Monday, January 30, 2017

A conversation with daylily hybridizer, Karol Emmerich

  Before I get started, let me share a sampling of Karol Emmerich's fabulous daylily seedlings:

                                       Emmerich seedling #4115

                                         Emmerich seedling #7413

                                       Emmerich seedling #14212

                                      Emmerich seedling #20110

                                     Emmerich seedling #23513

    It is a real pleasure to share this interview with Karol Emmerich today.  I have never actually met Karol, but hope to someday.  I have read Karol's articles in the American Hemerocallis Society's Journal and corresponded with her via email over the years.  She is very honest about her daylilies and how she approaches her hybridizing, which is refreshing in these days where most hybridizers act like their hybridizing is a top secret operation.  I also appreciate that when she displays pictures of her intros on her website she uses multiple photos to show how the daylily bloom looks on various days.  More hybridizers need to embrace Karol's approach.  With nothing further here is my interview with Karol:
1. How did you first get interested in daylilies?

Karol: When I started gardening in my early 20's, I discovered that in the cold zone 4 of Minnesota I needed tough plants, and those were daylilies and hostas. They became the anchors of the garden, and I had soon collected over 1000 daylily varieties and 275 hosta varieties - as well as hundreds of other perennials.

2. How did you get interested in hybridizing them?

Karol: When I retired from my corporate job in 1993, I had a steady stream of visitors to the garden, many wondering why someone who'd experienced such success in the corporate world had turned her back on it all.  The garden turned out to be a safe place to talk about whatever was on their mind.  As we strolled through the garden, people often commented on the names of the flowers. I thought about the discussions that might happen if the garden were full of thoughtful, encouraging, inspirational names, but at the time, it seemed that most daylilies with the names I wanted were boring or too tender for Minnesota.  A daylily friend told me that if you hybridize and introduce a plant you can name it, so I started hybridizing with the singular goal of making flowers so beautiful they would stop visitors in their tracks so they would look at the names and perhaps ask about them. Pretty soon I started to daydream about how great it would be to have flowers with inspiring names not just in my own garden, but in millions of gardens across the country.  At that point in time, I had never made a cross and had absolutely no idea if I'd be any good at hybridizing.  But I jumped in with everything that was in me and didn't look back. 

3. What were your initial goals in hybridizing?

Karol: To make purple daylilies that were gorgeous and sassy, large (6-7"), hardy, well branched with good budcount, great substance, easy opening, sunfast, more opened form than perfectly round with fancy edges and saturated color. 

4. Which daylily hybridizers influenced you in the beginning?

Karol: I loved the colors of my Munson daylilies, the color saturation of the Moldovan purples, the superb plant habit and edges of Pat Stamile, the fanciness and easy opening of Larry Grace's Clothed in Glory and it's offspring Lifting Me Higher, the chalky eye and dormancy and easy opening of Jack Carpenter's Tet. Lavender Blue Baby, and Tom Wilson's Tet. Painted Rose.
At first I crossed Stamile with Munson and got round daylilies with good branching and great substance, but no fancy edges at all.  I crossed the Stamile pinks from his days in New York with those of Tom Wilson, but alas, the southern blood of Tet. Painted Rose was too strong and almost all of them died.  What did work exceptionally well was mixing Lifting Me Higher (not hardy in Minnesota) and Tet. Lavender Blue Baby genes and some of the Moldovan things.  Lifting Me Higher and it's offspring (like Heartbeat of Heaven, Desire of Nations, Kingdom Without End, Born to Reign, etc) are in more than 100 of my 175 introductions. Tet. Lavender Blue Baby genetics are in almost as many.  

5. What are some of the challenges you've had in hybridizing?

Karol: Trying to produce fancy looks in zone 4 (which has required using tender or less than perfect parents at times, which sometimes works out but often doesn't), the physical challenges since I do most of the digging and washing myself, the constant weeding, deer (we solved that one in our problem area with an electric fence), the sheer number of seedlings that you have to grow to get one that is introducible (my ratio has been 1 out of 450 over the years), and having some gorgeous intros that for some reason don't capture people's hearts from the catalog picture so you end up giving them away as gift plants at regional and national events (and they end up winning an Honorable Mention a few years later because people who grow them soon understand why I thought they were special).  In terms of the greenhouse, there's the cost of running it during the winter months, mechanical things that can go wrong with the temperature sensor, computer, shade curtains, Dosatron, vents and other mechanical things.  Plus the thrips and spider mites that you always need to stay on top of.  And year round weeds!
6. What are your favorite daylilies?

Karol: That depends on the day (Lol!) and whether or not by favorite you mean my favorite to use in hybridizing or as focal points in the garden.  For hybridizing, it has always been the purples and chalky eyes.  In the garden, it's the plant that grows quickly and has fabulous color and you don't need to be standing right on top of it to appreciate it.  

Thanks Karol!  Now here are some of Karol's favorite seedlings: 

                                       Emmerich seedling #42212

                                       Emmerich seedling #15214

                                       Emmerich seedling #31214

                                      Emmerich seedling #17515

                                      Emmerich seedling #11816

                                      Emmerich seedling #19316

                                       Emmerich seedling #5916

Also here are some of Karol Emmerich's favorite intros: 


                                   Thistles and Thorns (Emmerich)

                            Shining Through The Darkness (Emmerich)

                                      Broken Chains (Emmerich)

                                      Lily Among Thorns (Emmerich)

               All Things To All Men (Emmerich) photo courtesy of Paul K. Lewis

                                     Kingdom Bound (Emmerich)

Here's some other pictures of some of Karol's other great intros:

               Soli Deo Gloria (Emmerich) Photo courtesy of Paul K. Lewis

               Desire of Nations (Emmerich) Photo courtesy of Paul K. Lewis

                 Rich in Mercy (Emmerich) Photo courtesy of Theresa Maris

        Faith That Moves Mountains (Emmerich) Photo courtesy of Paul K. Lewis

             Skin Of My Teeth (Emmerich) Photo courtesy of Paul K. Lewis

                   Broken Chains (Emmerich) Photo courtesy of Mary Baker

                    Mount Ararat (Emmerich) Photo courtesy of Mary Baker

                    Mount Ararat (Emmerich) Photo courtesy of Mary Baker

I hope you have enjoyed this visit with Karol Emmerich.  Special thanks to Karol for taking the time to answer all those questions and providing me with all the photographs.  Just a reminder that all the photographs are the property of Karol Emmerich and use without prior consent is prohibited.  You can visit Karol Emmerich's website at  Also Karol has a wonderful daylily blog at  Next installment will be on bitone daylilies from across the country.  Also thank you to Mary Baker and Theresa Maris for sharing their photographs.  

No comments:

Post a Comment