Sempervivum forum→Effective selection

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Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
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GeologicalForms
May 16, 2020 1:37 AM CST
I'm trying to determine a steadfast rule-of-thumb for when a sempervivum seedling can be effectively selected for/against.
I know that there's been discussions on this before, but I'd like to sum up that discussion and propose a solution to this slippery topic, either validated or invalidated by our more experienced hybridizers.

So far we've determined that young seedlings (under 1 year) are in a state of constant change, and throwing out unattractive plants at that stage is likely to lead to the elimination of potentially optimal candidates. However the question of whether it is appropriate to toss out seedlings in the following two years is largely contingent on the level of maturity the seedlings have reached in that time. A multitude of factors such as soil, nutrients, light exposure, and competition from siblings can drastically affect the growth and maturation of seedlings over a given time. Those which experience unfavorable conditions become dwarfed by comparison to their healthier siblings, but this is not an effective test of a seedlings genetic merit.
It's been said that in a well grown crop, early selections can be made at the beginning of the second year, but also that the other seedlings should be left over for another year to continue to develop. But what about seedlings that appear to be developed enough to select, but aren't showing promising colors?
To someone with limited space such as myself, it'd be advantageous to be able to spot unworthy plants as early as I can ensure that they aren't worth keeping. So in hopes of determining a means of deciphering the good seedlings from the bad early on, my question is this; can size be used to determine whether a plant is showing mature coloration?

If so, the size of the seedling relative to the size of the parent plants could be the key to weeding out the bad plants early on. For instance, 'Glauca Minor' is a medium sized plant, it tops out at about 4" in diameter, but the color of the rosettes doesn't change much between two and four inches. Of course there may be some variation in the size potential between the offspring and the parents, especially if one parent is much larger or smaller than the other, but wouldn't one be able to expect a 'Glauca Minor' seedling measuring two or three inches to be displaying it's mature colors? Especially if it's other parent was the same size or smaller.

This could save the process of selection a step. If I could open up some space in my year-and-a-half old seedling beds by selecting against unwanted colors, I could have more opportunity to focus on growth habits over the next year rather than leaving things clustered too tightly to be able to see how the colony's might form.

Lynn, I know you've seen dramatic color changes in seedlings between the first few early years. Did the color shift in your green seedling that turned black happen in conjunction with an increase in size, or did it reach it's maximum size before the color shift? Furthermore, is the black coloration seasonal or does it remain that way (or nearly so) all year?

Kevin, it would be helpful to hear your perspective on this.

Julia, have you noticed seedlings reaching 50-75% of their maximum size still not showing mature coloration?

Jo Ann, I recall a story of you discovering gems in your "to toss" pile, do you think it was just spring magic bringing out the colors, or had they gone through a spring at that size before?

Trying to find a ways of separating the wheat from the chaff. So far I've removed anything that seemed rot prone and was otherwise uninteresting but I'd like to cut deeper, preferably without pitching anything that could have been worth keeping.
At 16 months old, some of the seedlings have looked impressive for a long time, others have just gotten my attention in the last few months, some never looked good and continue not to despite growing rather large.
Romania, Mures (Zone 6b)
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PaleoTemp
May 16, 2020 2:49 AM CST
Not talking as a hybridizer and I might not really reply on the information that you need, but my Sempervivum 'Rita Jane' in 3 years has looked different in all 3 years, maybe because the clones where moved from propriety to propriety and because quite frankly the soil and weather were not identical.
Most importantly it seems to not really have the coloring that Erwin shows on his website for example. If of course looks like Rita Jane especially because it has the special growing on the leaves, which sometimes it just does not have the entire year.

While this is anecdotal to generalize it is a good generalization for the Sempervivum 'Rita Jane' I would think.
So one could miss the features of some cultivars because they always grow in the same conditions, here I mean the sun always hits the same for the same hours and the substrate composition is not too different from another.



For example I see lots of non-close huge Sempervivum being posted by people, unquestionable very long leaves with barely any thick and short taper at the end of the leaves, in my experience that happens when the substrate is rich, there is constant good moisture (not too much to kill the plant, but not too little to stop it's constant "spikey behavior") and there is never too harsh sun on the leaves for too many hours.
You can even see this when someone has lots of cultivars and many of them grow pretty much in the same fashion, so you can automatically deduce that there is a massive environmental influence rather than specific feature and characteristic of various cultivars.

For example I would think in such environment like I was describing before one would not be able to concentrate on selecting other features than special coloring as something like a beautiful balled up with ultra thick leaves like 'Picasso' can be will not get those characteristics in that environment, but rather have long leaves with pointy ends and grow not that compact.
Similarly if the soil is too rich and wet for too long certain tiny arachnoideum lose that perfect ball shape, that is perfectly closed, which let's say I am looking for that closed-up shape those tiny plants to have, as when they get a ton of them, they look like soap bubbles.
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
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springcolor
May 16, 2020 9:52 AM CST
Sol, such a good question? I have noticed that the 2nd year produces better coloring. To me the third year seems to show more of how the plant will form as a colony.

Interested to see what Kevin says.
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Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
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GeologicalForms
May 16, 2020 11:38 AM CST
What I'm really trying to get at with this thread is that time itself is not the best scale with which to judge the seedlings. Instead we are looking to see maturity, in this case I'm specifically referring to maturity of color. There is no doubt some correlation between maturity and plant size. The question is whether that correlation is strong enough to judge the coloring on a young seedling that has reached a mature (or nearly mature) size.

Paleo, yes I also notice that the form of a fully mature rosette seems to go through a change at the zenith of it's growth. 'Serapis' a cultivar I've had for three years has always laid very flat to the ground, but this year for the first time ever the rosettes are reaching upwards and have achieved an impressive size. Last year I switched 'Serapis' to a more recent soil mix that is faster draining and more nutrient rich, so that could also be playing a part in these big "spiky" rosettes, it was struggling in the old mix so I can hardly say I regret the change. The color however has not changed much since I bought it (other than the usual seasonal shifts).
Conditions do greatly affect the shape and color of rosettes. I bought my 'Rita Jane' in 2017, it's color and general form didn't change much, but it went from being a 2" rosette to being a 5" rosette, and once it reached that maximum size the leaf edges started to develop a ruffled effect. Obviously, selecting for ruffles or bumps would probably require each rosette in a seedling batch reach maximum size and age (though some younger plants still show these variations and it might be advantageous to select for plants that develop these desired distortions earlier), however effective selections made purely on the basis of color or general form might be possible (even in younger plants) that had reached 50-75% of their maximum size.

Julia, so are you noticing mature coloring in the second spring? And have those original rosettes reached 50-75% of their maximum size by that point?

Since the spring of this year, I've noticed drastic changes in form and color of my seedlings planted in February of last year. The twilight of spring is bringing out predictable summer shifts in those colors and forms. That first spring they were just showing baby colors, few of them actually retained those colorations and if I had thrown any of them out at that point I'd have made a big mistake. But now, after over a year of good soil, fertilizer, regulated moisture and sunlight, many of my plants are larger than their parent plants, others nearly as large. Is it safe to say these big plants beginning their second year are showing their final coloration?
-Sol
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
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springcolor
May 16, 2020 5:16 PM CST
I believe the 2nd year there is huge change. More color, shape stabilization and first chicks are usually forming.
3 year for me not so much change. I'm basing this thinking off my Gizmo seedlings.
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Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
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GeologicalForms
May 16, 2020 7:53 PM CST
Thanks for the insight Julia,
So as I understand your saying between the 2nd spring and the 3rd there's not a big difference in the color of the more mature seedlings, so selecting against unappealing colors during the second spring might be appropriate?
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
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springcolor
May 16, 2020 8:16 PM CST
That statement is true for my Gizmo Seedlings. However as we have all seen exceptions are the norm with these plants. So many mysteries!
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Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
May 16, 2020 8:17 PM CST
Sol,

This what I do.

Because my seedlings are pushed I can give at least a preliminary evaluation in year one. At that point I pull probably 0.2% of the seedlings out of the seedling bed to examine further. These are generally seedlings with incredible color, interesting form, neat patterns or extreme size. Oddly enough some of these do not pan out in a second year and are discarded. They were just "one year heroes" or I've thought too highly of it in the first place.

By year two, many of my seedlings are clumps. They generally look as they appear at that point from then on so I can pull the interesting ones for further evaluation. In my crowded seedling bed I can't discern whether they are going to make pretty clumps so they are grown in spots of their own. Those that make pretty clumps and are excellent on all other points are considered for introduction.

I do keep a few other things for breeding stock. So I've kept 8 of the F1 'Killer' X 'Denise's Cobweb' as I use them as parents each year. None of them produce lots of seed and each seems to produce a different set of offspring. I also have one small red that is a SCREAMING red but is a horrible plant in every other way. That one may disappear this year as it just makes me angry!

As my lines progress, the seedlings from those lines become more and more perfect and there are few duds in those rows. For example, there are 10 rows of seedlings from a red that I just named 'Red Zinger'. It gets up to 8" in diameter for me and is a good bright red that holds its color. There is not a bad seedling in that whole group. I have marked three to separate and observe but I expect I will pull more next year too.

I do evict some seedlings early if any show rot or insipid colors. No sense coddling something.

Kevin
Name: Lynn
Oregon City, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
May 16, 2020 8:25 PM CST

Moderator

I am really no help in this conversation, and I am the one that every year has not done the magic elixir on seedlings. I believe last year I did use it a total of two times and then life got in the way.
Sol, the 'Wilhelm Tell' black seedling had never been given the Quick Start.
Starting into it's third year, spring, was when it turned black, and it was very tiny as a three year old. I give it an A for survival.
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
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I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Greenhouse
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springcolor
May 16, 2020 8:31 PM CST
Very helpful information. I need to up my pushing with the quick start. Like you Lynn life gets crazy sometimes.
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Name: Lynn
Oregon City, OR (Zone 8b)
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valleylynn
May 16, 2020 9:12 PM CST

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Well that last several years have been crazy here. Rolling my eyes.
Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
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GeologicalForms
May 16, 2020 10:20 PM CST
Julia,
Thanks thats the observation I was looking for. Of course exceptions are the very allure of the genus.

Kevin,
So supposing insipid coloring is present on a reasonably large seedling entering it's second summer: Let it grow or make it go?

Lynn,
Actually your voice is as relevant as any other to this discussion because the point of this thread is to determine a more accurate method of selection NOT BASED ON TIME. Seedlings get stunted sometimes, even with the elixir it can happen, a poor little guy getting off to a rough start, germinating beneath the biggest of the bunch wont reach maturity on time. The biggest question here is whether the size of a seedling is a better way to judge color than the age of the seedlings, past that first year of baby colors. OR, is it necessary to wait till January of the second year to toss the unattractive ones.

Thanks so much for weighing in,
-Sol
Name: Lynn
Oregon City, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
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valleylynn
May 17, 2020 6:47 AM CST

Moderator

I also wonder if there is another angle to this, genetically some may color up quicker than others?
Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
May 17, 2020 9:21 AM CST
Sol,

No doubt I have missed some winners in my ruthlessness and I may have by accident selected for seedlings that color up quickly. In fact 'Borscht' was actually purple from the first set of leaves and I gave it a special place right away. However, otherwise it becomes to difficult to manage a program.

Some crosses surprise me as to how BAD they are and I could probably pitch them all in the first year as they look just as bad the second. Others are pleasant surprises. For example, all of the 'Waldmeister' seedlings have lovely shape and pleasing colors.

Kevin



Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
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GeologicalForms
May 17, 2020 1:13 PM CST
Lynn,
Some definitely do develop color faster, I have a red that's been that way since it's first summer, even it's stolons are bright red. Think I might keep it just because. Not a bad plant otherwise, subtle velvet, pointed leaves, maybe not the biggest standout I've got but an interesting experiment should I ever get to cross with it in the future.

Kevin,
The 'Red Zinger's sound really cool.
Ok, so your saying come the second summer you'd toss things that don't have great color, but that it's not foolproof. Yes the beds I have are definitely getting out of hand, culling just on the basis of rot hasn't opened up much space. In an ideal situation where time and space weren't limitations I'd row them all out again, giving a good four inches between each one, but with thousands of seedlings that's just not practical. I've moved as many old seedlings to the new bed as I think I can to be able to plant the remainder of my 2019 handcrosses there as well. Now it seems like elimination is the only way I'll be able to open things up enough to allow for further increase. So far I've been "excavating" the area's around ones I like, planting the underdeveloped or unattractive seedlings that were choking them out elsewhere, but I've run out of room for that to. I'm also considering turning to pots to plant up some of the smaller family groups elsewhere for later selection.
Things like pinks, silvers, blues, and blacks I'd really like to row out next to each other with plenty of space so I can be certain I pick the right ones. There are favorites in these categories at the moment, but I can't be sure that a plant of the same genre struggling in an overcrowded area isn't actually a better plant.
I have a dark cobweb from one of my hand crosses that you might appreciate, one parent was a red tufted type and the other was an arachnoideum with seasonal color, so it's probably 3/4 arach and 1/4 something dark. The cobweb turns to tufts in the winter, but the color is year round.
Thumb of 2020-05-17/GeologicalForms/f0b571
-Sol
Name: Jo Ann
Washington State (Zone 7a)
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ricos
May 17, 2020 9:33 PM CST
Very interesting discussion.
I do not feel that I have been doing this long enough to even have an opinion on any of it yet.
But perhaps one thing that has not been touched on here is the need to plant only the number of seeds that you can handle effectively. I can see how this could get way out of control by making too many crosses and saving too much seed. eg. I had a Rita Jane with bumps that flowered in 2018. I should have selfed it to maintain the bumps I think, but i crossed it with several intensely colored ones instead. It made the biggest seed head I have ever seen and enough seed to fill 3 flats heavily planted. That would make enough plants to fill a 30 x 96 greenhouse so I only planted a small pot of that seed. It's only their second year and there are lots with good color but no bumps Yet. I now have another one with bumps which is looking like it will flower. I think maybe they only get the bumps in the flowering year? I will self it to see if I can get bumps before 3 yrs. But still not going to plant a million of them. It's not a super high priority with me as Kevin is already on it. I planted a bunch of 3 yr seedlings in 3 3/8 " pots early this spring because they looked promising. Most have in some way or other become something not worth keeping. All are nice looking plants and will go into planter pots or baskets to be sold with no name. This saves me the anguish of having to compost them. It's just me but when I see long stolons its out. They are a nursery night mare and I do not want to give it to another grower. I crossed Gold nugget with Tederheid because it was the only other thing blooming but if the offspring produce long stolons they will be gone. Each of us is going to have different preferences and goals and there is a customer out there for everything.
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
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I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Greenhouse
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springcolor
May 17, 2020 10:51 PM CST
So right Jo Ann about not planting more seed then you can manage. I had a flat of seedlings in a flat for a year before I had a place for them.
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Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
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GeologicalForms
May 18, 2020 2:04 AM CST
Jo Ann,
I can see your point about not letting things get out of control. Thats a big part of why I made this thread, I'm trying to determine the earliest circumstances to appropriately cull so I can make room for observation and the next crop of young seedlings. Hand crossing the way I do tends to keep the numbers down, with only a handful of bee pollenated bloomstalks I've filled four large beds with seedlings, but my first years worth of hand crosses only filled a single bed and I used a ton of blooms with that method.
I have a few bumped seedlings after just 15 months, considering breeding them together to see if I can accentuate them. Two have already made my not-for-market saved group of breeders, and I'm thinking of plucking a third for the same purpose. None of them have bumps on all the leaves just some, lots of room for improvement.
My first crop of 'Rita Janes' is just coming around, hoping to row them out in the next few months, I'd do it now but it seems like some seeds choose to take their sweet time to germinate and I'd hate to loose any handcross seedlings before seeing what they can do.
Long stolons are a hassle in the seedling beds to, they send offsets clear into other plant's allotted territory. In a yard or cascading through a landscape they don't look too bad though. I am selecting against them, but it's not an instant disqualification.
Romania, Mures (Zone 6b)
Sedums Sempervivums Region: Europe Roses
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PaleoTemp
May 18, 2020 3:26 AM CST
GeologicalForms said:
Long stolons are a hassle in the seedling beds to, they send offsets clear into other plant's allotted territory. In a yard or cascading through a landscape they don't look too bad though. I am selecting against them, but it's not an instant disqualification.


If you happen to get a variety that is truly resistant against harsh weather (keeping it's shape during bad time I mean), rather wide leaves and with long stolons I would like to have such cultivar, as far as wishful thinking goes.

Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Garden Art Container Gardener
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GeologicalForms
May 18, 2020 1:41 PM CST
I will bear that in mind Paleo,
Bought an international stamp with a sempervivum on it a while back and I'm not exactly a stamp collector. Should a time come I'll Treemail you. At this point I have one furry long stolon plant I like, as well as a thin leaved heavily ciliated one. A couple wide leaved ones I like may have long stolons, but their just starting to offset. Will keep you posted.
I think it might be cool to enlarge the stolon leaves to the point that they contribute to the overall colony, it would be wild if you couldn't tell where a plant began or ended, just one big mass of spreading leaves. obviously thats not the traditional vision of hybridizing the perfect sempervivum, but imagine a plant that grew like Euphorbia Myrsinites that was in the sempervivum family! I bet it'd look awesome streaming down from a hanging planter or along a pathway.
Lots of possibilities for these plants, the bumps, ruffles, kinks, stolons, fur, shapes and colors really offer us a myriad of ways to go. The best part about hand crossing is that you can pursue multiple distinct visions in a mutually isolated way. First I'd like to establish some plants that will appeal to the collectors, but on the back burner I'll be cooking up some science experiments that might turn out really cool down the line.
-Sol

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