We all have our little systems that we develop.
Ha! I had started a response yesterday, but didn't post 'til now, and that's exactly what I said!
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
I tend to be a stickler about knowing the exact cross being made, too. A lot more information can be teased out of known crosses regarding gene interactions.
Everyone will find the method that works best for themselves. For me, I use foil, but usually don't like the caps. Most of the time, I work with smaller flowers and smaller pistils that I deem too dainty for big, bulky caps. I usually don't pollenate the day I prepare the flower, rather, the day (or two) after, and how would you get one of those pollen caps off without damaging the pistil?
My method begins with rectangles of foil that are folded over the pistil ends. Because I grow many species, there is a large variation in pistil shape and size, and different size foils are required.
I used to be out at the break of light to protect pistils in just opening buds in the early morning. It is surprising how much relevant insect life is already at work before the sun actually comes up. I'd hurry along, getting as much done as I can before I would be off to work - another reason I don't pollenate when first preparing a flower -- no time! (The stigmas are never receptive at that early stage anyway. ) Now that my work schedule always starts at 5 am, I can't be out at pre-dawn, so I use the organza bags as Joshua suggests.
I do use the heavy duty aluminum foil, but I agree that it is not needed (and wouldn't recommend it) for the cap method. For the single fold that I employ for prepollenation, the regular stuff doesn't reliably hold when a pistil points downward. Most of my lilies are down and out
(facing!). In addition, the pistils are not necessarily done growing when I protect them, and the slight expansion needs to be allowed for. You will see in my pics that my fold can accommodate an expanding stigma. Just another aspect learned through trial and error.
I have found that giving the fold a slight angle across the pistil that follows the natural form of a three finger fold, or even a small trifold helps to keep the foil in place. (The result, however, need not look like a Klingon warship
.) FYI, pictures here are of Lilium dauricum that opened a few days ago: always the first to open in the season, while L. pumilum buds aren't even coloring yet. Other pics are from previous years.
I've learned not to fold at the exact midpoint for the prepollenation stage: it makes it difficult to unfold. So I fold in an offset manner:
When it is time for pollenation, the foil is safely removed by grabbing the tabs and pulling apart, then placed back over the pistil with some extra folds to securely hold in place and distinguish the flower as already pollenated. (Of course, the pollenation MUST be labeled and recorded!)