Here in my backyard, a few late-season blooms are still popping out and some of last month's pollinated blooms have formed seedpods that are still holding on tightly to their scapes. Soon, though, hybridizing season will completely be at an end, marking the completion of my first season hybridizing daylilies.
It's been a fun year and I've learned a lot of new things about the art of hybridizing, a few of which I will share with you now so that you will have time before next season to consider adding these methods to your hybridizing program.
I started out the hybridizing season knowing that paper hang-tags wouldn't work for me. Many of my daylilies are in my front landscaping and fluttering white paper tags just don't have the curb appeal that I'm going for; not to mention I didn't want to run the risk of the paper softening and tearing or dealing with ink that could run when it rains. What, then, would I use to identify each cross that I had made?
I tried using twist ties from bread bags, but I didn't have enough and there weren't as many different colors as I needed.
At the suggestion of a wonderful daylily mentor, I looked into the color-coded wire kits online, but they were very limited in number of different color combinations, not to mention they were very pricey!
Instead, I got creative and pulled apart old USB cable wires and started cutting those into shorter strips because they contain 8 different color combinations that could be used and would get me started.
This worked great...for 8 pollen parents; but 8 more color options still weren't enough when I had dozens of cultivars that I wanted to use as pollen parents.
So, I went to a JoAnn Fabric store and purchased 26-gauge colored copper wire as well as a thinner, 34-gauge, gold wire (which is noticeably thinner and gives an added dimension to the wire coding system). Bingo! Now I could create my own color coding by using single colors or by wrapping different wires around each other and creating new color (and gauge) combinations. I had just vastly expanded the number of pollen parents I could use for the season.
There are a few drawbacks to this method, however. The first is that it takes time to create your wires and this project likely won't work for anyone who has difficulty with fine motor skills or suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome.
The second drawback is that you have to be careful of the colors you use because some colors can be confused for other, similar colors. Also, the sun will change the colors on certain wires. Here are a few things I predicted or learned through trial and error:
* Pink will look almost exactly like the copper by the end of the season; use one or the other, not both.
* Dark blue and black look too much alike.
* Purple will fade to pink-purple by the end of the season. (It's still recognizable, though.)
As for the USB cables, there are some things to note as well. It became quite apparent that not all USB cables are the same; some of my wires were nearly as flexible as the copper wire from JoAnne's Fabric, but some had a different plastic shell or less copper, making them more difficult to bend and twist around a stem.
Some of the colors of certain USB cables will fade, too. With mine, I noticed this the most with the following colors:
* solid orange
* orange on white
* blue on white
Overall, the wires worked great, but they aren't the only pollen parent designations in my yard. Now, let's look at one other method I used: permanent marker. This idea was not my own, but rather, that of a fellow (more experienced) daylily hybridizer, whom I met at a daylily show and who was kind enough to share some of his hybridizing pointers with me.
The great part about the permanent marker method was that I didn't have to spend time making wires. I just grabbed the pollen and a permanent marker and headed outside. It seemed very simple at first, and all I had to do was come up with the abbreviations I wanted to use for each pollen parent. “Cupid Calling” became “C.C.” and “Cloud Baron” became “Cl.Ba.” (or “C.B.” once I realized I could easily distinguish that from “C.C.”) and so on... It seemed like a perfect solution after a few weeks of hybridizing because I had purchased a slew of new daylilies with blooming scapes, and the permanent marker meant a quick solution, with no new wire-making needed. (I still used wires for the daylilies I had created wire combinations for.)
What I soon discovered, though, was that as the flower wilts and morphs into a seedpod, you may lose a letter (or more) of your permanent marker abbreviation. If you don't allow enough space between the base of the bloom and the first letter of your permanent marker label, it will be absorbed into the newly-forming seedpod and you may be left guessing which pollen parent you pollinated it with.
And sometimes, even if you leave enough room, it's hard to tell. For some reason, I've noticed that a couple of my labels have morphed into almost unrecognizable letters, as you can see above. (Perhaps the slug had something to do with it.)
The other pitfall of using permanent marker is that it can be very difficult to read once your stem begins to brown and darken.
Keeping a good eye on your seedpods and pulling them as soon as they are ready (brown and/or beginning to open) will help to minimize the difficulty because, based on my experience, the stem doesn't generally turn brown until a little bit after the seedpod does.
The final bit of advice that I can give about labeling is to get a hybridizing software program (I use PlantStep software) or keep an updated list somewhere. Stay organized! At the end of the season, if you were recording your crosses, the pollination dates, and the harvest dates, you will be able to use the process of elimination very effectively on many of your crosses that you might not otherwise have been one hundred percent certain of. (A “G.G.” might look like a “C.G.” until you go back to your notes and realize you never pollinated that flower with “C.G.”)
Containing the Seeds
One thing that I realized I needed to worry about was the idea of containing seeds in ripening seed pods so that they don't fall out before harvest time. Sure, I checked pods frequently, but that wasn't a guarantee that fallout wouldn't occur. What if I'm not home, or what if I'm too busy to pod-check on a given day? I did some research here on ATP and on the Internet to try to determine how to keep my daylily seeds from falling out once they ripen.
Some people had the great suggestion of using organza bags. I purchased some, but I switched to a different method before they even arrived in the mail. I realized I needed something a little more discreet than large, rectangular organza bags hanging over my seedpods; not to mention that a lot of my seedpods were too close together to reliably get a thick organza bag around them. I got to thinking and decided to try the nylon footies, called foot sox, that you use when you go to a shoe store to try on shoes.
You may laugh, but they worked great and they were so inexpensive! I wish I had been able to order black foot sox at the time, but even the nude color was discreet enough to be used on my seedpods in my front landscaping. I ended up cutting the footsox in half (so there wasn't a bunch of nylon hanging down) and slipped the enclosed part over the seedpod. This method worked especially well for the crosses in which I had used a colored wire to designate the pollen parent because I used the wire to tie around the base of the foot sock to close off the opening. For crosses where I didn't use a color coding wire, I used the other half of the foot sox and wrapped it around the seed pod a few times, sort of like an infinity scarf or a turban.
The final bit of information I will cover in this article is a technique that I used when I harvested my seeds. I was looking for a way to reuse K-cups because they are, generally, non-recyclable and fill up landfills needlessly. My original idea was simply to re-purpose them when it came time to plant the seeds. I imagined that I would put dirt and a seed in each one as an initial growing container until the seedling outgrew it. What I discovered, though, is that they also make great harvesting cups and "drying trays." I empty out the filter and the contents, rinse the K-cup, and let it dry.
When it's time to harvest seed pods, I stick several k-cups in a shallow Tupperware container and take it outside with me, along with small post-it notes and a writing utensil. As I pluck the seedpods, I put each one into a k-cup, along with a Post-It note stating the pod and pollen parent.
Later, when I come inside, I open the pods, put the seeds into the k-cups along with a labeled bag that will stay with the seeds until they have dried and are ready to be bagged and placed into the refrigerator. For the drying process, I place the k-cups in an egg carton which keeps them organized, makes them less likely to tip over, and makes transporting the k-cups easier.
I have not yet planted the seeds, so I can't speak to the effectiveness of k-cups as starter pots for daylilies, but I hope that will be in a future article for you to read!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my first-year experiences and ideas and I hope it helps you in your own hybridizing efforts or inspires you to find new ways that will work even better for you. Please feel free to leave your comments below!
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