From Woodhenge Gardens in Virginia we are traveling north to Hickory Hill Gardens in Loretto, Pennsylvania and the daylilies from the hybridizing program of Clayton Burkey.
In the mid 1970’s when the focus was turning toward hybridizing the rounder, larger tetraploids Clayton was searching for the narrowest of diploids, the spiders. His fascination for spider forms was encouraged by Mrs. Lola Branham, a mentor and friend. He began hybridizing the narrow forms long before the classifications of spider and unusual form were recognized by the AHS. While working to make the tepal segments (sepals and petals) narrow and spidery was a challenge, other interesting shapes emerged with slightly wider segments than desired in the spider form. These were often referred to as exotics and later as spider variants before the official recognition of unusual form. (To learn more about the history of the spiders and unusual forms recommended reading is the AHS publication “Caught in the Web” Spiders & UFs). Clayton’s cultivars are known for their beauty, wonderful plant habits and also for their importance in hybridizing by others seeking to work with spider and unusual forms.
First registrations from Hickory Hill were in 1987, ‘August Eighty-Three’, ‘Godzilla’, ‘Cheerful Thought’, ‘Kirsten My Love’, ‘My Valentine’s Secret’, ‘Starman’s Journey’ and “Sultan’s Expression’. The first cultivar, and perhaps the most important from a hybridizer’s view, to receive an award was ‘Lola Branham’ (1991) with an Honorable Mention (HM) in 1999 and the Lambert/Webster Award for best unusual form in 2003.
‘Lola Branham’ (Burkey 1991)
Considered one of the most beautiful daylilies by collectors and hybridizers, ‘Lola Branham’ has been used extensively in hybridizing. Currently 80 registered cultivars have ‘Lola Branham’ as a parent. The most famous of these is ‘North Wind Dancer’ with a Lambert/Webster Award in 2007 and the recipient of the 2011 Stout Medal. A few other HM winners from Clayton include ‘Kirsten’s Corsage’(1996) in 2002 and ‘Android’(1996) in 2003. ‘Android’ has also been a successful parent with three registrations from hybridizer Don Herr, one unusual form, ‘Jelly Dancer’ (Herr 2010), and two spiders, ‘Dancing in the Sunlight’ (Herr 2006) and a 2009 HM winner ‘Summer Fireworks’ (Herr 2005). Crossing 2002 HM winner ‘Starman’s Fantasy (1991) with ‘Starman’s Delight (2000) gave Clayton three introductions ‘Starman’s Dream’ (2000), ‘Mystical Enchantress’ (2002) and ‘Kirsten Madeline Burkey’ (2000)a 10” crimson spider recognized by garden judges with a 2005 HM Award. Another very successful cultivar from Clayton is ‘Starman’s Quest’ (1989). Awards presented to ‘Starman’s Quest include the HM in 2001, an Award of Merit in 2004 and the R. W. Munson Jr. Award in 2011 for best patterned cultivar. ‘Starman’s Quest’ has proved itself as a hybridizing plant as well. Hybridizers including Tom Polston with a 2011 HM for ‘Bob Faulkner’ (Polston 2006), Michael Miller with several very nice introductions and Jamie Gossard with a 2008 HM for ‘Smoke Scream’, have all used ‘Starman’s Quest’ to further their breeding lines. Jamie Gossard converted the diploid ‘Starman’s Quest’ to tetraploid and produced the tetraploids ‘Upgrade’ (Gossard, J (2007), ‘Ninja Storm’ (Gossard, J 2005) and ‘Purple Cheetah (Gossard, J 2006) a 2010 HM winner.
In 2011 Clayton Burkey was recognized for his outstanding work and contributions in hybridizing with the AHS Bertrand Farr Silver Medal.
To see more of Clayton’s introductions (he also raises beautiful canary’s!) visit his website
‘Android’ (Burkey 1996)
‘Kirsten Madeline Burkey’ (Burkey 2000)
‘Starmans’ Quest’ (Burkey 1989)