Breed Your Own Daylilies

May is undoubtedly the prettiest month of the year in my garden; and the thing that makes my garden outstanding this time of year is the daylilies.  I grow an old fashioned variety of daylily called Hyperion.  My wife’s grandmother got these daylilies sometime in the 1950s.  For the next several years they thrived and reproduced so successfully in her Garden Oaks yard that she divided them and took them to her ranch in Lovelady, Texas.  My wife’s grandmother passed away 15 years ago.  However, the daylilies she planted over 60 years ago are still thriving at her east Texas ranch and now, in our Brenham yard.

Thanks to my old-timey daylilies, May is the prettiest time of year in my yard

Thanks to my old-timey daylilies, May is the prettiest time of year in my yard

While daylilies make my yard pretty, my yard pales in comparison to the hundreds of feet of daylilies that line Highway 290 just west of Brenham on Magnolia Hill Farms (5059 HWY 290W, 979-251-4069).  My buddy Nathan Hanath is an organic farmer and a commercial daylily grower.  He currently has over 800 named cultivars for sale and hundreds more cultivars that he has bred.  Right now they are all in bloom and a visit to the farm will literally blow your horticultural mind.  While Nathan loves growing organic produce, his zeal for breeding daylilies is contagious.

Magnolia Hill Farm in Brenham has 0ver 800 cultivars of daylilies.

Magnolia Hill Farm in Brenham has 0ver 800 cultivars of daylilies.

According to Nathan, you do not need to be a professional to breed and grow beautiful daylily hybrids.  With just two or more cultivars, a few horticultural skills and some basic documentation skills, home gardeners like you and I can create daylilies that are just amazing as the pros.

Breeding:

Botanically speaking, daylilies are perfect flowers.  That means they have both male and female organs inside each flower.  The male parts are called stamens.  There are six of these in the center of the flower and they are topped with the pollen you will use to make your cross.  The female parts of the flower are collectively called the pistil.  Pollen is applied to a part of the pistil called the stigma.  In the daylily this is a single, long curved structure that is generally noticeably longer than the six stamens.  To make your cross, gently remove a stamen from the first plant you want to breed.  Then use it like a small paint brush to gently paint the pistil of the mother plant.

In this lovely daylily you can clearly see the stamens covered in pollen and the stigma that receives the pollen

In this lovely daylily you can clearly see the stamens covered in pollen and the stigma that receives the pollen

When the flowers open in the morning their pollen is slightly sticky.  In fact, according to Nathan, some daylilies have not even made their pollen by the time their flowers open.  Because of this, the best time to pollinate daylilies is around 10:00 am.  His experience has shown him that you will be much less successful with your crosses if you breed too early in the morning or too late in the afternoon.

Documenting Your Crosses:

While paperwork is not necessary to cross breed flowers, it will provide you with the information you need to understand what crosses work and which ones don’t.   Some daylilies have 11 set of chromosomes (diploid) and some have 22 (tetraploid).   “Dips” and “Tets” (as they are called in the trade) will not cross.  Since it is almost impossible to determine if your flowers are dips or tets, good documentation will allow you to understand which plants you can cross and which ones you can’t.

It is a good idea to make a permanent tag that notes the pollen plant and mother plant when crossing daylilies

It is a good idea to make a permanent tag that notes the pollen plant and mother plant when crossing daylilies

Good documentation will also allow you to begin to understand which plants do a good job of passing on their genetics.  As you get better at breeding, your documentation will allow you to begin to understand which of your plants will more likely create good results when crossed with others.

Once you place the pollen on the stigma, immediately make a record of the cross.  When Nathan crosses daylilies he attaches a little plastic tag to flower he just crossed.  His tag lists the name of the pollen cultivar first and the mother plant second.  These tags will not only help you remember what plants you have crossed but they will also be a visual reminder of which pods have the hybridized seeds at harvest time.

Here Nathan applies pollen to the mother plant

Here Nathan applies pollen to the mother plant

Growing your Crosses:

If you made a successful cross, your plant should produce seed pods in about 3 days (as soon as the spent blooms fall of the plant).  The seeds in those pods will be ready to harvest when the pods dry out, turn brown and begin to open.  For most cultivars this happens from mid to late June.  Most pods have 6 to 8 seeds in them but some will have more or less depending on the cultivar.  When the seed pods open the seeds are ready to plant.  However, if you will be saving them for a while, you need to lay them out in a warm dry place and let them cure further for a few days.  Once this final drying is done Nathan takes the seeds and places them in small, clear ziplock bags.  Nathan cuts the tag that was on the flower down and slips it inside the baggie with the seeds so he knows what he has.  Once your seeds are packed, place them in the crisper draw of the refrigerator.  This will provide the the seeds the chilling hours they need to germinate.

The tags Nathan applies at pollenation will follow the seeds into the bag that holds the seeds and finally into the seed starting trays

The tags Nathan applies at pollenation will follow the seeds into the bag that holds the seeds and finally into the seed starting trays

Nathan plants his seeds around Labor Day.  He fills 50 cell planting trays with a high quality potting mix and wets it thoroughly with a water/hydrogen peroxide mixture that is mixed at a rate of two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide per gallon of water.  He places 1 seed in each cup and lightly covers them in soil.  He then uses this solution to water his plants until he moves the seedlings to his beds in early October.

Seed pods begin to form as soon as the spent flower falls off

Seed pods begin to form as soon as the spent flower falls off

While many people put their seeds under grow lights, Nathan sprouts his seeds in an enclosed back porch.  Once the little seedlings sprout he moves them outside under shade.  While most of his seeds germinate in a week or two, he has seen some cultivars take over a month to sprout.  Once the sprouts reach 2 to 3 inches tall, Nathan plants them in partial shade beds that are well worked with compost.

With a few skills and a little practice, the average gardener can breed exceptionally beautiful daylilies in their home garden.

With a few skills and a little practice, the average gardener can breed exceptionally beautiful daylilies in their home garden.

If you are going to be passing through Brenham you really need stop at Magnolia Hill Farms and visit with Nathan. His knowledge and enthusiasm for daylilies is infectious.  I have grown daylilies for years.  However, until I saw 800 cultivars side by side in a single place, I never understood why over 6000 people were members of the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS) .  After visiting with Nathan I finally get it.  Most gardeners enjoy creating things.  While it is fun to design and install a new bed or border, nothing could be more fulfilling than filling your design with beautiful flowers that you also created.

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

 Week 41 Tips for the Zone 9 Garden  

Well, summer is refusing to leave.  It is hard to believe that after the record rainfalls of spring, we are slowly slipping back into a drought situation.  Because of this, take time this weekend to do some deep watering of your trees, shrubs and other perennials.  Below are some more things you can do in your yards and gardens this weekend.

Now is a great time to plant lettuce from seed and shallots.  I grow them together in the beds of my potager.

Now is a great time to plant lettuce from seed and shallots. I grow them together in the beds of my potager.

VEGETABLES

  • Plant greens – Now is a good time to plant spinach and lettuce from seed. I use my Cobrahead Hand Hoe to make a shallow furrow in soil that has been well worked with compost.  I spinkle the seeds and then cover lightly.  Most greens need some light to germinate os do not plant too deeply or compact the soil too tightly after planting.  Keep the soil moist until the plants are at least 1 inch high.
  • Plant shallots –. While it is still too early to plant bulbing onions, you can plant shallots now. I grow three varieites of shallots.  These keep us in onions through the winter and we use their tops in in soups and salads.
My "Crimson Glory" roses are putting on their fall show.  Feed your roses now with high phosphorus fertilizers

My “Crimson Glory” roses are putting on their fall show. Feed your roses now with high phosphorus fertilizers

ORNAMENTALS

  • Feed your roses – Most of my roses are putting on their fall show. Feed them now with a high phosphorus fertilizer and give them regular water until the first freeze
  • Gather seeds – My wife loves saving seeds. By this time some of our zinnias and bachelor buttons are beginning to look pretty ragged.  Sally pulls up the entire plant, ties them in bundles and then hangs them upside down in our garage.  Once they are dry she crushes the seed heads into paper bags, lables them, and them places them in the refrigerator to be used next spring.
  • Plant poppies – Thanks to my wife’s efforts we have lots of poppy seeds saved from last year. Scatter them on the ground and then drag a rake over them.  Water and then forget them.  Wait until April and enjoy one of the most prolific and showy flowers of the spring garden
  • Divide Daylily and iris now – I dig up the entire clump and then beak them up into individual plants. I space my daylilies about and iris about a foot apart.
dividing-daylilies

This weekend is a great time to divide day lilies and iris.

 

I share these posts on Our SimpleHomestead Blog Hop.  Be sure to stop by.  The “hop” has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 20 in the Zone 9 Garden

When it rains it pours!  In addition to almost nonstop rain, bad luck has been falling down on me in waves!  Last week my transmission went out, a snake ate my two baby chicks, my son’s dog passed away and two of our daughters barely dodged tornadoes!  Things have to get better!  Hopefully there is some sunshine right around the corner that will lift the clouds that seem to have settled over the gardens and gardeners of this part of Texas!

chicken-snake

I am not normally a snake killer. however, this guy or gal ate my two baby barred rock chicks. I am afraid this is the beginning of a series of snake problems in the coop!

Vegetables

As Patty’s latest article reminds us (Stewart’s Zeebest Okra), now is a great time to plant okra.  Zeebest is Patty’s favorite because it was developed by her friends and garden mentors.  While not an “heirloom” yet it soon will be.  When you are planning your garden this fall why not include some heirlooms in your seed picks.  Many of these heirlooms taste better and produce better than the hybrids that are sold in the big boxes and garden centers.  Each heirloom has a story.  Someone bred it, or saved it and has grown it for years – each one has a story.  One of my favorite heirlooms is a shallot called “Gumbo Onions”.  A family from Louisiana has been growing these tasty and productive green onions for over 100 years.  It makes me feel really good to know that I am doing my part to keep this plant, which is not available in the trade, going for future generations.

Here are the artichokes I mentioned in last week's post.  Very excited about our first harvest.  Photo by Sally White.

Here are the artichokes I mentioned in last week’s post. Very excited about our first harvest. Photo by Sally White.

Ornamentals

My yard is beautiful right now.  Everything is blooming, the grass is green and there is fruit on the trees!  With all of this rain, mowing and weeding will be the things that keep me outside once the rain stops.  Before you weed I really suggest you go and pick up some mulch.  Mulch will greatly reduce the number of weeds that sprout. Weeding is not my favorite garden chore so anything that reduces weeds is a no brainer for me.

All of this rain has my yard and vegetable garden looking good.  Here you can see my heirloom elephant garlic in full bloom.

All of this rain has my yard and vegetable garden looking good. Here you can see my heirloom elephant garlic in full bloom.

Yards

With all of this rain and low temperatures, brown patch is going to become a problem in your St. Augustine.  Unless it is really bad it will correct itself once things dry out.  Help it out a little by laying off the fertilizer for a while.  Too much nitrogen acerbates the problems.

I have hundreds  of daylilies on my property.  This is a pretty one that was bred by a friend in the DFW area

I have hundreds of daylilies on my property. This is a pretty one that was bred by a friend in the DFW area

Trees

Some of my peaches are beginning to show color.  This is already bringing in the birds.  If you have problems with birds getting you fruit, this weekend will be a good time to cover them in nets.

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!

Tip of the Week – Week 18 in the Zone 9 Garden

Last week I did a post about my favorite gardening tools.  I did not realize I should have added rubber boots and a raincoat to the list!  Can you believe all of this rain?  I am thankful for the rain but it makes it very hard on us that can really only garden on the weekend.  Don’t want to sound like I am complaining though.  All of these spring rains gave us a great wildflower year and my yard has never been prettier.  Plus I will soon start harvesting from a vegetable garden that has received absolutely zero supplemental water.

sweet-potatoes

If you are not already making your sweet potato slips you are quickly running out of time.

Vegetables

By now most of our spring and summer veggies are in the ground.  This makes the early part of May a time of fertilizing and weeding.  I have been making compost tea and using it to fertilize my tomatoes.  You can do that or continue adding finished compost to your beds once a month.

I have a long time reader named Donna that is currently growing her own sweet potato slips.  If you want to grow sweet potatoes you need to get busy if you are going to grow your own slips.  July 4th is about as late as you can plant them and still get a respectable harvest in the fall.  Last year I did an experiment with sweet potatoes.  I wanted to see if there was a benefit to growing them from slips or if they would do fine if they were grown like Irish potatoes.  Turns out both methods yielded about the same.  However, in my opinion, growing them like Irish potatoes was a very easy, and sensible way to use up all of our sweet potatoes that were too small to cook or were sprouting in storage.

My Hyperion daylilies were passed to us by Sally's grandmother.  These tough and reliable plants provide me a solid month of blooms each May.

My Hyperion daylilies were passed to us by Sally’s grandmother. These tough and reliable plants provide me a solid month of blooms each May.

Ornamentals

My wife and I have hundreds of yellow Hyperion Daylilies scattered throughout most of the beds on our property.  I absolutely love these plants for two reasons.  First, they came from my wife’s grandmother.  Nana grew them for years and then after she passed we found a clump on her ranch.  We dug half of the clump up and brought it home.  That was eight years ago.  We have now turned that one clump into more than 150 feet of lovely borders that bloom none stop during the month of May.  And there is the second reason I love them.  Daylilies are beautiful, reliable and prolific!  If you don’t have any, I really suggest you give them a try.

Lawns

Thanks to all of this rain most of our lawns are looking pretty good.  If you have not already fertilized it is time.  Regardless of whether you use chemical or organic fertilizers, put them out about every five to six weeks.  Also, try setting your mower and little high and mow more frequently.  This, combined with the fertilization, will create a thick, healthy lawn that chokes out weeds.

peaches-in-bowl

Last year a late freeze “thinned” our peaches. The resulting fruits were the biggest and sweetest we ever harvested.

Trees

When putting out the fertilizer don’t forget your trees.  They are putting on new growth right now and they will thank you for a good feeding.  Apply fertilizer under the entire canopy with the heaviest application at the drip-line.  The tree’s most active and “absorbtive” roots grow at the drip line.

My peach and plum trees are currently covered in fruit.  If you want bigger, sweeter fruit remove about ¼ to 1/3 of the immature fruit from the trees.  Last year a late freeze did this for me.  We had the biggest and sweetest peaches ever because of this accidental thinning.

 

I share my posts on the HomeAcre Hop.  Be sure to stop by the hop.  It has tons of great information from gardeners and homesteaders all over the world!