Phillip, it's not that I'm not curious about the blooms that I will never see - I am. But I have suffered through enough plants with bad foliage before finally deciding that enough is enough and pitching them, that I have become somewhat more critical (or, if you prefer, more jaundiced) about it. (Though, as I think I may have mentioned elsewhere, it helps greatly in the seedling culling process if one has worked oneself into a bad mood before taking it on.
It is much easier to do it then: "You! You've got leaf streak?! OUT!")
I think the daylily hybridizer (I can't remember who it was) who said that it is easier to dispose of a plant with bad foliage (or was that bad plant traits?
)before bloom, than after, has a good point. Since I am pressed for seedling space here (and that situation is only going to be worse now that I will be adding iris seedlings), I need to get serious about culling seedlings at every possible opportunity, and culling on the basis of bad foliage or bad health prior to bloom is certainly justifiable. (Of course, one can always torture oneself with thinking that "Well, that seedling has bad foliage but the flower is awesome, and if I just cross it with this other plant, I will surely have the next Stout/Dykes Medal winner!" But why add to the garden masochism?)
While we all may grow irises (and daylilies) primarily for their bloom, the reality is that we have to live with the foliage all year round (or whenever it is above ground). An evergreen daylily may be in bloom (in my neck of the woods) for three months (depending on the cultivar), but I'll be looking at that foliage all year round. It had better look good when the plant is out of bloom.
With irises (except the reblooming irises, and even then, I am given to understand that with most rebloomers, there isn't a whole lot of rebloom), the clump will be in bloom for what - 2, maybe 3 weeks? - out of the year. But I will be looking at that foliage for the other 49-50 weeks of the year. (Or when it is above ground, and not covered with snow (which we don't have in my climate).) From my perspective, just as with the daylilies, the foliage had better look good when the iris is out of bloom.
Seedling room considerations aside, I have to wonder if perhaps I am looking at this from a different perspective than some people here. (And I may as well go ahead and say it, that I think that I also look at daylilies from a different perspective than many daylily people I have known.) And my perspective is this.... No matter how much in love with a particular genus of plants I may be, that is not
going to be the only genus of plants that I grow, nor is that genus of plants going to constitute the majority of plants in my garden. Monoculture (ignoring matters of disease and insect pests) is boring. It is boring out of season, when there is nothing to look at but a monotony of foliage. It can even be boring in season, when there is nothing else around to complement the foliage and blooms. And fwiw, I think this is true no matter the size of the garden, although in small gardens the monotony (and the evidence of bad foliage both in and out of season) can be even more stark.
I remember visiting a certain hybridizer's iris garden some years ago. It was a dazzling burst of color in bloom, but even then, I thought to myself how awfully boring it must be out of season. For all of the sheer quantity of massed color, my favorite part of the garden was a small display bed as you came in the garden gate - because it had things other than irises in there. (I remember alyssum for sure, and I think there were roses, too.) It was, I thought, a pleasant, harmonious display of irises and a demonstration of how they can be used in the garden. (And yes, I know that this "garden" was essentially a commercial iris farm and thus the limited land was best used for irises and not display gardens, but that does not change the fact that it would have been boring as heck to look at, out of season. Imho.)
I have to think on the Garden of Eden, how beautiful it must have been with its diversity and complexity of plants. For certain none of us has, or lives in, a Garden of Eden
, but I do think that plant beauty and diversity is something to strive for in any
(non-commercial) garden - and that includes beauty of foliage when the plants are out of bloom.
"God is in the detail" ~ variously attributed
...and that detail, imho, includes the beauty and the quality of the foliage.
(...looking around for my asbestos overcoat now...