Seedling Crosses with Future Potential
What is a Seedling? And why is there just a number instead of a name?
A seedling is a very young plant grown from seed. The process of “creating” a new iris is much more than planning which cultivar will be the “Mother” pod-parent, crossed with the “Father” pollen-parent. It is definitely a labor of love and an exercise in patience.
In the spring, when the Iris are in bloom, crosses are made and tagged on pod-parents. The first two numbers represent the YEAR the cross was made. The subsequent letters catalog my own individual system of recording the parents, (e.g. 16SL21 – this cross was made in 2016, and is “child” #21. 16SL6, 16SL21 & 16SL64 are “siblings” from the same parents).
Weather and bloom timing will dictate whether your cross actually takes or not. If the cross is a success, the seed pod will begin to show signs of swelling, and approximately 2 months later, it will crack and open. This is the indication you need to harvest and store your pods. Each hybridizer/grower has their own method, and naturally, the zone and climate where you are in will dictate how quickly you sow your seeds.
In Colorado, my seeds are sown in October in a germination mix and watered daily to wash off a natural chemical inhibitor that protects the seed from germinating in dry years. Once the weather turns too cold to water, they are “put to bed” for a 3-month vernalization period. The cold winter temperatures are required to break a seed’s dormancy.
In February, I trick the seeds into thinking spring has arrived by turning on a small heater in my seedling tunnel frame, keeping the temperature just above freezing. This hastens the germination and plant development, and after about 2 weeks, the seeds should start to sprout. By May, the young plants - seedlings - are ready to be transplanted outdoors into the garden.
Deciding whether these little seedlings are “keepers” or not can take anywhere from 5 to 10 years. Several factors listed below go into the selection process to determine if a new cultivar is worthy of introduction. If I am lucky enough to get a bloom the first year after transplanting, and the weather plays along each following season, these are the things I look for in the subsequent years:
Uniqueness or Distinctiveness of the flower
Is the flower different from the parents?
Is it better, and how so?
How many flowers are on the stalk?
Does the flower have a fuller, rounder, modern form?
Do the Standards open upright or flop over? Do they stay closed?
Are the petals heavy and full of texture, or are they limp and papery?
Are the colors clear and bold, or are they muted or muddy?
Is the stalk strong enough to support multiple flower buds?
Can it withstand wind?
Are the flowers well-spaced with branching, or bunched tightly together?
Are the leaves disease resistant?
Do they stand upright or hang limp?
How many increases does the main rhizome produce, and how quickly?
The Iris pictured below are a small selection of cultivars I believe are exciting and interesting enough to share with you, but are still in the observation phase.
Presently, these seedlings are not for sale, but perhaps sometime in the future, you will find your favorite numbered seedling has graduated to our catalog page and been given a proper name.