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.

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