Daylily Seedling Evaluation, and What Constitutes a Keeper

(Prissy Girl x Calamity Jane)
2014 Seedling, Rebloom, Pollen fertile, Pod
not tried yet. 6 inches
Seedling evaluation is all about goals. What goals you set
for the seedlings and what stands out in the garden, or the 
ones you keep going back to for additional observation. It also 
involves what daylily lines you are exploring. That may be
patterns, the quest for blue, daylilies with teeth, or full
formed blossoms with ruffled edges, or maybe the one
that is like no other. Of course, what each individual selects 
is going to be quite subjective. Hopefully, this writing may
offer some helpful considerations.

Goals are likely to change as you become more familiar with
individual characteristics and especially detailed
characteristics. If a seedling reaches all the characteristic goals
you have set, then you have the perfect flower and plant, at least
based on your own critique. Not an easy task, so what determines
the characteristics of a seedling that defines it as a keeper? This
blog is about addressing that very question, mostly from my own
point of view. Yours will vary, your goals will differ, and your
decisions will be based on your own standards.

Some characteristics are simply a must, and one should consider
these as a prerequisite. Note that a plant should be vigorous and
survivable in one's garden climate, even after dividing and
transplanting. They should have sufficient buds and
branches to justify the space allotted for them.  Who wants a plant
that has only one bloom each year? The plants should have
sufficient increase rather than just set there with a couple of fans
from one year to the next, and the next.

Plants that are slow to increase have no place in my garden unless
they have additional traits deemed worthy of crossing with a plant
that does increase well. Thus, the slow-to-increase plant will be
used as a bridge plant. But then, how many years does one wish
to devote to getting just the right plant? These are some of the
questions one begins to ask themselves.

My method is to take loads of seedling photos during the seedlings'
first year of bloom. I am specifically interested in the blossoms at
this point. During the winter, with more time and patience, I review
the photos, and look for major and minor details. The ones I choose
to keep based on blossom alone are listed. I note bloom size, and
bloom consistency, also rebloom. Plants that produce strong 
scapes are also important. We do want all those lovely flowers to
stand upright.

The second year of bloom, other details are noted. I look for the
number of buds and branches, vigor, number of fans, arching
foliage, color of foliage, color clarity of blossoms, fertility, and 
again bloom consistency. And, this is when trying to incorporate
all these qualities into a single plant gets iffy.
I'm not a fan of blossoms that change size and color during the
season, although more often than not, that is exactly what they do.
If seedlings pass enough of the tests to justify the space of 
occupancy, the plants are then moved to the evaluation bed at the 
end of the bloom season. All other seedlings are composted. 

Do note that some seedlings will bloom "off" the first couple of
blooms or so, and may not look like that again, ever. This tends to
happen in early blooming cultivars when the nights are too cool
for proper bloom development. Wait to see how the plants bloom 
all through the season to judge at what point the blooms
stabilize in their appearance. Also, take into consideration the
environmental conditions that might change a plant's ability
to produce a nice blossom. The effects of variable temperatures 
and water will definitely affect bloom quality.

Oh, and don't forget the issues of disease and pests which can
also affect bloom appearance, and needs to be addressed as a 
separate topic, so I won't go into all that here.

Of course, mostly you find that the perfect flower/plant is elusive,
and you begin to get real with your goals. Being overly strict in 
your critique may be counterproductive, and it can become a
complicated matter. Self-imposed adherence to specificity
in the pursuit to create flowers of distinction can be an 
arduous task. However, if one has the desire and patience to go 
that route, the results may be extremely rewarding.

It has occurred to me that some of you who are just beginning this venture
may desire a more definitive list of likable traits. I can only give you the
list that I have made for myself, but this will give you some ideas. It took
me a few generations of crossing to determine what appealed to me. Note
that it is not easy to get most or all of these desired traits, but it keeps me
interested and excited in the process of trial and error.

Foliage: My preference is for drooping foliage rather than the type that 
grows in skyward spikes similar to pineapple foliage. Blue-green foliage is 
also preferred, but rather rare here, and I definitely admire leaves that are
medium or more in width rather than the quite narrow foliage which
more closely resembles the appearance of grass. 

 Colors: I prefer clean colors in shades of purple, red, orange, white, pink,
yellow, bluish, and lavender, or any colors I have forgotten to add. Also,
distinctive contrasting colors on eyed/edged blossoms are very favored.

 Eye Zones and Throats: Chartreuse throats or large eye zones, or
large eye zones in differing colors which complement the base color
and edges are real stand outs.

Edges: Flat pleated ruffles rather than globby ones, though I can live with
a few globby ones that accentuate a self which is a solid color base.
Green, yellow, or white edges are preferred on some base colors as well as
those that match the center on eye/edge forms. Double or triple colored
edges are fantastic especially when the edges are quite wide. Also wide
borders on eye and edge forms.

Sepals: Short, wide, ruffled, blunt or widely pointed, or crinkled. 
Sepals that carry a pattern which matches the pattern in the eye zone.
Sepals that are slightly curved back.

Petals:  Wide, rounded, short in length, slightly curved backward. Flat
blossoms are okay too if this trait makes a notable appearance.

Forms:  Full-formed, rounded appearance, not triangular, with wide
ruffled edges. Most forms such as patterned, toothy, and eye/edge, as 
well as unusual forms or spiders that are 9 plus inches in size with 
curled petals and sepals. Selfs with wide ruffled edges, and of course for 
me, large full-formed blossoms that are six inches or more.

Characteristics: Flowers that are unusual here that catch my attention.
With so many registered plants, these unusual ones may have occurred
before, but they would be new to this garden. I enjoy them nevertheless. 

Since beginning this venture several years ago, I have yet to decide that
a plant is worthy of registration, although I have a few that are half way
there. When I come across one and say, "That one is finished," then it
will be registered. You will know as well when you give your plant and
blossom sufficient scrutiny based on your own goals. 

Also, when you find yourself staring at numerous seedling beds
demanding attention, it is a wake-up call to decide what stays and what
goes. You simply compare each with the other, and choose the best ones 
with the most favorable characteristics.

So Happy Gardening and Hybridizing!!

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