My () journey began just as many of yours. I initially had no interest in flowers in the landscape. During a trip to a garden center during the fall and the subsequent purchase of a Daylily Little Grapettesingle, discounted and not-blooming H. Little Grapette daylily started me on this journey. Planted without care and forgotten until summer and then…..a bloom and some color. Hmmm, that’s not bad I thought. A quick internet search for “daylily” later I stumbled upon a picture of H. Carmen Marie. Three-hundred dollars later, it was over and the addiction had begun. The addiction was reinforced with Wayside Painted Lady and the first bloom of the year starring H. Egyptian Ibis.
Over 1,000 cultivars later, I began my hybridizing journey (sound familiar to every other daylily addict out there?). While I have yet to have a standout for introduction, I find the peace and creativity of dabbing pollen to be relaxing and a great time for reflection.
My hosta story begins with the purchase of a Home Improvement store baggie of 12 Fortunei Auromarginata and the subsequent pleasing foliage that thrust forth from the ground that spring. I soon filled every shaded corner of the yard with hosta of every color and leaf form, the overflow filling pots everywhere. I love the variety of colors, variegation and shapes that hosta can provide. My personal favorites are medio-variegated hosta with a crisp definition of colors.
My first Iris was Caesar’s Brother Siberian Iris bought from an overpriced and smaller-than-expected stock mail-order catalog. Other Siberians and Japanese iris from mail-order soon entered my gardens, naturally followed by the tall-bearded iris. The next spring I was hooked at first bloom of the bearded iris. Picture below is one of my first iris. Unfortunately it was mis-labeled by the mail-order company and thus remains un-named.
Where I am now…
Now with full gardens and an addiction to add new cultivars, I naturally turned to selling the excess from these rapidly multiplying plants. Learning as I go (very few large daylily growers in the Mid-Atlantic states to visit), I have fought weed invasions (old field syndrome), mice, voles, rust and Japanese beetles just to name a few. I now collect about 600 varieties of daylily, 100 varieties of hosta, and about 200 varieties of iris. I am looking to reduce these numbers, concentrating on plants that truly interest me and are hardy. My zone 7 coastal environment can be very rough on plants having little winter snow cover and varying temperatures from freezing to 50 degrees throughout the winter. If the plant survives with me, it can survive in your climate!
Having been bitten by the hybridizing bug, I hope to have some introductions of daylilies in the next few years. I am currently watching about 9,000 seedlings for “the one.” I harvested over 5,000 seeds in the 2006 season and a limited amount in 2007. In addition, I have begun adding leading hybridizer’s current-year collections. I hope to offer them to our customers on a limited basis and to use their genetics in my hybridizing program. I will never be able to compete with the larger breeders down south due to my lack of space (only 1.3 acres) and my much shorter growing season, but still I hope to introduce a few a year. I enjoy the process of hybridization as much as the resulting blooms.
I am seriously looking at increasing my Japanese iris collection as I love the vivid colors, huge blooms and beautiful foliage. In addition, dwarf bearded iris continue to capture my heart. Once the shade house comes to fruition, I would like to actively pursue recent hosta introductions at reasonable prices.