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:
ALL OF DI DECAIRE'S PHOTOS ARE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL, AND REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN CONSENT IS PROHIBITED. (If you would like to contact Di DeCaire, you can email her at email@example.com.)
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 www.patterneddaylilies.net. 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).