Sunday, February 27, 2011

SPRING CLEANING NOW KEEPS PROBLEMS AWAY LATER

  First of all to all my buddies to the north, still shoveling snow and huddling by the fire to keep warm, I apologize for piling more spring fever on you. Here in the great state of Oklahoma (zone 7) we're enjoying some above average temperatures which is letting us get a little head start on the gardening chores. With our garden a master planting at this years Median Iris Society convention in Oklahoma City (April 14-16) we need a little head start! I personally am in hog heaven crawling along the iris and daylily beds weeding and cleaning up last years leaves and dead foliage. It's so good to be outside! (Again, my apologies for those still in the frozen tundra. ;)

  I just wanted to suggest to my friends that as soon as you can, you should work on cleaning up the old stuff in the beds, especially around your iris. The worst enemy for iris is excessive winter moisture and as long as the old foliage is there, acting like a thick mulch, the better the chance of rot and leaf spot latter. Coupled with it are the cutworms and sow bugs finding the mulch a perfect abode. Of course the old foliage does have its purpose, especially for the daylilies. It protects them from the cold and can be helpful for insulation if a late freeze hits you, so I leave it to each of you to figure when it's safe enough.

  Some spring cleaning now will go along way in helping you keep your plants healthy and pest free without the use of pesticides and fungicides and that's stuff we all need to avoid.


Happy gardening!

Friday, February 25, 2011

BACKDRAFT AND ITS PARENTS

  'BACKDRAFT' is a 2010 tall bearded iris introduction from myself that I think brought together some of the best qualities of it's parents and thus became an iris worthy of introduction. (Most seedlings don't accomplish this and quickly become compost!)
  In this example the pod parent (mother) was 'HEARTLAND' (below), A 1995 intro from Kerr that had three important qualities. Great stalks, vigor and a rather unique warm salmon pink color with a slight gold band on the standards. Unfortunately it's form was lacking with narrow falls and flowers a little weak on substance.
  The pollen parent (or dad) was 'BROAD SHOULDERS' by Keppel in 2001. (below right) At the time I made the cross, it had by far the widest standards I had in the garden. It's color was also very rich and velvety. Unfortunately, 'BROAD SHOULDERS' remained short in my garden and had weak vigor in Oklahoma. Hopefully crossing the two would give the best of both worlds, ie., better form, rich color, substance, vigor and great stalks. 
   Many times in a hybridizers efforts to combine the good qualities of parents, we often bring together the bad. Weak flowers, weak growth or just plain ugly colors. Poor disease resistance, bad form or crowded buds all make for compost. Fortunately, once in a blue moon, a seedling comes along like 'BACKDRAFT' that is a very pleasant surprise. It's those few babies that keep us going and this is one I think you'll enjoy lighting up your garden!   

Happy gardening!

BROAD SHOULDERS
HEARTLAND

Thursday, February 24, 2011

FLOWER PHOTOGRAPHY- Getting down to their level

   I confess, I'm no professional when it comes to photography. However, running a website with a thousand varieties of plants and needing photos to sell them, requires one to take thousands of pictures in all kinds of conditions, all over the country, every bloom season. So simply through repetition, I feel I can at least offer a couple of suggestions.

   My number one tip would be to get down to the flower's level or even a smidgen under. They just look more impressive when you're on their level. Of course when you're taking the little 10" tall buggers, it requires some major bending, crouching and crawling! It's a work out, but well worth the effort.

   In ideal conditions I want to catch the flowers at their freshest, usually in the morning hours. Late afternoon would be great, but most daylilies just aren't that great then. (They are called daylilies for a reason, they only last a day.)

   As for cameras, I love my Canon Rebel XTi. I simply set it on close up and it's good to go. When focusing, there are several little red lights in the viewfinder that light up to show you what part of the subject you're actually focused on. This saves on a lot of useless shots which the camera said was focused, when actually it was focused on a weed nearby, or the outhouse in the background. (Another important tip, be aware of your background!)

   I've also found a monopod is a big help in getting well defined shots. It is easy to move around with and get into odd spots to get the shot. Tripods are great, but take a lot of time & space, something there's not a lot of when traveling on buses in large groups. Beware though, not to ask the uppity camera store salesperson for "a tripod with one leg". Mine replied, in the most degrading way, "oh, you mean a monopod."

   When on a tour we lose control of simple things like lighting and angles as we're on someone else's timetable and not allowed to trounce through garden beds to get the best angle. This is a challenge and sometimes requires a little editing to tone down an afternoon sun or brighten up a rainy day. I use a very old program from Adobe called 'Photo Deluxe' that's awesome for straightening out, cropping, and MINOR fiddling with sharpness, contrast and brightness.

  So, that's it, now we just need some blooms. Happy gardening!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WHY ARE NEW DAYLILIES SO EXPENSIVE?

  I have been known to spend up to $175 on a daylily and just this past week-end won a new daylily that was selling for $300! So my question just expanded to "and who's crazy enough to pay that much?"
My newest introductions are $100. Why?
  1. I'm lucky if I have 15 to sell and in some cases there are only 7 or so. Daylilies are much slower to increase then iris so the fact is these are the only ones in existence on the planet! Most hybridizers want to keep some around to extend the breeding lines so numbers are even more limited. Exclusiveity is the rule, at least the first year.
  2. Taking a plant from one little seed to an introduction takes me about six to seven years. That's simply a lot of TLC growing it, evaluating and sending around to places to see how it performs. If I actually put all the expenses to paper, I'd probably be shocked!
  So, the newer the plant, the more expensive, simply because of sheer numbers available.
   Now honestly, most of those that are "crazy" enough to spend that much are other hybridizers looking for something that's an improvement over older varieties and might fit into their breeding goals. Others are simply connoisseurs that want the best new stuff in their garden.
   Before I end don't think there aren't any good, cheap lilies out there. I have several on my website under $10 that have proven themselves worthy over the years that I'd highly recommend. So enjoy no matter what the price! DAYLILIES UNDER $10

Monday, February 21, 2011

NATIVE STAR


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Iris logo


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New blog from Stout Gardens at Dancingtree

New blog from Stout Gardens at Dancingtree is starting. I'm just figuring out how it all works but I hope to post photos, videos and helpful tips on growing irises and daylilies.