Thursday, January 19, 2017

A conversation with daylily hybridizer, Lee Pickles

            Stolen Heart (Lee Pickles 2016) photo courtesy of Rich Howard.

            Groovin (Lee Pickles 2011) Photo courtesy of Verna Habermel.

           Seedling 5025 (Lee Pickles)  (Camelot Red X Blazing Cannons)

           Seedling 2041 (Lee Pickles)  (Stolen Heart X Barbara Mandrell)

    Having always had an admiration for red tetraploid daylilies, it is an honor to have Lee Pickles as our guest today.  I have enjoyed watching Lee's most recent developments with his advancements in red daylilies both on Facebook and on his blog.  With nothing further, here is my feature about how Lee's love of daylilies unfolded: (The first section was written by Lee Pickles.)

 My life began in Iowa on March 15th, 1936, so I will be 81 soon. (still younger than Tommy Maddox) Grew up and lived in Iowa.  Married to Jean Ivelle Manley in 1957. Graduated from Ellsworth Community College, Iowa Falls, IA in 1960, Iowa State Teachers College (now University of Northern Iowa) in 1962 with a Bachelor's Degree and Iowa State University in 1969 with a Master's Degree.  Have done further PhD work at the University of Nebraska and the University of Tennessee.

In 1962 I began teaching vocational printing at Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs, IA. In 1968 I joined Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs in administration.  In 1973 I was employed at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha in medical administration. In 1974 the opportunity presented itself to move to Chattanooga as Executive Assistant to the Dean of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine and Director of Continuing Medical Education.

Up to this point, I had no interest in flowers or gardening.  We purchased a house in a suburb of Chattanooga.  Jean's mother was an avid flower gardener and grew many varieties of flowers including the daylily, Hyperion, which was the first daylily we ever planted.  At the time, I had no idea there were any other colors of daylilies.

Time passed and in 1985 I happened upon a daylily show at a local mall and saw the many varieties and colors of daylilies.  I was particularly taken with H. Lullaby Baby and it all began there.

1. Which daylily hybiridizers influenced you in the beginning and which ones do now?

When I began my interest in daylilies, I met Denver Scott, a local hybridizer (hybridized the baseball named theme daylilies) at my first meeting of the Tennessee Valley Daylily Society. He began talking to me about creating my own daylilies and got me excited about hybridizing. Denver would mix all of his eyed and edged pollen together and use it to hybridize. He also did this with all others, purples, reds, yellows, etc. He was not interested in keeping parentage of crosses. Then I met Dr. C. E. (Doc) Branch
of Piper City, IL. Doc took me under his wings and shared many of his intros and cultivars from other various hybridizers with me. Doc probably had the most influence on me of all that I came into contact with. Last but not least was Dr. Bob Carr of Ocala, FL. Not only did he instruct me on hybridizing, but was a very good friend. I would visit Bob and we would sit out under his old oak tree, where he placed his potted hybridizing plants, waiting for the temperature to hit 60º so he could start hybridizing. Bob would spend most of the winter planning his crosses for the following summer and would very seldom vary from those plans. We would talk almost nightly and because of his humor, do a lot of giggling. My wife said we sounded like a couple teenage girls on the phone. Bob spent the last couple months in the hospital with complications of diabetes. He called me and asked if I would send him some pictures of my seedling bloom that summer as he did not get to see any. I sent him about a dozen and after looking them called me and asked if a certain seedling panned out would I name it for him. Thus H. 'Robert W. Carr' in his memory.

2. What were your initial goals for your hybridizing? What are they today?
My original hybridizing was a shotgun approach, hybridizing most colors and patterns. Probably of those, yellows were my favorite. I have now settled on red as my major hybridizing color. In 2008, Jeff and Elizabeth Salter visited with us and spent the night on their way to the Ohio gardens. Jeff brought me a numbered seedling, he said, "To play with". At the same time I saw a red seedling of Larry Graces in the garden of Bill Waldrop. I called Larry and asked if I could purchase a piece of the seedling. He said he was not selling it yet but would guest a piece with me. I used those two seedlings which would end up being named H. 'Camelot Red (Salter), and H. 'Home of the Free' (Grace). Along the way I also acquired H. 'Doug's Caress' (Holly), and H. 'Barbara Mandrell' (Kirchhoff). All became the beginning of my red program.

3.Talk about some of the challenges you've had with your hybridizing?
I think it was 2006 or 7 that Bob Carr called me and said he did not get his 30,000 seeds that year and did I have some that I would like to send for him to plant. Of the 500 seeds that I sent, one was special and was eventually named H. 'Awesome Bob'. I was planning to introduce it in 2010 and had taken orders in the fall of 2009. Something happened that killed every plant in the greenhouse, including my new seedlings, my hybridizing plants and all of the H.'Awesome Bob' that I had taken orders for. Luckily, Bob also had a supply that I could use to fill orders. Currently my physical health has presented a challenge.

4. What are some of your favorite daylilies from other hybridizers and those of your own?

Some cultivar favorites from other hybridizers are: H. 'Camelot Red' (Salter), H. 'Home of the Free' (Grace), H. 'Barbara Mandrell' (Kirchhoff), H. ' Wonder of it All' (Carr) and H. 'Blazing Canons' Waldrop. I also like the green edges from Tommy Maddox, and the form from Bill Maryott.

Some cultivar favorites from my own hybridizing program are: H. 'Doc Branch', H. Awesome Bob', H. 'Horny Devil', H. 'Jaimie Pickles' (named for our son), H. 'Nicole Pickles' (named for our daughter in law), H. 'Stolen Heart', and from way back, diploids H. "Bonbini' and H. 'Choo Choo Caboose'.

Here are some of Lee Pickles select seedlings:  

                Seedling 4025 ( Lee Pickles)

Seedling 5033 (Lee Pickles) (Marines Hymm X Sister Valerie)

 Seedling 6037 (Lee Pickles) (Bogart X Ultimate Sacrifice)

Seedling 6062 (Lee Pickles) (Marines Hymm X Velvet Throne)
Seedling 2051 (Lee Pickles) (Desire of Nations X Bluegrass Memories)

 Seedling 3077 (Lee Pickles) (Desire of Nations X Bluegrass Memories)

Here are some of Lee Pickle's favorite introductions: 

 1. Choo Choo Caboose (Lee Pickles 1998)

               2. Doc Branch (Lee Pickles 1998)

              3. Jean Pickles (Lee Pickles 2008)

4. Horny Devil (Lee Pickles 2007) photo courtesy of Paul K. Lewis

            5. Jaimie Pickles (Lee Pickles 2016)

             6. Nicole Pickles (Lee Pickles 2016)

               7. Stolen Heart (Lee Pickles 2016)

I hope you enjoyed this visit with Lee.  Stay tuned for our next segment where I will feature northern daylily hybridizer, Karol Emmerich and some of her fantastic seedlings.  Special thanks to Lee Pickles for taking the time to answer these questions and share his photos.  If you would like to visit Lee Pickle's website, you may do so by logging on to:  All images are the property of Lee Pickles and use without prior consent is prohibited.  Thanks for checking in folks.