Mike Huben's 1999 Daylily Hybridizing Results

Written 12/27/99

MH9761A image
MH9761A (Huben not registered) 26 E 4, Peach Polychrome, Dor Dip
Sunny Honey * Sobek 94.12
(Stella De Oro * Brocaded Gown) * (Three Seasons * Tuscawilla Tranquility)

1999 is a breakthrough year, yet shows that I will need to reorient my breeding program significantly.

The major breakthrough was the achievement of rebloom under conditions where few varieties rebloom. Four seedlings out of 1000 sent up second sets of scapes on every blooming fan, and all four had at least 3 fans. A couple of them sent up some third sets of scapes. And one of them was NOT YELLOW. This leads me to conclude that my first goal on the way to EE Re NearWhite daylilies MUST be rebloom. My initial course was roughly correct, but rebloom under my conditions is the difficult goal, and consequently the first I must achieve.

A little discursion here on rebloom is appropriate. Three years ago, I visited Darrel Apps, the reigning god of northern rebloom, and told him my plans. I asked him which parents he thought I should use, and he suggested SUNNY HONEY and OPPORTUNITY. Both were pricey as far as I was concerned, but I broke down and bought SUNNY HONEY the next year. Last year, I visited him again, and he showed me APRICOT SPARKLES, which he claims blooms up to 5 times a year. This year, I finally found out his formula for what he calls "total rebloom".

The formula for total-type rebloom (judging from what Apps has told me) is:
(BITSY-type * Southern-type ) * (BITSY-type * Southern-type)


BITSY-type rebloom is that found in STELLA DE ORO and HAPPY RETURNS. Southern-type rebloom is harder to characterize, but BROCADED GOWN is supposedly a notorious rebloomer in the south. Thus, you can see how APRICOT SPARKLES fits the formula. Darrel was generously sharing his secret right from the beginning. My own rebloomers are:
It might be possible to conclude from my seedlings that only one dose of southern rebloom is needed, or that whatever the southern rebloom characteristic is, it's widely present in white breeding.

Unfortunately, rebloom is not easily measured, since the boundary is difficult to locate. So I am not yet able to argue for any genetic model, though I suspect a fair number of recessive or dosage dependent genes are involved. However, of roughly 300 F2 seedlings, only 4 were really strong rebloomers, and a few others showed modest rebloom.

I think Darrel Apps is at least one generation ahead of me in development of rebloomers, but I have one possible advantage. Apps grows in field conditions, in some of the richest soil available here in the east. I grow in a suburban yard with sandy, poor, dry soil with tree root competition and partial shade resulting in lower light, moisture, heat, and fertility. My hope is that if a seedling reblooms under my difficult conditions, it would be more likely to rebloom everywhere than a plant selected under less stringent conditions. To date, my experience with notorious northern rebloomers backs up this notion: even STELLA DE ORO doesn't rebloom as well for me as my best seedlings did this year. The same principle applies to increase: few daylilies increase under my conditions.

The strong rebloomers among my seedlings this year came close to my goals, excepting color. Their first flowers open were in the early season (not ahead of STELLA DE ORO, but not too far behind) and the second set of scapes started opening a mere month later. But three out of four were yellow, and the peach one has another generation or two to go before I will reach white. However, I know that I can reach white in two generations from some of the early blooming 98 seedlings: the trick is to keep the rebloom. Next season, I will probably concentrate on some F2 rebloomer * F1=(yellow rebloomer * white) crosses in an effort to lighten the rebloom lines and bring the bloom earlier still. Another possibility is large early bloomers or rebloomers: a few of the early seedlings are large flowered, large scaped, and have large fans. They could make another interesting line, large daylilies to bloom during the June perennial peak and rebloom again later.

The growing this past year was very peculiar. We had one of the mildest winters ever, with no hard frost until December. This was followed by the worst spring sickness I've ever seen: more than half of my seedlings were severely affected. Strangely, only the dormants seemed to be affected. And summer was one of the dryest on record.

Many seedlings that were exciting in 98 were affected by the spring sickness, including my best seedling from last year: MH9650E. Last year it bloomed very early, and had four sets of scapes on the one mature fan. This year, it was severely affected and bloomed a few weeks later. However, it did send up a rebloom scape in September. Perhaps it was just exhausted from setting nearly 30 pods on the one fan last year. I do worry that, since I start growing under lights in October, a complete year of continual growth might pump the fans up into an unusually vigorous state, that might not persist in succeeding years in my garden. This is yet another question waiting to be answered in my breeding program. The two extra early bloomers last year that rebloomed well did not rebloom this year. Most of the seedlings that rebloomed in their first year of growth in 98 also were severely affected by spring sickness and didn't rebloom this year.

This year I also remade and replanted some of the crosses that were successful. Until now, I've mostly made short crosses of 16 seedlings or less. Now that I've got some sucesses in rebloom, I'm making longer crosses of 60 seedlings or so to repeat the successes and breed amongst them. In addition, when reviewing the first year bloomers of 98, I decided I wanted a longer cross of one of them, so I thawed some seed and planted it early this spring.

A few other random observations. I had a great deal of difficulty setting seed on the earliest daylilies, which once again were unusually early to bloom, starting in the last third of May. I should have made better use of their pollen later in the season. I also have noticed that light yellow daylilies are often much lighter in color in cool weather than in warm. I suspect the pigment production is slowed by the cold. This fooled me into thinking one of my best first year bloomers in 98 was cream instead of yellow.

My crop of seedlings from Bill Potter's rebloom program produced some off results. A number of them rebloomed first year from seed, but this year the best of those had died over the winter. Only one, a minute cream evergreen, came up this season, and it barely rebloomed. This is strange to me in terms of hardiness: my winter conditions are not nearly as harsh as Bill's. And I probably have more growing degree days than he does, since I can grow melons to maturity and he can't, so my growing degree day theory of rebloom may need to be reworked. (He reblooms many varieties which don't rebloom for me.) Chances are that either I'd need a different base temperature for calculating growing degree days, or there are other factors limiting rebloom in my yard. However, one Potter seedling was spectacular, greatly resembling BANNED IN BOSTON.

Once of the pleasant surprises this year was a fun cross that I made between COOL SPICE and SPRING FROLIC. COOL SPICE is a great performer with very heavy substance and a greenish cast to its light yellow color. SPRING FROLIC is the best branched of the very early daylilies. Bob Sobek and I both made the same cross, and were surprised to find the other had. One seedling, MH9734C, was a total rebloomer, and another, wide petalled MH9734B, put up two massive scapes from the same fan, one with 39 buds. I made a sib cross between them, and look forward to Bob's results next year, which may prompt more sib crosses.

I've settled upon a nice efficient method of planting and handling seedlings. I collect seed into coin envelopes and dry them. When they are all collected, I select the ones I wish to germinate, and soak them overnight in a dilute solution of bleach and some dish soap as a surfactant. (I never bother to chill the seed and get roughly 90% germination. Remaining dry seed gets frozen.) I use Oasis Wedges to germinate, and transplant the seedlings into 38 cell tree trays. Transplanting is a delightfully simple and quick operation with the wedges: fill a tray with soil, then pop the wedges out and push them into the soil. Everything is grown under banks of fluorescent lights strapped underneath Home Depot ventillated shelves. I can fit roughly 1000 seedlings onto one stack of 4, 3x4 foot shelves. Each seedling is labelled invidually with laser printed clear adhesive labels on a quarter of a venetian blind slat. Those labels last well for the few years I grow the seedlings. Come spring, I plant them in the order of their crosses in trenches, 6 inches apart. They'll start to bloom the first year, and almost all bloom the second. They'll stay there for 3 years, unless they are selected out. I now have three identical sized seedling beds for 1000 seedlings each, and will rotate them on a three year cycle.

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