Robins. Lanny Morry here in AHS region 4, zone 4b/5 where
our daylilies are modestly covered by a light dusting of snow -- frozen
green tips like erect icicles above the snow, open to all the abuses our
-10C weather here can hit them with. We have 800 American bred daylilies --
most of them hybridized in the deep American south -- and successfully
growing on this definitely northern property for two or three or more years,
and we have thousands of our own hybrids which have mixed parentage of
almost everything from south to south to north to south to south to north,
cross-bred daylilies produced out of them. I like to think of our garden --
which has four distinct, unmistakable seasons -- from unbearable bitter
cold, icy winds, freezing rain, sleet, hail and snow to 100 degree
temperatures with 100 per cent humidity come summer -- , as the perfect
testing ground for what will, and will not grow in North America. And I,
and my son Mick, annually test the limits of what will grow in our patch of
southern Canada/northern North America.
Reading todays posts on north vs southern hybridizing I am reminded of the
fact that this discussion seems to take place a) every six months as new
members join the Robin b) some members forget that they have participated
in this discussion before and raise points previously raised or previously
unsuccessfully persuasive or c) make the self-same arguments pro north
or anti-south hybridizing that are put forward each time. In the interests
of clearing the decks once and for all, I would like to suggest that we
return to the fundamentals, once again.
History has shown that daylilies in their original form, have been grown
across a diverse climactic range of temperature and weather situations...
from bitter cold, to excessive heat. But the basic reality is that this is
a plant that originated in cooler climes, not hotter ones, and so
temperamentally, and genetically, should be considered to be at least as
adaptable therefore, to colder variations offered by the freeze/thaw
experiences of 'northern' US states from -- depending on how one defines
'northern' -- Virginia to Pennsylvania and further points more truly north,
as they are to more 'hospitable' climates (this to include tornados,
category 4/5 hurricanes, excessive heat, forest fires etc. that seem to have
haunted daylilies grown in the southern US across the panhandle areas of
Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, and the lower 48 states generally considered
to be southern, in the past decade.
I would like to begin by making some polite observations.
The Robin is a diverse group and includes lots of Americans, a decent number
of Canadians, and some Europeans and Australians.
First, what is typical in any one of these distinct geographic areas is NOT
necessarily typical in any of the others and so generalizations CANNOT and
SHOULD NOT be drawn or made.
Second, the terms NORTH and SOUTH are relative to where you live, NORTH or
To a person living in Pennsylvania, you may think you live in the North, and
perhaps if you are an inhabitant of the SOUTHERN HALF of North America you
do, but, if you live in the NORTHERN HALF of North America (also known as
Canada) you are a southern person because for -- to take my own personal
situation as an example -- for me to drive from here where I live to
Gettysburg, Pa. is a 7.5 to 8 hour hard drive SOUTH from here.
Yet I live in what Canadians call SOUTHERN Canada while someone like our
friend Kathy McCartney (living in zone 3) lives in MID-CANADA. We don`t
even want to go to what NORTHERN means to Canadians.
The same distinctions apply to Europe, with the United Kingdom being
considered Northern, whereas those in Scandinavia would argue they are
northern. No one disputes that Italy is southern Europe but where does that
place France with its Riviera and luscious climate in the area from Les
Alphiles south to the Nice and Marseilles? And what does any of this do
with those in Australia?
My point is simply this. We cannot localize a plant so widely and diversely
grown as is the daylily to a single geographic region, zone, or even
continent. Macro and micro-climates exist , even within our own backyards,
and multiple climates exist across every region of the country any of us
inhabit. There is no common, no sameness, no predictable ground zero from
which we can draw lines and make conclusions and make those conclusions
Not everyone grows everything the same way, or as well. Some people have an
avocation and can succeed at growing the impossible plant wherever they
live, despite the odds. These people stretch the limits and try to persuade
the rest of us we can too, not always successfully.
On the medium range, which is the turf most of us inhabit, most people do
well when they are successful at applying good growing principals to grow a
diversity of plants well within a comfort zone known to be good for those
And then there are the people who despite every obvious advantage given to
them by climate, location, weather, and resources, can turn a top quality
daylily into compost fodder because they simply do not know enough, do not
master enough of the growing game, to be able to be successful despite their
apparent advantages. How many people do you know who profess to having a
brown thumb? I bet lots. But how many daylily people do you know who
profess to have a brown thumb? I bet no one, and yet statistically there is
no evidence that everyone who grows daylilies grows daylilies well.
And therein lies the rub.
Point three -- an equally important fundamental in the route to successful
daylily growing. Nurture means different things to different people. Some
people buy plants and provide every advantage needed to grow - basing their
decisions on the wisdom and experience of others enjoying similar growing
conditions. They consult, they confer, they work hard to provide every
advantage to the plants they grow by microscoping what will and will not
work for the plants they are growing in their unique circumstances. Others
buy plants and say I live here so this is what the experts say will work
here, and they try little if anything to improve the situation if the plant
does not respond immediately. And then if the plant fails they observe that
this clearly is not my fault, it is the fault of the hybridizer who was
obviously a fool and had no clue what they were doing. I cannot grow this
thing, how dare that person sell it to me.
To cite an example. A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, as shall
be this person's location except to say that it is in North America --
belongs to a club where a dominating personality had stamped the club with
so many "this won't work here because I grew it and killed it" interdictions
that everyone in the club is afraid to open their mouthes and challenge this
expert. The reality is the 'expert' is an expert politically -- knows how
to cowe others in the club into accepting this individuals positions, view,
prejudices -- but this person is about the worst grower out there, believing
you stick a plant in the ground and if the rain falls on it, then it is
watered, isn't it, you don't mulch, because that costs money, and fertilizer
is contained in the chemicals coming out of the acid rain that occasionally
falls on the garden. This individual simply does nothing to nurture the
plants that this person has spent--sometimes good money buying.
However this person is sure big on dissing the hybridizer when the
plants this person provides inadequate upfront care to respond very poorly
to the horrible neglect they are 'given' and fail to thrive.
Point four, and this will be my final point for tonight and I will continue
with these observations tomorrow -- failing to acknowledge and accept and
appreciate and work on the basis of the variables involved in each of the
three points noted above may doom a grower to failure.
Getting one thing right and two things wrong IS NOT NECESSARILY the recipe
for success. The best growers are those that analyze, analyze, analyze
THEIR situation, THEIR microclimate, THEIR expectations and hopes, and
tailor all of this to THEIR hybridizing and growing program. Those that do
this do not have to blame YOUR lousy plants, YOUR unique growing situation
that doesn't work in my location, to account for their failures.
More on these observations tomorrow.
Lanny Morry here again in
Manotick, Ont. Canada, AHS region 4, zone 4b/5,
where we are in the calm before a snow storm due tomorrow that will give us
a 10 to 15 cm layer of new winter mulch to cover our currently exposed
daylilies. Unlike the winter of 2007/2008 which saw us delivered with the
second largest amount of snow every to be deposited in our region in a
single winter (14 and a half feet by the time it was blessedly all over),
this winter has been much more typical of winters here over the past decade,
with light snow cover often eliminated by freezing rain or sleet in
freeze/thaw effects not unlike those reported by many Robins in various
parts of the US where winter freeze/thaw conditions are common. We have
seen enough of this kind of weather here now enough not to worry and our
optimism for spring and the return and vigorous renewal of the plants in our
garden remains high based on our experience.
For more than a century until they were made redundant by technology back in
1986, English coal mines relied on caged canaries as an early warning system
to alert miners to the release of dangerous methane gases produced as a
by-product of their mining activity. Any change in the cheerful chirping
and song of these little birds signaled cause for concern for the miners
because it heralded changes in the air around them that were dangerous both
to the birds and the men working underground.
The miners and their birds would would quickly evacuate and return to the
mine only when the shafts were tested for dangerous gases and an all clear
Today the chirpings of various Robins on this forum about the perceived (by
them) inadequacies of the daylilies being grown or hybridized in one
geographic region -- specifically the South -- when transported to another
region -- whatever one describes as the North -- has begun to create what I
consider to be an unfortunate, unfair, and increasingly odious divide between
daylily growers North and South. Such blinkered assertions by some posters
that anything hybridized in one region cannot possibly be successfully grown
in another -- certainly reminds me -- and I think should remind us all --
that sharing information and experiences to dispel or prove realities,
rumors, and half-truths is still the most valuable resource we all have at
That is why I liken the current chatter lately on this forum as a situation
not unlike the bell weather signal the canaries in the mineshafts gave to
those English miners. So my question is -- is there REALLY a problem out
there? And if there is what is it precisely?
My answer is that currently there is more of a dilemma than an actual
problem. But dilemmas left untended can become problems, and so I think
there is need for a certain amount of reflection on the part of all of us to
consider where problems could potentially arise, and how we can head them
off before that point. Moreover, in my view this dilemma knows no
geographic boundaries -- it cannot be pinpointed to north or south because
it afflicts both to an equal degree.
Let me step back for a minute and relate a story from my past.
Years ago, when I began my working career, I was mentored greatly by a wise
man by the name of Ralph Hart. Ralph came out of the Canadian advertising
industry where he was vice-president of what was then Canada's top
advertising agency - Vickers and Benson -- to coach the Chairman and staff
of the organization I worked for on how to sell Canadian audiences on
accepting Canadian content rules for radio and television stations in
Up to that point the overwhelming content on our radio services was American
music -- there was no Canadian music industry to speak of -- and 'Canadian'
television stations has as little as 20% actual Canadian programming on them
-- usually news and current affairs programs, with the rest of the airtime
filled with made in America programs for American audiences. Ralph's job was
to sell Canadian audiences, and Canadian broadcasters on the merits of
regulatory proposals requiring that 30% of the music played on Canadian
radio should be by Canadian authors, composers, performers, or be recorded
in Canada, and that 60% of TV programs should be made in Canada for Canadian
audiences. This was not an easy sell to an audience which had grown up on
American programming and regarded it as a birthright, but Ralph was up to
the challenge because he knew how to market everything.
Ralph's approach was simple. You can create demand for almost anything, if
you do it right. And once you have buy in, you have accomplished your
goals. Ralph encapsulated what he wanted any typical consumer to believe
and buy into, into three very simple premises so simple it is impossible not
to buy into them. They all speak to the ego of the individual and their
expectations for themselves.....
First. You (the consumer) are a GOOD guy! (Of course you are, you know that
Second. You DESERVE the BEST! (Again, right on the mark, who wouldn't
Third. You deserve the best NOW! (Not a year or two or even three weeks
from now, but NOW. No sense waiting for something you deserve to have
happen -- lets go for the whole thing right now so you can begin to reap the
The whole premise of his approach back in 1971 is exactly the same premise
used by those who sold the sub-prime boondoggle with such catastrophic
results in the US and ultimately world wide, seeking to capitalize on the
here and now without buttressing the ground on which the future was being
leveraged. You cannot build a fortress unless you put down footings and
secure the foundation on which your fortress is being built.
Ralph knew we were creatures of the age of mass marketing. Indeed, in
impolite company he didn't even call us 'consumers' but 'the consumed' which
is what we really are. This particularly astute observation encompasses the
expectation Ralph had that consumers were there for the sole purpose
of being delivered up to advertisers who had something to sell. Hence they
were actually being consumed rather than served, as they thought.
Getting people to buy into something is as old as the ages, but isn't it
remarkable that as wise as we are today we continue to be focused on how we
personally can benefit from almost anything?
To complete the analogy and make the leap to daylilies, I believe the
current dilemma is rooted in the fact that we have become such creatures of
the age of mass marketing -- that our voracious demands for newer, better,
faster, no make that instantly! -- has overwhelmed much of our collective
common sense as we try to capitalize on developments in the world of
daylilies and reap the benefits -- financial and social -- of being at the
forefront in what is widely perceived to be the golden age of daylilies. It
has to happen NOW, and the developments we used to see take place gradually
over a lengthy period of time, are now verging on the instantaneous.
Consider how the world has changed since you came into daylilies, at
whatever point you came in -- when there was some sense of a leisurely pace
as change came along gradually and you felt comfortable knowing plants had
been well husbanded, grown on for ages, grown to maturity before they were
sold to you to ensure they would fare well for you in your garden, etc.
Contrast that with what is happening now, and I defy you to tell me that
some of the scenarios spelled out further below can't be or aren't
already applicable, in part or in whole, wherever you live - north or south.
The sad truth is there is increasingly a sameness to what is happening to
this much enjoyed, much loved and valued garden plant in ether place as
growers/hybridizers seek every advantage to maximize the financial and other
potential of their gardens and stay in the forefront of the daylily's
How many of the following factors do you recognize as symptoms of an orderly
world gone into rapid acceleration in recent years that may need some
amendment if we wish to ensure stability and sustainability in the future?
1. It takes three years to get a daylily to bloom from seed? The answer?
Sell your northern homestead and move to a southern climate where you can do
it in 9 months. Use the advantage of the fast growth in your southern
environment to develop your hybridizing program much more rapidly, getting
multiple generations of improvements in the same time it takes folks in the
north to get just one generation to bloom. Use your climate to its
advantage to get rapid increase of your plants.
Of course there is a problem hybridizing now. It is too hot. So find a
solution.... Build a greenhouse and chill it to the temperature needed to
make this outdoor plant accept pollen in a climate too inhospitably hot come
bloom season to allow maximum pollination. Too bad the plants don't know
what is indoors, or outdoors any more and hardiness and adaptability may be
challenged over time. What is natural anyway, anymore?
2. Don't want to move to the south or your cannot afford to do so? Then
stay where you are but build a greenhouse. Lengthen your season by growing
this outdoor plant indoors, jump start your seeds in another greenhouse and
grow on the resultant seedlings indoors, thereby reducing the growing period
and increasing the potential for increase. Too bad you have to heat the
place, but hey, that is the price of living in the north. Too bad the
plants don't know what is indoors, or outdoors anymore and hardiness and
adaptability may be challenged over time. .What is natural anyway, anymore?
3. Stay where you are and do everything naturally as nature intended. This
means no greenhouse, north or south. So in the south you get increase and
you can buy top hybridizers plants and increase them there and sell them off
to folks in the north who want them at a lower than release price from the
hybridizer. True you may undercut the hybridizer who is still trying to
produce a quality product and who is willing to stand behind the same plant
grown on for a suitable length of time on their premises while you sell an
immature single fan that will take a year to establish and years before it
looks really good in its new locale out of your environment but hey, this is
free enterprise and everyone deserves a piece of the pie.
Meanwhile, in the north you adopt a stoic acceptance of your plight and
accept the reality that it will take three years to bloom most seeds
and another three or four years to have enough increase to even contemplate
releasing them. By then time will have passed you by and you will be a
decade behind those who uses greenhouses or live in hospitable climates and
your plants will look like it. But that doesn't taken into account the one
advantage -- perhaps the only advantage northerners have to cultivate and
maximize... creativity. Of course if you aren't naturally creative this may
mean your output looks as old and tired as methusula and no one wants it,
which makes you irritable, but at least you can try to be philosophical
about it and say what the heck with trying to keep up to the Jones or
Smith's out there.
4. Capitalize further on the advantages you have created be you north or
south -- by planting tens of thousands more seeds than you ever did before.
Instead of having 1000 seedlings each year, do 30,000. Make it a numbers
game to even the odds of breeding and growing in more northern locales.
5. Select from this much larger seedling mass by picking far more, but
admittedly far better seedlings than you would have had in the past
for running on and for potential introduction. Justify and maximize the
potential creating so many seeds has given you by auctioning the excess you
can never hope to plant off to others who haven't the time or money or
garden space to conduct your kind of hybridizing program. Let the
marketplace demand set incredible prices for 5 seeds of perceived to be very
desirable parents most of which you cannot acquire because the hybridizer
'introduced' the plant when it only had 4 fans to start with.
6. Instead of introducing a few plants a year, and having significant
availability of those plants, introduce gobs of plants each year in a
collection, or multiple collections even if this means that no plant offered
has more than 8 double fans available when released, and even though a
surprising number of those intros may be very similar to already registered
and introduced plants produced by someone else, somewhere else. Load your
collection up with these carbon copies to increase the numbers and the price
of the collection at the same time as you capitalize on the scarcity of the
number of fans you have to offer by incorporating them into collections you
MUST buy to get the single desirable plant. Put out those collections at
huge prices to capitalize on the demand out there only reducing your price a
bit to get people to buy in to purchasing the whole collection, whether they
need it or not, can afford it or not, have room for it or not.
7. There are now so many hybridizers out there, and so many new
introductions each year that the market is getting glutted. So rush the
introduction of the plants you have created and get them out the door as
fast as possible because the buyers -- your potential market for these
plants -- is already mostly aged 60 plus and not getting any younger. You
haven't had the chance to test the plants anywhere but in your own little
micro-environment because you are rushing them out the door, so you simply
assume that if it grows well where you live it will grow well anywhere.
8. When the market shows signs it is glutted and people quit buying your
multiple collections because they have filled their gardens, cannot afford
so many plants (financially and space wise), and each plant adds to their
workload and your target clients' aging joints cannot take any more garden
work so they sit on their wallets, when the clientele don't want rust,
realize they haven't got three years to grow on plants that are essentially
still immature because they have been rushed to market earlier than they
would have been even a decade ago when things proceeded at a leisurely pace,
still continue to churn out volume and don't take heed of the signs that
circumstances are a'changing and that demand is now inelastic because there
is no new population out there to continue the conspicuous consumption.
Unfortunately, just as bubbles build when they are in the process of being
created, sometimes bubbles burst and in this case it could be the bloom
comes off the daylily. Unless we husband the daylily carefully and grow its
widespread availability and affordability well beyond the small
elite clientele most hybridizers curry, it like other plants of fashion at
one time or another may actually recede in popularity, leaving a subsequent
generation to pick up the pieces and take it to new vistas.
Now that would truly be a pity.