Sunday, February 24, 2013

An interview with Rich Howard, Connecticut hybridizer.

     This week I continue my focus on Connecticut hybridizer, Rich Howard.  I am posting some really cool introductions and seedlings from Rich.  At the very top is a seedling where every bloom is different.  A very unique pattern combination on the petals.  Before I go on let me post my disclaimer:

(If you would like to contact Rich Howard about his daylilies, you may email him at

Featured above here is a seedling out of Rich's 2011 introduction, Wallingford Woolly Bully. Nice teeth!

Featured above here is a clump shot of Rich's 2011 introduction, Wallingford Woolly Bully, which was named for his Australian Shepherd that passed away in 2007.  I was lucky to purchase a plant of Wallingford Woolly Bully and am very impressed with it's plant habit as well as it's bloom. 

1. How did you get interested in daylilies?

I bought my 2 acre home in Central Connecticut in 1993. It was nicely landscaped but had little color in the yard,so I bought a few plants at a local nursery,not really knowing what I was doing. Among the plants was a pot of Stella D'Oro. I was shocked when ,after spending the winter on the deck,the plant came back and bloomed again. A neighbor who was a Master Gardener told me if I planted it I could expect even better results ,so I did.

I then ran across the name Daylily Discounters in a magazine advertisement and ordered a few plants from them. Wow-they come in different colors! I think I did an Internet search and found out there was a local grower,so I visited them and they talked me into attending a meeting of the local club. Things just took off after that.
2.What were your initial goals for your hybridizing?

Initially I really just wanted to see if I could do it .I remember Daylily Discounters had a short blurb in their catalog on how to hybridize and I followed those directions.I still recall the shock and feeling of pride when I saw the darn thing bloom. I really just did pretty on pretty for a few years to see what would happen. I was having fun and never dreamed I would ever introduce my own plants. I have never been real focused -which may explain why I have taken so long to make significant progress.If you are going to work on both Tets and Dips and all forms progress will be slow. If I could start over I would probably do things a little differently--probably focus on Tet patterns and teeth..
3.What daylily hybridizers influenced you in the beginning and which ones do now?

Early on I don't think any one hybridizer had a major influence on me. Darrell Apps was the first one I met when I visited family in New Jersey and took a  ride down to see his place. We became friendly and I recall how he emphasized dormancy and plant habit whenever we had an opportunity to chat. One day he took me for a walk to look at his seedlings and he was always commenting on the ones with good scapes.           I never forgot that,and was tickled to nominate him for the Bertrand Farr Silver medal in 2006 (I believe I was not the only one to do so), and happy when he won.

Another hybridizer whom I met when I first started out was Matthew Kaskel. I was surprised to learn my sister in Florida had become friendly with his wife, and I am sure I sounded like an idiot on the phone when she told me she had met someone I thought was a rock star in the world of daylilies. I wish Matthew was more involved with things today,but he always marched to his own beat.

Today there are so many whose work I admire. Those who are honest and straightforward in the appraisal of their plants I hold in high esteem,as well as those who freely share information, and those who send bloom size plants.There are many who fit into these categories and I am afraid I would leave out one if I started naming them. I can't really say one hybidizer influences what I do now. I try to take a little that I like from many of them.
4.What are your recollections of the daylily world when you first started hybridizing?

Edges were just starting to appear.Patterns were practically non-existent.In a relatively short time frame look how far things have come! I think daylilies ten years from now will be amazing. All of us baby boomers are looking for things to do and the backyard hybridzers are becoming prevalent,some with quality intros.

The biggest beef I had early on was that so many would send out catalogs, or have web sites, without any images.I recall taking a  beating on the robin when I questioned this. My,how times have changed with today's technological advancements.

5.Talk about some of the challenges you've had with your hybridizing? or working in a greenhouse?

We have pretty good soil,but our property is located in in area where they added a lot of fill material (translation-rocks). We also have a lot of  trees. These are two factors (among others) that influenced my decision to grow a lot in pots. This can be a tricky proposition.I think after 10 years or so I can grow them fairly well,but watering,and making sure they are getting the nutrients they need is important. Having the correct pH is often an overlooked factor ,not only for growing in pots,but for planting in the ground. If your pH is off ,nutrients are not being made available to your plants.Today all beds are seedlings and all named varieties are grown in pots.

I love my greenhouse. As a  hybridizing tool, it helps in many ways. I do not have to bend over to spread pollen and never get rained out.The plants are very happy in the greenhouse with the controlled environment, and most will readily set seed. There are significant expenses-- heating for one, and pest control can be a hassle.I always fear a tree will fall on the greenhouse in the middle of winter.I was also nervous during the recent storm when we got over 3' of snow.
6. Name some of your favorite daylilies from other hybridizers?

This is a tough one. Some I like for their looks and some for their plant habit,and some for both .I really liked Jane Trimmer's Dragonfly Dawn from last year.It bloomed for several months in the greenhouse,had a consistent pattern, and was very fertile both ways.Dan Hansen's Whale Tails and Di DeCaire's Four Beasts in One are also among the most impressive patterns I have grown.Jane has some other plants with great plant habit here--Firebird Suite and Discarded beauty are two good ones.

For teeth, last year's Deadliest catch from Tom Polston and Larry Grace's Dr Stump were impressive.Jamie Gossard's Venus Fly Trap is one of the best out there.The best teeth I have ever seen is Fran Harding's yet-to-be released Forestlake Briar Patch.It showed teeth (in the greenhouse) on days when many other toothy ones did not,when nights were cool in spring.

I get the most keepers from Curt Hanson's intros. Cobraskin Necktie as been a super parent for me. This year's Waggle Dance is one intro I have from it.

I think Fran Harding's Forestlake Ragamuffin could be  the most influential daylily ever hybridized.It is hard to find a toothy cultivar that does not have it in the background.
Posted at the very bottom is a clump photograph of Rich's 2013 introduction, Waggle Dance. Below that I posted a photograph of the wristbands that Rich Howard is selling to help the folks who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook shooting.  If you go to Rich Howard's website by clicking on, you can purchase them there.  I should also mention that Rich sells both daylilies and daylily seeds from the crosses he does in his greenhouse under the seller name, "Rich," on the Lily Auction. Usually he sells his seeds in the months of November thru January.  Having bought a lot of seeds on the lily auction, I can tell you that no one sells better seeds and his seeds have the highest percent of germination.  I hope you enjoyed our visit with Rich Howard, and I understand he has something he wrote coming out in the next AHS journal.  Looking forward to reading that!  Thanks Rich for allowing me to post all this information on the blog!

Hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did!  By the way, sorry about the font problems with my most recent blog write ups.  It's some sort of problem google will have to fix, or I've got to figure out what the problem is.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fran Hardings new intros, soon to be available.

     What better way to follow up my most recent write ups on patterns, then to follow them up with a segment on toothy intros.  My friend in Connecticut, Rich Howard will be introducing Fran Harding's last introductions in the next couple years.  Rich was nice enough to share some photographs of those daylilies with me and has said it would be alright to share them with you on the blog. 

     Before I go any further I have to post my disclaimer: ALL PHOTOGRAPHS OF FRAN HARDING'S DAYLILIES ARE THE PROPERTY OF RICH HOWARD AND ARE COPYRIGHTED. ANY REPRODUCTION WITHOUT PRIOR CONSENT IS PROHIBITED. (If you would like to contact Rich Howard about Fran Harding's daylilies and photographs, you can email him at )

     Let's start with the photographs at the very top, which are of Forestlake Becky.  As you can see from the third photograph down, F. Becky is very fertile, yielding many pods. The cross for Forestlake Becky is (Forestlake Lacy Bloomers X Forestlake Ragamuffin)The next photographs down are of Forestlake Briar Patch. Rich has told me that Forestlake Briar Patch is the toothiest of the new introductions.  The cross for F. Briar Patch is (Forestlake Lacy Bloomers X Forestlake Ragamuffin.)

     The photograph in the middle right above this segment is Forestlake Devil's Mistress. The cross for F. Devil's Mistress is (Seedling X Startle).

     The photograph right above this section is Forestlake Pleats for Laura. Forestlake Pleats for Laura's cross is (Forestlake Becky X Forestlake Tigerling Claws)

     The photograph at the top of this page is Forestlake Tigerling Claws. The cross for F. Tigerling Claws is (Forestlake Lacy Bloomers X (Seedling X Forestlake Fringe Binge)) The photograph at the very bottom of the page is of Forestlake Warm and Fuzzy. The cross for F. Warm and Fuzzy is (Forestlake Lacy Bloomers X Forestlake Ragamuffin).  All of these introductions are DORMANTS. It would appear the tallest and probably most fertile of them is Forestlake Becky standing in at 30 inches! To the best of my knowledge none will be available in 2013 except for F. Becky, which I believe will be available in the fall.  All others will probably appear for sale on Rich Howard's website in the coming years. You can log on to Rich Howard's site by clicking on  Rich's website has always been one of my favorite sites to see a lot of photographs of daylilies from around the country and it's a great resource to buy hard to find daylilies.  Rich has always been very kind to me answering a myriad of questions about the daylilies he grows.  I will be featuring some of Rich Howard's introductions in next week's blog.  Hope you enjoyed seeing Fran Harding's daylilies today. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A conversation with Di DeCaire, pattern hybridizer extraordinaire. Part 2.

     I've received a lot of positive feedback about the blog lately, so let's continue with our conversation with Di DeCaire about her approach to hybridizing.  Real quick, the photo at the top of the page is one of her Four Beasts in One seedlings.  The photo below it is of one of her garden beds.

Before I go any further, I have to post this disclaimer: ALL OF DI DECAIRE'S PHOTOGRAPHS ARE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL AND REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN CONSENT IS PROHIBITED. (If you would like to contact Di DeCaire, you can email her at )

What is your hybridizing method?

It takes time and patience to breed out flaws like canoeing, poor branching and low pod set, let alone get an attractive pattern. My first seedling was a little yellow flower with a modest metallic pattern that was used in my program. More surprising flaws and anomalies popped up in the seedling bed than you could shake a stick at. I crossed patterns with the Klehm-ReCamp dormants and some new non patterned cultivars. I made small orders from each famous hybridizer even if they were not patterns, in order to see what they would do under my care and in a northern climate. Some of these helped my program and some did not. I had a rule that each cross had to involve one pattern parent. It took added years to retrieve the recessive pattern genes after out-crossing, but some of the resulting seedlings had improved substance and opened up better so it was worth the effort. I had faith that the underlying pattern genes would reveal themselves in subsequent generations. Many thousands of seedlings were discarded because instead of expressing the best traits of either parent they took on the worst.

I am now in a more advanced stage of hybridizing, involving better seedlings to work with and creating different lines for different looks. For instance, I have a red pattern line, a washed purple pattern line and a full form pattern line. I have been crossing siblings, cousins and back crossing for the purpose of strengthening the pattern genes. I feel that the patterned daylily in general is in its early stages and we will be seeing a lot of exciting work by many hybridizers in future years.
Now, after getting proper opening in my lines I do not go back and use the early pattern cultivars that I started with. I use improved select seedlings and my intros instead. I buy one new pattern each year to test it and see if it can be used to advance my program. I have also bought a few seeds at auction to fill in the last plant tray which will invariably have some leftover cells.
Who influenced you?

My program arose from relatively few patterns, basically because their weren't many out there. Ted Petit is an influence because of his ongoing work with tet patterns. Entering Warp Speed, Aztec Headdress and Heavy Metal were the 3 of Ted's that I used. I used Pat Stamile's Seismic Force as well as Fantasy Eyes for the blueish coloration. I'm sure I owe something to Grace Stamile and Elizabeth Salter in terms of conversions that contributed to these early tet patterns. I also used Jeff Salter's Visual Intrigue, which you can see in my Four Beasts in One. Shadows of the Pyramids also gave me some patterns in the early years. The seedling photos that my friend Paul has so generously posted are out of these daylilies.

Bill Maryott befriended me in Florida at the AHS convention in '09 and gave me several very good tips right on the spot. For one, I went home and sold off my perennial gardens within two years and replaced them with a rectangular, super efficient hybridizing bed that is 40' x 200' (fenced in to protect against the growing deer population). It is not designed for looks like my former gardens. With the support and encouragement of my then fiance, Ted Miller who is now my husband, I have been able to devote all my time and energy to my hybridizing program and he has helped with soil preparation as well. I store my seeds in paper envelopes using Bill's method. This has proved to be an efficient, fool proof-method. Bill knows how to cut through needless steps which is a always a good thing. Any time I have any kind of question or problem he is there to help me out in emails. We have a shared goal in hybridizing for full formed patterns.

What soil and climate do you have?

On my one acre property the soil is exceptional, a heavy clay/silt loam so rich and deep we have never hit subsoil. It is the lowest property on the street so it does flood once in a while. We have amended with mason's sand, peat moss, compost and mushroom compost. I broadcast a granular fertilizer by hand once in late winter on the snow as my father taught me, and that is it for the year beside any organic amendment that may be applied. I spray for leaf streak, Japanese beetles and thrips when necessary. I don't seem to have rust and have never experienced crown rot. I cull plants with obvious disease tendencies. I use an organic citral solution made from Sweet Dani basil to control spring sickness, which is virtually gone.

We used to receive a winter long covering of lake effect snow (Lake Ontario) with a 'January thaw'. However it is now warmer and my daylilies are subjected to repeated freeze/thaw cycles which is tough on borderline hardy plants. The dormants and the many near-dormant semi-evergreens don't seem to mind so far. Tender seedlings are culled by nature over the winter. Bloom time is about five days earlier than it was 26 years ago when I moved in here as a result of the warming climate.  

I hope you enjoyed reading Di's take on her hybridizing.  The photo at the middle of the page is of her seedling, which is from the cross Lightening in a bottle X Four Beasts in One.  The seedling below that is another Four Beasts in One seedling.  You can see what an important parent Four Beasts in One is in any patterned daylily program.  At the bottom of page at the top is a seedling out of Fantasy Eyes X Four Beasts in one.  The one below it is a miscellaneaous DeCaire seedling.  To view more of Di DeCaire's introductions go to  I would like to take this opportunity to give Di a special thank you for taking the time to share about her hybridizing with me and helping me with this blog segment.
I hope all of you on the east coast who have been hit by the recent storm are doing well.  Have a nice week folks.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A conversation with Di DeCaire, pattern hybridizer extraordinaire. Part 1.

      It only seemed fitting to follow my writings about Dan Robarts with another amazing patterned daylily hybridizer, Di DeCaire from New York.  I first got to know Di via the My Daylilies website, where her photos of her daylily intro from 2010, Four Beasts in One, just blew me away.  A photo of Four Beasts in One is featured at the top of the page, with a photo of her 2012 introduction, Jinxy right below it.  Before I go any further it is important for me to post this disclaimer:


I thought it would be nice to get to know Di in her own words, so I've posted some questions below with Di's take on how she began growing and hybridizing daylilies.

Where were you born?

I was born in Rochester, NY and grew up in Fairport, a friendly, fun town on the Eerie canal. My grandparents emigrated from Sicily, operated a dairy and corn farm and raised their 12 children. My father came back from WW2, bought 30 acres adjacent to the canal and had 6 children. He was a Xerox engineer, but along with my mother ran a family farm business growing corn, tomatoes, gladiolus etc., and we sold these crops at our front yard stand.

What were your first daylilies?

I attended SUNY Morrisville and graduated with an AAS in horticulture. Years later I propagated perennials from my extensive gardens and sold them at a large roadside stand. The apple does not fall far from the tree it seems. Perennials were at the height of their popularity and my plant business thrived. About 20 Klehm-ReCamp daylily varieties were divided and sold as part of this, and these were my first daylilies. I refused to sell Stella D'ora even though they were in huge demand. I thought there were already far too many of them everywhere in the Rochester area so I decided to offer some different colors.

How did you get your introduction to daylilies?

When I bought my daughter a computer for college I got on the new-fangled thing and discovered the greater world of daylilies. I read about hybridizing and it stimulated my interest. A college course I had taken in basic genetics was fascinating. I planned on being very focused before I commenced to make any crosses. I had learned my lesson from an effort at ceramics in which I could not decide what to concentrate on. One week I threw bowls, the next made a sculpture, the next assembled slabs and so on. It was fun experimenting but I ended up with a lot of odd pieces because I never worked hard enough on any one thing to become very good.

The decision to hybridize for patterns was very easy, knitting in nicely with my aesthetic taste and desire for a new challenge. Being artistic I liked the concept of developing a 'picture' inside of a flower. I thought of how interesting patterns would be to photograph too. Patterns in general were fairly undeveloped at the time and so the challenge was on. I would only use tetraploids so that would make it even more difficult. Wonderful! This happened about about ten years ago.

In the beginning I did not realize just how involved I would later become. Back then the problem was time and energy. I was incredibly busy with my perennial business. Daylily and perennial work fell on the same 16 intense weeks but I did what I could. Those first years I observed, learned, and made every stupid mistake possible, as with any new undertaking. I scrambled for time to devote to the daylilies. More and more it was what I really wanted to spend time doing. The string tags fell off all over the place and deer ate my hard won pods. I at least found out that patterns could actually be achieved. I also came to realize that it was going to be difficult to attain truly good patterns and would have to give the problem a lot of thought. It was the intellectual process, the complexity and mystery that drew me in deeper.

I will post part 2 of this interview next Sunday with some really neat patterned daylily seedlings of Di DeCaire's.  I hope you enjoyed part 1.  Di DeCaire's introductions can be viewed at  The daylily featured in the middle of the page is Di's 2013 introduction, Cottage Life.  The two daylilies at the bottom of this page are Gentle Soul (DeCaire 2013) and at the very bottom Totem and Taboo (DeCaire 2013).



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