Greetings, daylily and gardening enthusiasts!
A little bit about me.
I get my love of gardening, and specifically daylilies, from my grandmother, Matie Henrietta Armstrong Head. Daylilies were her favorite, and so they are my favorite as well. When I was 10, she gave me my first daylily, a red one, for my new perennial garden. I have been growing them ever since. Some of my fondest memories were sitting on the couch with grandma looking thru the new Wild’s catalogue and picking out our favorites.
I have planted them everywhere I have lived ever since, and have started and left behind daylily gardens in at least 5 states. In Virginia I met some awesome gardeners with fabulous daylilies of extraordinary beauty. The one that got me hooked was Ruffled Perfection. It was very expensive for someone who had never paid more than $10 for a daylily, but it was soooooo pretty. Pat told me I didn’t need one of such high quality unless I planned to hybridize. So I told her I was planning on it, and got the plant. I never did use that one for hybridizing, but true to my word I took up hybridizing. Pat gave me some of her old catalogues and I started reading and calling people and learning all I could. With my first goal as a reblooming purple, I was put in touch with Ted Blaney of West Chester, Ohio, and he has been my mentor ever since. That was 20 years ago, and I have been hybridizing ever since.
Without Ted Blaney I would be nowhere with this, but in his generosity, he gave me a couple dozen seeds to try since I had no confidence I could even grow a daylily from seed. From that first batch of 57 seeds (some from Pat as well), came my first introduction, Blueberry Bagel. When Ted saw it in my garden he said, “how did I let you talk me out of that seed?” So, Ted was totally responsible for Blueberry Bagel, all I did was plant the seed and grow it, but that made it mine, so I registered it in 2001. To get an introduction in my very first crop of seeds, especially such a small group, is unheard of, but it encouraged me to keep going.
I have talked to many hybridizers about their techniques and theories and practices in hybridizing to learn as much as I could. It did help that I have a college degree in Agriculture – Animal Industries with a specialization in genetics, which I thought was fun and easy, but that’s a whole different story. I am indebted to so many hybridizers for sharing their knowledge with me, including Steve Moldovan and Roy Woodhall. Steve and Roy were very special to me, and answered all my crazy questions, and went above and beyond to help me with my hybridizing. I feel so very fortunate to have had their help and advice and to benefit from their long years of experience. I still miss Steve and Roy a lot, and I still grow several of their beautiful cultivars.
While in Virginia I was able to travel a lot and visit many daylily gardens in many states. I visited Ted Blaney 2-3 times a year, and in bloom season he let me set seeds on his plants, all except the reds, and he sent them to me in the fall. I must also mention the many trips to John Benz’s, because he was so generous with his pollen. Without Ted and John, I’d be nowhere.
In 2003 I moved from Virginia to Rapid City, South Dakota. My plants had been planted at several friends houses, but I brought seeds with me. I eventually recollected the plants that I could and kept on hybridizing. But, the air is so dry here it actually dessicates the leaves and then the soil. It became apparent that this was a whole new ballgame. I had to basically start over with hardiness as the Number 1 goal. Thankfully, all of Ted Blaney’s cultivars did very well here. Possibly because he was never much for supplemental watering. My base became Blaney, Moldovan, and a few Brother Charles, and a few Websters. Lately I have been adding in Curt Hanson since he is essentially carrying on the Moldovan lines, and Dan Hansen, because of the progress that can be made getting a new generation each year, and the fabulous clarity of color he has achieved, not to mention form.
Hybridizing still excites me as much as it did when I started. I love watching the seeds come up under the shop lights in my spare bedroom, and studying the photographs all winter, but the best part is the thrill of a new flower. The last couple of years I have been blessed with some outstanding flowers of extravagant beauty. Mother Nature has been kind. Well, except maybe for the hail. I could do without that.
I am not all alone out here. There is actually one other hybridizer in Rapid, Mr. Bruce Morgan, and 2 other growers. Everyone else here thinks you mean Stella when you say daylily, so I do my best to inform and excite gardeners about daylilies. When they walk into my garden and see Absolute Ripper (Hansen, D) and Gob Stopper (Karl), they realize there is much more to daylilies than they thought.
I hope you enjoy my flowers, and please call if you have any questions. I’m not much for computers, I’d rather be out in the garden.