
What a splendid time of year, in those magical latitudes (or altitudes!) that allow the light to become thin and clear, and the colours to become saturated and the air to ring like a bell. What a planet. How wondrous is life? We're so fortunate.
I so, so wish that I could capture what I see with my eyes and feel with my senses of touch and hearing. The vibrations of light and sound that encompass form and define our world like an ocean shapes the shore. But alack, practice, more practice, has had to suffice. Fortunately I enjoy taking pictures, even if the results have a long way to go. And I do notice changes in my perceptions and approach that amount, in my eyes, to growth. So I hope you find something to enjoy in this collection of pictures.
Samara... aka maple seeds.
Isn't it wonderful when gardeners share the worlds they create and we can explore their paradise? What a gift!
A garden is an iteration of all that is good and beautiful (or tortured...unresolved!) in the soul of its creator: a very special thing. When you come into those places I think you're welcomed into the landscape of another human soul, and those places are incredible. Some are strictly regimented, some are wild, some bounteous, some spare, some a fiesta of colour, some subtle or subdued, some full of fun and folly, some stern... gardens are people in all their varied forms.
While I wish to expand my focus and capture more of those gardens we create, when I find myself with a chance to practice photography, I find myself focused on the floral vignettes. On the portraits of flowers and features more than their habitat. I still have so much to learn at this scale! Maybe, rather than the forest, I'll always find myself photographing the trees... even when it is the forest I wish to convey! Is the soul of a garden evident in each of its blooms? I wonder.
These pictures were all taken in a lovely garden near Hobart. One of those lovingly created places that feels special. As always, any comments are welcome. Let me know how you find these images - what works, what doesn't. I hope you enjoy!
So, I have been using Irfanview to edit digital pics and I'm struggling with how much of this editing business is really necessary or even an improvement to images. I'm not technically proficient and wouldn't really know how to begin with custom adjustments... so I'm using auto this'n'that. I'm sure I mentioned it before, but I'm still unresolved as to whether hitting "auto-adjust colors" is a good idea. Help!
Here are some before and after images. They are all resized/resampled to reduce file size, but other than that the only difference is the application of auto-adjust colours. Which is better?
I have a hard time liking the adjusted images - why?
Even though I think the auto-adjusted images are often (not always!) closer to the colours I was seeing with my eye, I also feel as though they are too garish. Are they, in fact? Or is this feeling a product of seeing the raw image first and having that imprinted as the 'real' image. If no one saw the raw image, would they find the adjusted one garish? Are we all just so used to seeing digital images that are made to 'pop' that we expect images viewed on screen to be super-real?
Or maybe it's a sensory perception thing - a kind of aversion to things that are 'too bright' for the individual? Are they too bright for anyone else? And yet, bright does not automatically equate with harsh. Maybe the quality shift in question is soft to harsh. Because bright alone is not a problem... in fact I would love to capture bright, luminous, true colour. How does one do that? Is it something captured in the raw image or a product of sophisticated editing?
Oops - that's a tangent! So, to pop or not to pop? Or opt for soft pop? woah... that was pop corn. If you're still reading, sorry! If you can tell me your taste in pic-pop, a gracious thank you.