Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Seedling nightmares

When there's a 3 MB image in my inbox from a new-to-daylilies-from-seed grower, it's almost always of an albino and the grower is almost always exuberant about the possibilities of a unique plant.  It is then my sad task to explain that albino seedlings lack the chlorophyll and other pigments necessary to manufacture food and that they will die within 2 weeks once the endosperm in the seed is consumed...and do please resize any future images you plan to email.

Some diploid albino seedlings

It almost never fails that my very favorite diploid cross of the year will have a large percentage of albino seedlings.  This cross might not excite any other pollen daubers, but I am super thrilled because Instant Graffiti has nice scapes with decent bud count, reblooms enthusiastically here in the north, and passes nifty patterns of arranged dollops of color.  Banshee Sonata is my favorite spider, of anyone's making, to date.  It has wonderful movement, marvelous color and, when it's chilly, it shows a white chevron of missing color.  Most of its kids from a cross with the multiple-chevroned Military School are chevroned.  I am hoping for majorly skinny kids with radically different patterns.

Instant Graffiti X Banshee Sonata.  I plan to introduce both of these  in 2015.

An aside: before March 24 of this year, I would have had to write this cross as [(Chin Whiskers x Little Witching Hour) x Tomorrow's Song] X [Watchyl Protean Spider x (Banshee Love Call x Tennessee Flycatcher)] or cwlwhtog-2 x wpsblctf-14 for short...which isn't very short.  I'd also have had to write "cwlwhtog-2 x wpsblctf-14" in pencil, first a standard #2, then a hard pencil, onto a piece of vinyl mini blind to use as a label for the cross when I plant these seedlings out.  And I'd have had to label dozens upon dozens of other crosses with one or the other of these as parents as well.  This winter being so agonizingly slow, I decided, what the heck, I'll register all of my 2015 intros 7 months earlier than normal.  Having never lost a fan from division as my area doesn't have the nasty rot pathogens so common in the south, I decided to be brave and get the daylilies named before I even line them out.  Last year, I’d done this with 7 of my 14 intros for this year.  Being able to put the name of the plant on the lineout rows instead of the seedling number, I won't have to redo those in October, either.  

Another aside: in a previous life, I was a watercolorist where "to daub" was to smear and "to dab" was to use some absorbent material to wick up a fluid.  The two words have become increasingly confused and I suppose either is correct nowadays to describe the process of putting pollen on a stigma, but I imagine Mrs. Mark Harmon has a preference.  I had a rule: never name a painting until it's completed, feeling somehow that I'd jinx the process.  After 25 years of selling paintings, I never once had to toss one due to a mistake.  I did have a landlord step on a large pen & ink that I was working on; the remedy was to make the background solid black.  So I'm only a teensy tiny bit worried that registering a plant I've grown for 6-7 (in one case, 10) years before lining it out will jinx the process.

And it's worth the touch of nervousness to be able to write IG X BSO instead of cwlwhtog-2 X wpsblctf-14.

Back to albinos: many plants, even trees, produce albino seedlings and there have been numerous scientific attempts to maintain them by supplying nutrients to the roots.  Some of the studies have furthered our understanding of photosynthesis. 

Even tet daylilies can produce albino seedlings

I'm aiming for dramatically skinny blooms on plants that have decent northern bud counts with this cross.  Since I've spent my life trying to make myself skinny, my daylilies should, too. 

Solenoid Robot X Hang Six

 Daylilies have accessory pigments in their leaves besides chlorophyll such as the carotenoids responsible for yellow, orange and brown.  These make it possible for the plant to absorb wavelengths of light outside the range chlorophyll can capture.  When a seedling lacks green pigment but is yellow rather than white, it can manufacture a small amount of food but not enough to sustain it for more than about 4 weeks.

Carotenoid albinos with a tiny true albino in the lower left

Seedling cqnnwms-2 is one magnificent plant.  It blooms late season with strong 33-43" scapes hosting 3-5 wide lateral branches and up to 45 buds, and it has rapid increase.  The flower is pretty, but after much observation, I've decided it is lacking in substance.  Blooms that open after a chilly night into a hot cloudless day melt.  Poor bloom substance has not been a trait that I've noticed is readily transmitted to the kids, so cqnnwms-2 is a bridge plant.  Its sibling, cqnnwms-1, makes up for not being as pretty by having huge, heavily substanced blooms on 56" tall scapes with 2-3 laterals and 22-30 buds.  Unfortunately, it's a flopper.  Its flowers are face down in the dirt midway through its bloom cycle.  Last year was the first time it bloomed in the selected bed, and our spring and early summer were very wet.  I'll watch the plant this year and if flopping is its thing, it will be tossed.  Flopping is a habit most spider kids seem eager to pick up.  It is the scourge of spider hybridizers.

[Cheap Quills x (Nina Nina Wolverina x Mascara Snake #32] seedling #2 X [Cheap Quills x (Nina Nina Wolverina x Mascara Snake #32)] seedling #1

For the record, Nina Nina Wolverina X Mascara Snake # 32 has much nicer color (more blue violet), better bud count and greater height, and is way skinnier than its sibling, Counterwise Wine.  But it's a flopper.  I only grew 2 seedlings of it crossed with Cheap Quills, and one of them is probably a habitual flopper, too.  I'm hoping to capture the scape strength of cqnnwms-2 and the flower substance of cqnnwms-1 although that's unlikely, especially with the preponderance of carotenoid albinos.  Sib crossing can really bring the dirty little recessive genes to light.  The true nightmare, however, would be if one of the few nicely green seedlings produced a stupendous flower on scapes that flopped. 

Variegated seedling

Sometimes, a bit of cytological mutation where some of the plastids can produce chlorophyll but others are incapable can turn a nightmare into a dream.  If you've grown daylilies long enough or started enough seedlings, you'll eventually witness the one-season variegation of a fan or 2.  Perhaps you're lucky enough to grow Malja (Malan 2007), a tiny slow growing 10" plant with up to 8 Stella de Oro looking blooms snuggled among the foliage that's said to be consistently variegated.  It's patented trademarked under the name of "Golden Zebra."  I grow H. fulva  'Kwanso Variegata', a mutation of the common ditch lily that not only is a triploid and therefore difficult to cross with dips or tets, it also has a double bloom where the anthers have morphed into petaloids.  Apparently the ovary has, too, as my frequent dissection hasn't found any.  So there's no way you can hybridize with it.  The variegation isn't stable, anyway and new fans are often solid green.  White Stripe (Mullison-Hite 1984) frequently sports a few white striped leaves, but separating the fans and growing them out does not produce plants that are consistently white-striped.  With Hosta, variegated plants that aren't natural sports are produced from seeds that come from variegated scapes.  White Stripe often has variegated scapes and pods, but I've never gotten a variegated seedling from it.  Several daylilies have been registered as having a high percentage of variegation such as Abbey Dore Court (D.C. Smith 1995) and Identity Crisis (White 2011).  I've seen a number of my own first year seedlings lose their baby leaves when planted out and produce nothing but variegated leaves until frost, but they never do it the following year.  After growing an estimated 55,600, this is my very first born-variegated seedling.  

I'm hoping for stable variegation, variegated scapes and pods and, of course, the ability to pass variegation to its kids.  All of its kids.  Okay, most of its kids.  Why, I could intro it at $300.00 and get that, no problem.  Maybe $500.00 even!  Maybe I'd only sell it via the Lily Auction and make people fight over it.  But the bloom will no doubt be way skinny (mom is 4:28:1 and dad's ratio is 7.14:1) so better drop it back to $300.00.  But it'll be big because mom is 8" and dad is 10½", so we'll say $350.00.  But dad is a bridge plant whose blooms snap open all at once, as if it was frightened, and they never recurve but remain looking paralyzed with fear.  Garden visitors hate it.  We'll hope for mom's movement and if it's a bit curlier than mom, we could go back to asking $500.00.  And think of the kids!  We'd have to go fatter to capture the entire gamut of daylily fanatics.  Except tet snobs.  Okay, we'll have to get it converted and intro the conversion simultaneously.  But I'd better wait until I have a bunch of consistently variegated dip and tet seedlings from it before I introduce the mother plant or those Florida hybridizers will buy the mother and beat me to the market….

Banshee Baby Talk (2010) X [(Daredevil Imp x (Banshee Whisper x Tomorrow's Song)]

It's amazing the avaricious dreams that one little 5 week old seedling can inspire.