Hybridizing in Region One hits a tipping point

Region 1 Newsletter Editor Kyle Billadeau

If you are a member of the AHS email Robin, then you’ve been hearing a lot lately about historic daylilies. Oliver Billingslea, a long-time AHS member and newsletter editor for Region 14, is compiling data for a new AHS publication on landscaping with daylilies. Currently he’s researching a chapter on historic daylilies, and has been soliciting favorites from members of the email Robin. Since the email Robin is more than 1,300 members strong, it’s an amazing source of information when polled. (and if you’re reading this, you too can join – the only requirement is that you be a member of AHS!)

Of course I love new and cutting-edge daylilies, but the current Robin discussion about daylilies from historic hybridizers such as Wild, Nesmith, Marsh, Brother Charles Reckamp, Spalding, Lambert and several others has been both enlightening and delightful. Many people have posted about classic daylilies that are still grown and enjoyed in their gardens today. I’ve caught myself wondering what it would have been like to be a daylily fancier during the years when so many breakthroughs were made.

A historic daylily that is a favorite in my garden each summer for its long bloom season and stellar plant habit. H. Jean (McDade, 1943)

But then I reflect on the short ten years or so that I’ve been a member of this daylily community, and I realize that I have lived through history in the making right here in Region One. How excited and proud I was to see gary Schaben’s own H. ‘North Wind Dancer’ (Schaben-g., 2001) take 3rd runner-up to the Stout Silver Medal its first time on the ballot this year! If you don’t realize what an amazing achievement that is, let the math geek in me put it into perspective with some numbers.

Out of approximately 900 total AHS garden judges, 707 voted for a Stout medal candidate. They had 36 very popular choices to choose from, and they can only vote for one. The winner, H. ‘Skinwalker’ (Roberts-N., 1997) won with just 54 votes. The next two daylilies received exactly 40 votes each, then along came H. ‘North Wind Dancer’ with 38 votes, and the 4th runner-up had 37 votes.

Now the AHS doesn’t release the voting any further down than that, but you can see from the clustering of votes for the top five that there was some hefty competition splitting the vote this year. And H. ‘North Wind Dancer’ was one of the youngsters in the lineup as well, edging out several popular cultivars introduced years before it.

Of course we can’t discuss milestones for Region One without recognizing Karol Emmerich’s four Honorable Mentions this year, bringing her to a total of 15 Honorable Mentions over a short span of only three years. Together gary and Karol have collected 23 Honorable Mentions. And this is all very impressive when we recall that gary’s first introductions were registered just eight short years ago in 2001, with Karol following closely in 2002 with her first four named cultivars. Aren’t you excited to have witnessed Region One history in the making?

But here’s maybe the best part of all. I believe we’ve reached a tipping point when it comes to hybridizing in our Region. A tipping point is loosely defined as a point where forward momentum becomes unstoppable. Region One hybridizing has exploded from my very first regional meeting (Pollen Dabbers, March 2001) to today – it’s become a contagious passion here and is still spreading.

Over the past ten years, hybridizers from all corners of our region have shared slides at summer regional meetings, the Pollen Dabbers, club meetings – all of which encouraged others. More hybridizers took that big step and registered their first introductions. Then along came the award winners, which brought the reality of winning national awards right to our own backyard. There’s no turning back from here – hybridizing is thriving here in Region One.

Want proof? Just take a look at the back cover of this issue for another milestone in the making. We’re proud to present our very first ‘Hybridizer’s Corner.’ Featured are 14 registered or future daylily introductions from Region One hybridizers. And count on more in future issues, because there are lots more of you out there that didn’t send in a photo. (email me a photo to be included next time!)

It felt like Christmas when these photos arrived at my inbox. We’ve got folks working on toothy edges, tall unusual forms, exotic watermarks, fancy edges, and more. Do you see some future award-winners here? I do. And I’m proud of each and every one of you.