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 toothy edges, 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. Or,
consider this. That slow-to -increase plant may
have some unbelievable quality, and a desirable
one at that. Thus, being slow to increase may add
more value to the plant. Usually, rare and greatly
desired does increase value. 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 arching 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 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 green 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. Also, 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. 

I have gained a respect for minis (3 inches or less) as 

Characteristics: Flowers that are unusual here that 
catch my attention. With so many registered plants, 
these unusual ones may have occurred before, but 
they are 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. 

Being a water colorist, finding that 'finish' point in a
painting is often elusive. Eventually, though, after
much study, I finally say, "that's it, there it is". It is
the same with daylilies, and finally, I have registered
some for the year 2018. 

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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