A Hard Day's Starry Night (Dave Mussar, 2018 intro)
Spot The Dot (Dave Mussar, 2018 intro)
I have made many a daylily friend through Facebook over the past couple years. I have particularly enjoyed my friendship with Dave Mussar from Canada. Dave and I most likely met at Curt Hanson's place many years ago, then re connected via Facebook over the past 5 years. It's been very helpful to get his feedback on many things involving daylilies, and I believe you will enjoy this opportunity to get to know Dave better. With nothing further here is my interview with Dave Mussar.
Introduction written by Dave Mussar:
I was born and raised in Kitchener, Ontario about an hour and a half drive west of Toronto, the eldest of 5 children with 3 brothers and a sister. We were a working class family, didn’t have a car until I was 18 years old but we thought nothing of walking miles as a family to go somewhere, strollers and all. There were always gardens at home, nothing fancy, lots of tulips, a couple of fruit trees, tea roses (several of which would not make it through winter every year so it made for a traditional Mother’s Day gift), a few perennials and self-seeding annuals. We would experiment with various vegetables so some years where would be a few plants of corn, tomatoes, beans and carrots mixed in the ‘flower beds’. Design was not the priority but it created an early interest in gardening or should I say planting! My grandparents had more extensive gardens but I don’t recall ever seeing a daylily in any of their gardens nor at home.
I went to the University of Waterloo (Waterloo is a twin city with Kitchener)obtaining an Honours BSc in Kinesiology through the co-op program which alternated school semesters with related work semesters so that at graduation you had 2 full years of varied work experience. The work terms allowed me to put myself through university, while living at home and walking to school kept the expenses down. Following university I started working in the pharmaceutical industry, first in sales, then about 25 years in marketing and now back in specialty sales. I plan to retire before the summer which will mark 40 years in the industry and over 20 with my current company.
Our first home was a simple townhouse and we immediately put in a few beds for vegetables, the ‘annual’ tea roses and experimented with few other perennials. About this time I discovered orchids, starting with two but eventually converted an enclosed balcony into a mini-greenhouse so I could grow many more. I belonged to 3 orchid societies at the time including the AOS and started to play with hybridizing. However growing orchids from seed is a long, slow, complicated process taking about 7 years to get to bloom size and requiring sterile growing conditions to start the seeds. I never did grow any of my seeds to bloom size. We moved to Guelph in 1985 to a new detached home with a larger lot which allowed many more flower beds, expanded vegetable beds, trees, shrubs and berries. Here I grew my first daylilies, several clumps of fulva liberated from a roadside.
1. How did you first get interested in daylilies?
In 2000 we moved to a 1.4 acre property in the country to have more space to garden. I discovered that a neighbour on our former street in Guelph, Mike Georges was a closet daylily collector and hybridizer, buying some of the latest and greatest daylilies. Our wives actually knew each other better than we did! At that time my daylily collection had expanded to include Stella, Happy Returns, several no-names and a few others from local garden centers. I had also ordered 5 fans of a Reckamp and a Wild cultivar from a local landscaper and remember being surprised to get two little bags with tiny bare-rooted fans that I doubted would survive. I had never seen bare-root daylilies before, they always came in a pot or were dug as a clump! They did survive and became clumps in short order. After Mike and Linda visited our new gardens he started gifting me pieces of a number of relatively new intros. He also gave me pollen from Wisest of Wizards which was a brand new intro that year. Having previously been addicted to orchids, I knew that I was hooked on daylilies and started hybridizing immediately. To be able to bloom seedlings in only a couple of years was a big attraction compared to orchids not to mention being able to grow them outdoors in the garden.
The following spring I attended my first Can-Am Classic (have only missed one since!), joined the Ontario Daylily Society and the AHS. Through the ODS I met Bryan Culver and Gil Stelter who have also been mentors to me and it has been great to have others to bounce ideas off and to see their seedlings, hear and debate their opinions. Through the Can-Am Classic over the years I've had the opportunity to meet and chat with literally a who's-who of the daylily world which has been invaluable (not to mention the plants available through the auction and sales)!
2. Which daylily hybridizers influenced you in the beginning?
In addition to Bryan, Gil and Mike I was influenced by hybridizers I met at the Can-Am Classic over the years. This included people like Steve Moldovan, Curt Hanson, Melanie Mason, John Rice and Jamie Gossard who if they were not presenting, attended anyway just to be there and freely shared their knowledge and opinions. All were northern hybridizers who pretty much marched to their own drummer but if there was a common denominator they all insisted on strong performing plants first before considering the bloom. In addition although I never met either man, Brother Charles Reckamp and Oscie Whatley’s unique programs had a big influence on me. It always intrigued me that a man of the cloth bred daylilies and Brother Charles’ closely line-bred cultivars I saw as powerful tools for outcrossing and many were under-utilized. Oscie’s program relied heavily on the use of his new conversions to produce unique blooms and new tet genetics which I also saw as powerful tools for breeding.
3. What were your initial goals in your hybridizing?
From the very beginning one of my hybridizing goals was to produce a spotted daylily. I recalled from my orchid days how the spotted phalenopsis orchids we have today were bred from small species that just had a few spots on the throat area. I was struck by the fact that there were no daylilies with true spots, some had speckles, some were stippled but none had dots/spots. Nobody was working on this with daylilies so how hard could it be? I felt it was an area that a small backyard hybridizer could make a contribution to the world of daylilies. Well, I'm still working on it today!
Beyond spots, which has also morphed to include stripes and broken colours, I also breed for tet Extra Early bloomers, teeth largely based on Reckamp lines, some patterns and a few other things. I have been working on conversions, first to get some tet stripes but that has led to working on some other areas too. Have had a few successes with conversions which has just expanded my hybridizing lack of focus. If you have a successful conversion, you might as well be the first to use it!
4. What are some of the challenges you've had in your daylily hybridizing?
Our first country home was a lovely 1.4 acre property however it was on a very steep hill (hence the name Hillside Daylilies) which turned out to be a gravel moraine with very little actual topsoil. There were very few flat areas. It was back-breaking work to dig beds (needed a pick and pry bar to dig any holes!) and had to bring in triple mix for every bed, much of which had to be wheelbarrowed up the hill. Most of my seedlings and selects were grown in raised beds which limited the area and number of seedlings I could plant.
The past few years I have been trying to work on converting diploids to tetraploids which has been very challenging. The actual treatment technique is fairly straightforward, however keeping them alive after is a challenge and many plants die. They grow incredibly slowly, takes almost 2 years or longer to get them to bloom at which time you can examine the pollen. Then you discover some are not converted, that there are many degrees of partial conversion, some of which might be usable but may only produce a few seeds after many tries, and there is the occasional full conversion. It is frustrating but if you can get seeds that nobody else has from a new conversion then it may be worthwhile in the end. I remind myself that this is supposed to be fun!
5. How many seedlings do you grow each year?
I start around 4000 seeds a year however the past couple of years I’ve been a year behind in getting them all planted. Hopefully, with my planned retirement 2018 will be the year when I get two year’s worth of seedlings in the ground and get all caught up.
6. What are some of your favorite daylilies from others?
This could be a long list but I’ll mention a few by hybridizer. Bryan Culver: Elizabeth White, Piranha, Lovely Addition and if I may, David Mussar. Mike Georges: Ichabod, Designed to Impress and Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Gil Stelter: Elsie Stelter, Chang-an, Gryphon Hankow Legacy. Dangling Participle by Melanie Mason has been a great parent for me. Curt Hanson: Women Seeking Men, Hidden Cameras, Pink Thunderbird, Nick of Time, Suddenly Last Summer. I could go on……
I registered my first daylily in 2010 and it is hard to believe that I'm now up to 42 registrations, including 8 for 2018. Some of my favourites include Splatter, Rosemary Mussar (named for my mother), Kim’s Laughter (named for my wife), Kendra Marie (named for my oldest daughter), Hillside Bright and Early (an EE intro), Cherry Stripes, Claire Anne (for daughter #2) and a couple of my newest intros, I Saw Her Standing There and She Loves You.
8. What are some of your favorite daylily gardens to visit?
Gil Stelter’s Gryphon Gardens is nearby, is an AHS Display and Historical Garden, impeccably maintained, has one of the most extensive collections of daylily species to be found anywhere and has some very unique plants from his tet fulva breeding. I make sure to get to Culver Farms every summer a couple of times as there is no greater education than to walk a hybridizer’s seedling fields to see what has been flagged, what has not and to discuss why! Mike Georges is about 5 minutes away so I visit regularly and get to his greenhouse in the winter for some green therapy.
A little further afield I like to get to Curt Hanson’s but it has been a few years so I am overdue. His garden is amazing and he has much more than just daylilies there so there is lots to see. Curt continues to push the envelope and takes the daylily to new heights. I treasure the memories of visiting Steve and Roy at Moldovan Gardens in years past.
I have made a point of attending the AHS National Tour the last several years and our Regional meetings as well. Here you will see some absolutely spectacular gardens both large and small at the peak of perfection and a wide variety of plants many of which you have not seen before. You will see and learn so much, get some great ideas for your own garden and will meet many new people. If you can manage it, do plan to go. Put it on your bucket list to go at least once! You won’t regret it.
9. Anything you would like to add?
We moved to our current location in 2009, a 2.5 acre property that is largely being over-run with daylilies. Having learned a lesson on the gravel moraine before buying this property I went all over it digging holes and discovered topsoil at least spade deep everywhere. It was only slightly sloped and I concluded that this would be daylily heaven! Unfortunately our other house took longer to sell (something about too many flower beds scaring buyers off accorign to the realator!)and we did not get an offer until Labour Day weekend with a close at the end of October. Only then was I able to dig and move plants to the new property. I wound up moving around 2500 daylilies, more than half were seedlings and selects and was still planting some in the first week of November just before freeze up. Didn’t lose a plant!
My website is a bit out of date but you are welcome to take a look at dave.mussar.com or google Hillside Daylilies. If you belong to the Monday Night Lights Facebook Group I will be presenting my program and sharing seedling pictures on February 19th, 2018. There is still time to join if you like. Thanks so much to Paul for asking me to do this and thank you for reading this far! Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All the best!
Here are some of Dave's newest seedlings:
Dave Mussar seedling (Augie's Unique Beauty X Tet. Pink Stripes)
Dave Mussar seedling (Women Seeking Men X Tet. Cherry Stripes)
Dave Mussar seedling (Claire Anne X Seedling) Future intro
Dave Mussar seedling (Claire Anne X Seedling) sib to the one above!
Dave Mussar seedling (Women Seeking Men X Wide Awake)
Dave Mussar seedling (Rose Electra X Tet. Siloam Vaughn's Luxury)
Dave Mussar seedling (Rosemary Mussar X Unknown)
And now here are some of Dave's favorite intros:
Rosemary Mussar (Dave Mussar) Named for his mother.
Kim's Laughter (Dave Mussar)
Kendra Marie (Dave Mussar)
Cherry Stripes (Dave Mussar) Diploid.
Spots and Stripes (Dave Mussar, 2018 intro)
Badenoch Beauty (Dave Mussar)
Dots Galore (Dave Mussar)
Loretta the Stipples Queen (Dave Mussar)
Splatter (Dave Mussar) Photo courtesy of Elaine Seifert.
What a wonderful program! I'd like to thank Dave Mussar for taking the time to do this segment with me. Photos of Dave's garden were courtesy of Paul Gellatly and Chris Eicher. Thank you for sharing those Paul and Chris. All photos are the property of Dave Mussar and his friends, and use without prior consent is prohibited. What a great way to start out the new year. I am working on more segments with Bill Waldrop, Guy Pierce, and John Kulpa in the coming weeks and months. Thanks for stopping by.