Posts tagged #breeding daffodils

Red Coloration in Blood Apple Seedling Leaves, Flowers, Bark and Wood

Red fall leaves on one of my seedling apples

I’ve been interested in how much my blood apple seedlings show red pigmentation in the bark, flowers, wood and leaves.  My impression is that the apples with the most red flesh also tend to have more of this coloration in other parts of the tree as well.  Bud 9 rootstock is a good example, with very red flesh and bright orange to red coloration in the fall leaves.  It also has dark red bark and even red in the wood.  Most of my seedlings show only minimal red coloration in the spring and fall and very few have really reddish bark, with none close to the deep purple/red of bud 9.  This video shows one seedling that has stronger red traits than the rest.  I suppose this trait may be affected somewhat by it’s age and where it’s growing, but I’m pretty sure this seedling is exceptional.

Maypole has strong expression of red genes in general as you can see in this spring photo.  The apples are also strongly red fleshed, a bit crabby, but still very edible, with some of the delicious red flavor found in red fruits like berries.  I've been very impressed by this apple the last couple years and made numerous crosses with it this past spring.  I'd like to plant enough of them to make juice.  The tree is very narrow and short so they could probably be planted only 3 feet apart or so.  I haven't juiced any, because I haven't had enough fruit, but I'm sure it will be very good.

I suppose one could select seedlings by coloration in the new leaves, or in the fall leaves, or in the bark even.  I know that Nigel Deacon does that in selecting his seedlings.  I’ve decided not to for the time being.  I may later when I have gathered information from the fruit of seedlings I have in the ground right now.  For the time being, I want to see what happens with all of them.  Not all of the best blood apples that I grow have strong pigmentation in places other than the flesh, so by culling most of the seedlings and keeping only the reddest leaved ones, I could end up tossing out something really good and I’d never know.  Another reason to keep everything for now is that I have speculated that the expression of the red flesh tends to come with some other traits that may not always be desirable.  Blood apples, are still being developed from primitive breeding stock.  They have not been refined by long breeding, so there are issues with bitterness, poor cultural traits and texture.  I’m not sure, but again I suspect that those traits may tag along somehow with the red fleshed gene expression.  So, by culling out the less red seedlings, I may also be culling out some of the best dessert traits.  What would you do?  Risk growing out everything to see what happens?  or select only the seedlings showing the most red?  Hopefully this spring will see blossoms in my seedling rows with apples to follow.

I haven't noticed that Williams' Pride has particularly red anything else, but it does have very red skin (it gets darker than this) and a little bit of red flesh.  Rome Beauty is another very red fleshed apple that can have pink tinges in the flesh, and I've seen small tinges in other apples, including cherry cox.  I'm hoping that simply by combining red fleshed apples with apples like King David that just have dark red skin, I may still reinforce the red fleshed trait.

William's pride showing tendency to red flesh



Some News, and Videos on Scion Storage and Cleaning Black Trumpet Mushrooms

A couple of videos and a little news on apples and flowers! It's grafting season.  A lot of people have probably already finished their scion trading, but here is my take on storing and shipping scions.  I was so caught up in the details that I kind of forgot the basics, like store them in the refrigerator.  If it were more comprehensive, it would also include storing the scions without refrigeration, which maybe I'll do later, but same basic concepts apply.  Mostly, I was trying to address the potential of excess water and the use of paper to cause problems.

And for those of you who are lucky enough to have black trumpet mushrooms in your neck of the woods, this video is on how I clean them really fast, and dry them. It also includes a (what in my opinion is an all too short) rant on efficiency and work as a symbolic activity.  It is a long video for how to do something really fast, but I think the stuff about intention and mental attitude is just as important as the physical part, and it will save your a lot of time in the long run if cleaning large quantities.

DOOOOODS!!!  Two flowers from the first batch of Daffodil Seedlings grown from seeds pollinated in 2011 have put forth flower buds!  The bulbs arestill rather small, so I wouldn't be surprised if they are under-developed, but that's still pretty exciting, especially considering that I haven't taken stellar care of them.  I figured I was at least another year off from seeing anything.  I seem to pick breeding projects that take a long time.  Daffodils typically take about 4 years or more, and apples 5 or more years.  They should open within the week, at which point I may have to update the Daffodil Lust series with a new post.  Even more exciting, one of the seedlings is from Young Love, the daffodil that inspired it all!

Young Love seedling
Young Love seedling

I just recieved 50 apple rootstocks in the mail for grafting up my latest round of red fleshed apple seedlings, and last year's pollinations are sprouting up in the greenhouse.  Good news, I just talked to my friend Freddy Menge, who is sort of my apple guru or early inspiration.  We talk about apples on the phone about every other year.  He's getting results from his apple seedling trials, which I believe are mostly open pollinated, but he has a good collection of quality hand selected varieties growing, not just some random stuff.  He say that he gets more apples that are worth eating than ones that aren't.  That's just what I suspected when I started my breeding project and what Albert Etter seemed to be saying.  It also is totally at odds with what passes for common "knowledge".  He has sent me two of his seedlings that I'm trying out, one I've been calling King Wickson (not sure if he has a name for it) which he thinks is a King David x Wickson cross.  The other selection is Crabby Lady a small, more intensely flavored version of the latest ripening apple here, Lady Williams, also thought to be crossed with Wickson crab.  Crabby Lady ripens at the same time as Lady Williams, and sounds like a real improvement on an already very good and super late apple, so that really got my attention.  I'm hoping King Wickson will fruit this year, but I just grafted Crabby Lady this past week.

Freddy also said that about 1/4 to 1/3rd of his red fleshed apple seedlings have red flesh.  I was hoping for a little higher percentage than that, but such is life.  I may do some crosses between red fleshed apples this year to try to reinforce the red fleshed trait.  Another amateur plant breeder just contacted me through the blog who is also gearing up to do some red fleshed apple breeding.  Yay for grass roots apple breeding for the masses!

I'm off to get ready for the farmer's market in the morning.  Not much in the way of vegetables to sell anymore, but I cleaned up selling Erlicheer narcissus flowers on Valentines day and have a new batch ready to go.  It's nice to have that plan working out.  The Erlicheer are planted along both sides of a row of oblique cordon apple trees, so they require no extra care other than what I already do in taking care of the apples.  By the time the apples are leafing out, the flowers are thinking about going to sleep, so they have nearly opposite seasons

Flowers for market.  !Kaching!
Flowers for market. !Kaching!

Daffodil Lust part III, the Seedling...


Fertilize me...

Having fallen in love with a glossy catalogue photo of Young Love, a fresh yet sensuous daffodil, pollinated her stigmas with who knows what combination of mongrel pollen and then carefully collected the 8 resulting seeds from two flowers it was time to wait for fall planting time. I kept Young Love’s seeds, along with the other 60 odd seeds I collected from my sloppy daffodil pollination experiments close at hand. At first I was really excited about the seeds and left them out on the desk drying in small twisty tied bundles of spun row cover material. The material allowed the seeds to dry, but kept them from being scattered. After a while, when the hassle of having them all over my desk outweighed the fetish value of looking at them a lot, I put seeds in a special little catch all basket on the desk where I could still sort of see them. Over time I became excited about or distracted with other things and stopped thinking about my seeds. I only noticed them once in a while when I needed something else out of the basket and was like “oh yeah, awesome!” That seems just as well since I had to wait a few months before planting them. Not to worry, come fall, my excitement was renewed.


In early fall I put the seeds out in the greenhouse. I did a little reading on propagation of daffodil seeds. Over all it seemed that they would grow easily enough, although some of the methods of propagation seemed overly complicated. I opted to plant them about 1 inch deep in flats. I used a technique I sometimes favor for special seeds with is as follows:

*Fill a planting flat about half full with rich flat soil made mostly of sifted compost.

*Follow the flat mix with a 1/2 inch or less layer of sand. (could also be 50/50 sand and peat, but I generally don’t find it necessary to add peat to propagation sand, though it will hold water longer if you do. The seeds can be laid carefully just where you want them on the sand.

*Cover with more sand to the chosen seed planting depth, in my case 1 inch.

This system offers a moist but well drained environment for the seeds with plenty of opportunity for the exchange of air yet with fewer of the moulds, bacteria and critters that are found in the composty flat mix. There is a tradition of planting seeds in sand or sand and peat for germination, but they have to be transplanted out soon after sprouting up because they have no nutrients to thrive on. When the seeds in the stratified flats strike roots, they hit pay dirt very soon and are off to a good start without transplanting. Sown in the flats, labels in place and watered in, there was nothing to do but wait.

At first I was patient. But I had started some wild Camas, wild Diogenes’ Lantern, Naked Ladies’ and Tiger Lily seeds at the same time. When the Camas came up I was stoked! I had been watching them all in anticipation and was starting to wonder if they would all fail to emerge. First just one Camas seedling, then more, then the Diogenes’ Lantern began coming up. Then the Naked Ladies... then finally the Tiger Lilies.... but no Daffodils :( I began to check more frequently. I started to doubt that my methods were adequate and wondered if maybe the seeds had rotted. For all I could know, they lay under the sand bed as hollowed out shells or worse yet, shells full of putrid rotting slime that had once held hidden promise of a long life of surpassing beauty. I reminded my self that daffodils are pretty tough plants in general and that they have probably evolved to tolerate these conditions just like any other plant, if not better. They just take a long time right? Maybe I watered them too much in spite of the well drained conditions I gave them. My faith in simple propagation methods was slipping. I resisted the temptation to dig in and have a look.


Every time I was remotely near the greenhouse I would go in and look. I had seeded some Apples too, so I had two exciting seed projects to anticipate. I scanned the surface of the sand carefully for any green tips that might be poking through. I tried viewing from different angles. I moved any suspicious lumps of sand in the case that there might be a shoot just below pushing the surface up trying to get out. I blew on the surface to remove any lose material that might be obscuring the green tip of a seedling. Then I blew harder wishing I could blow a layer of the sand off, but alas it was too wet, too compacted, it wasn’t budging. I thought about removing a thin layer of sand since small bits of moss has started to grow and lock the particles together... but that might damage the tips of any seedlings that were coming up. I thought about spraying the soil with water to remove a layer of sand, but ditto, and besides then I would be over watering and they might rot. Aaaagghhhhh!! It was like christmas when you’re a kid.



Finally, one day there was a green tip in an auxiliary pot of seeds! It wasn’t one I was excited about, but at least there was hope and they weren’t all dead! Now I checked even more often, sometimes three times a day. Scanning carefully... I’m not sure a day has gone by when I don’t check, but it’s been slow going. After the first one, more came up but they took their time about it. One came up every few days at the best and just one in a row of many seeds. Finally about 6 varieties were up, with no sign of life in the Young Love row. wahhhhh!!!! I was out of ideas to speed up the process so I had to be content to scrutinize the soil surface. It’s amazing how fast they come up when they do. Two nights ago, after having checked already once in the morning, there it was by the ghastly LED light of my headlamp, a tiny speck of green in front of the Young Love tag! I probably uttered some happy noises and wiggled around or something. You’d think I could rest in peace now, but no, I probably looked at them three times yesterday to check for new plants



I know, its ridiculous, But it’s nice to have something to be excited about which holds some promise for the future, even if it might be nothing more than a small population of peachy colored and probably buck toothed and lopsided flowers with unevenly split cups. I’m sort of looking forward to getting over it and just letting them grow on till they are ready for their coming out party. I will no doubt go through this process again in a few years when they approach flowering age, only worse. Spreading apart the leaves to see if there might be a flower bud tip down in the there, just enough to get a good look without breaking any leaves. For now though I will probably check them obsessively for a bit longer until excitement wears thin and enough seedlings are up for me to say that the endeavor was more or less a success, which is not the case now with 10 seedlings up out of 70. (I checked last night, make that 11:) Apparently Daffodil seeds can lie dormant for a year or two, but I’m hoping of course that mine won’t. That could really be a nail biter.

Now for some real waiting! Wow, I mean really, three to five years from seed is a long time. I’m glad I’m old enough that it doesn’t seem like an eternity. But, if I pollinate a few flowers a year and with a small amount of effort, I can have new flower varieties to evaluate every spring. I guess you’ll hear from me again when it’s time to shallowly judge Young Love’s offspring based almost solely on physical beauty. Until then, the narcissus are blooming so it’s about time to start pollinating again- Woohoo!

The earliest narcissus daffodils are already blooming here in February. If you have more than one kind of daffodil variety, why not cross pollinate a few and see what happens? Just snip off a stamen that is releasing powdery grains of pollen and rub it gently on the stigma (the little center thingy) of another variety. Repeat for a couple of days in the late morning. What better to do while drinking your coffee in the morning. If you want to keep track, tie on a tag with the name of the varieties using the convention Girl Plant X Boy Plant. Collect the seeds when the capsules begin to dry and open, but before they open all the way and drop the seeds. Let the seeds dry thoroughly before storing in a dry cool place.



As some of you may remember from the first installment I fell in love with a daffodil last year named Young Love.  She was a mail order bride.  I was seduced by the photos of her pearly perianth and frilly pink corona.  Young love bloomed this April among many other new, and mostly lovely, narcissus varieties.  I have to say that she wasn't as pink as I had dared to hope, though at the same time knew better than to expect; and so it seems to go with pink daffodils in general.  But then we don't always get what is advertised or what we expected through our lustful, advertisement colored, fevered imaginations.  Sometimes that may be just as well and what we do get may be as much or more valuable.  Young Love did put on a lovely show and, along with all the other Grant Mitsch hybrids, had an excellent, heavy and even almost fleshy substance.  When the first of them bloomed (integer) I was compelled to put its superior genes to use somehow and I went about crossing it with other early daffodils blooming at the time.  Many mornings from that day through the bloom season I was to be found for a few minutes in mid morning snipping out stamens crusted with pollen from one flower and carrying them around with a pair of tweezers to dabble onto the female parts of another.  I crossed whatever I liked the looks of without even looking up whether the varieties I was using were sterile, or virile, or made particularly good parents.  Some didn't fertilize at all but many, no most, did.

When Young Love bloomed I was certainly not going to miss my chance to dabble in her genes.  I added chromosomes to her girl parts and took her pollen elsewhere (Ok, so maybe she's hermaphroditic).  I can't remember where I spread her wild oats or who's pollen I haphazardly smeared on her stigmas, but come a month or so later her seed pods began to swell with child as her foliage was declining for the long summer and autumn sleep of the daffodil.  Heavy, swollen and pendulous, the seed pods held new possibility within them.  The two pods produced only 8 seeds, far from the potential they held.  Maybe I need to do it more than once?  hmmmmmm.......  I also saved seed from flower record (neat looking, but poor substance), altruist (unimpressed, I don't know why I bothered), hillstar (pretty cool), precocious (awesome), Integer (close to awesome), trigonometry (awesome), harpsichord (awesome), and pink declaration (again awesome) as well as a few miscellaneous flowers of unknown name (some of which were awesome-ish).  Not a single flower seemed to be pollinated without my intervention, so I'm pretty sure they are all deliberate crosses (if that is not too strong a word for my techniques).  At first I worried about rogue genes making their way into my chosen seed parents, but insects rarely seem excited about visiting the daffodil.  Apparently it doesn't have much to offer and natural, fortuitous pollination is infrequent, at least around these parts.

The next stage is to grow the seeds out into tiny bulbs which will then be nursed along into larger bulbs until they flower at which time I get to find out what they look like.  This is a long process by all accounts and it could be 3 to 5 years until the first flowers open.  Not a prospect for the impatient, but age and hard experience have made deep inroads into that aspect of my character, and good riddance.  It takes an average much greater than that provided by 8 seeds to wind up with a new daffodil worth naming and I imagine that it is very unlikely that any of my 70 odd seeds from various parents will produce anything worth adding to the already thousands of named varieties.  Still, that doesn't mean that they won't be fit to look upon or propagate further for personal use or to give to friends.  Then again, maybe one of our 8 seeds will survive the trek to flowering and become the next best-thing-ever.  But its more about the adventure- the promise of novelty and the gamble of genetics.  Its not a gamble that can't be influenced though and at least I get to pick the parents thereby increasing the odds, so who knows…  Besides who doesn't love their buck toothed love child?…. Love Child, now there's a name for a daffodil.  Stick around for five years and maybe you'll find out if our love children are hideous mutants or stunning beauties like their mother.  They will probably be average at best, but I have a feeling I'll keep them around anyway.  (Ok, I've stretched this whole analogy thing thinner than the petal of a substandard daffodil seedling.)