Below you will find several different versions of "how to hybridize or pollinate" one's plants and the method each uses to accomplish that goal. While it may look a bit intimidating, in reality, it's not. In fact it is quite easy and the rewards are immense. Remember these are guidelines that each of these people have found that works for them. You may wish to vary or modify your steps.....whatever works for you is great. It is my hope that all who view this section, tries their hand at this and show us some of your results! Thanks to all who have contributed.
This section is compliments of Buddy Short of the Mike Bernard Acadiana Chapter.
(Click on any photo to see an enlarged version)
1....determine what will bloom today and what combinations are desirable. (Special note should be taken that experience will teach you which flowers are better on either or both sides of the hybridizing process.)
2...selecting a combination that is desirable.
3...spreading the pollen on those stigma pads.
4...the pollination was successful and has created a pod. Note the label that is attached the stem.
5...the matured pod. Normally with some heat a pod should mature in 45 - 60 days.
6...the pod is harvested and the fresh seeds are exposed.
7...samples of Seed Starter mix and Vermiculite
8...those fresh seeds were immediately planted in seed starter mix at a depth of 1/4 inch and covered with Vermiculite. The spray mist bottle is now used to gently water in those seeds.
9...in this case these seeds germinated in about 5 days. The small pots sit in indirect sunlight and are warmed by the morning sun. Some heat is essential.
10....once they have reached aproximately 1 to 2 inches they are moved to individual 4 inch pots. At this stage I am using a 1/2 strength application of water soluble fertilizer.
11...at approximately 4 inches they are repotted to 1 gallons and moved outside to gradually take advantage of the days sunshine. The key word is "gradually."
12...they start to mature. At this point I am treating them like any other plant and they are receiving my normal fertilizing and other maintemance procedures.
13...the plant is now mature enough to produce buds. This could take 6 to 9 months in warmer climates or much longer in areas where temperatures are harder to predict.
14...the excitement of your first bloom. Don't call the newspaper yet.
15...your first bloom fully opens and the wait has all been worthwhile. She's a keeper. Congratulations! Now, you can call the newspaper.
|One final comment to remember......every beautiful hibiscus you see and desire started exactly this way. Maybe through your own hybridizing efforts you might be the one who creates the next Hibiscus of the Year. You never know for sure!|
SEED FACTORY - HYBRIDIZING by Dick Johnson
The production of tropical hibiscus seed in quantity, even or especially in an idea climate such as that of Tahiti, entails a great deal more than perhaps meets the eye. Generally Dick Johnson spends about 2 to 3 hours per day, missing very few, pollinating blooms and harvesting seed pods. Following his routine as below, you will be able to understand not only the effort spent in producing seed, but you will learn the simple but basic procedures, methods and tools used in hybridizing so that you can do so yourselves with your own plants.
I first tour all the open blooms around 9:00 am which provides enough time for most of the blooms to have opened. I then select those I want to use as pollen parents, which to a degree depends on which ones have produced an adequate amount of pollen. I frequently use second day blooms for this purpose, especially for those where the pollen dehisces "opens" in late morning or afternoon. Even in our ambient temperatures the pollen seems to be just as viable on the second day, with some exceptions. For certain cvs, the pollen viability is short, meaning that it dries out sometimes after only a few hours once dehisced. For these varieties, I will store them in the refrigerators, just after the pollen dehisces and take them out the next morning to use as a pollen parent. In addition to having adequate pollen, parents are selected on the basis of many different criteria:
1) In trying to improve on existing colors combinations, I often pollinate blooms of the same color group, pattern type, etc.
2) In trying to find surprise combinations, I will often mate parents to get the greatest diversity.
3) In trying to get certain bloom characteristics, i.e., white rims, or maybe ruffling and tufting, I will select appropriate parents.
4) Likewise for texture and bush characteristics, i.e., I try to find a pollen parent that will compliment or improve upon those qualities in the pod parent.
5) In many cases, I pollinate just to get seed to provide to seed banks so that beginners will have something to learn with. Remember, that even some of the most unlikely of combinations, since modern hybrids have such a diverse gene pool, will have the potential to produce quality seedlings.
Although I sometimes use a bloom, carrying it from one potential pod parent to another, placing its pollen on the pads, it is often a waste of that bloom which itself could serve as a pod parent. Moreover, carrying a number of blooms becomes a burden to be manipulated with the various hybridizing tools one must carry. The above, along with my digital camera, are the basic and simple tools of the trade: the garden log for entry of data, the camera for recording of blooms, the indelible felt pen and paper masking tape for labeling the pollinated blooms and labeling and wrapping the harvested pods so that the seed doesn't fall out, and a container of "Q" tips to collect and apply the pollen. With cotton "Q" tips, each end of which can carry a good supply from one pollen parent, that makes two pollen parents per "Q" tip - one at each end. As I can carry three, one behind each ear and one in my mouth, that makes for the easy transport of 6 pollen parents. The pollen is first collected with the "Q" tip by rubbing or rolling it in the the pollen which allow the pollen to adhere to the cotton tips. Then the pollen on the end of the "Q" tip is simply swabbed on the pads of the potential pollen parent. Once depleted, I return to the pollen parent and accumulate more pollen on the "Q" tip. I mark the "Q" tip support with the initial of each pollen parent so that I can keep them straight. Knowing I have 6 pollen parents, I pre-mark the initials on the paper masking tape along with the date, tear them off and stick them on my arm. In this manner I can pollinate a bloom with the appropriate "Q" tip, remove the corresponding pre-labeled tape and place in on the pollinated bloom. In this fashion I can pollinate a maximum number of blooms in short order. However, as there are always potential pods parents that need special pollen parents based on the desired results, there is always an extended period of time making these special crosses.
Left: Pollen being collected, by rolling the "Q" tip so that it adheres to the cotton tip - note the number of the pollen parent on the "Q" tip and the pre made labels with the initials of the pollen parent parentage (GP for Georgia's Pearl and Jay for Jayella) and date.
Right: Pollen being applied to the pads of the potential pod parent.
Pods will form and reach maturity under suitable conditions of temperature (60 to 90F) in about 6 weeks. However, one a percentage of flowers pollinated will produce pods. With some varieties know to be good seeders, the percentage can be high, while with other they may only very rarely set seed. If the flower drop at it connection point on the stem, the processes has been immediately aborted. If the bloom falls away leaving the calyx, one will generally see a small button like structure, the embryonic seed pod, inside. It may continue to develop but can also aboard at most any stage. Some will go almost full term and fall off or even open with immature white seed inside. These if they turn brown may be viable but more often than not will shrivel.
Left: Is a Rosalind seedling kept for its amazing floriferousness which has turned out to be an even better pod setter than Rosalind itself. It produce pods nearly 100% of the time for each pollination. Below the bloom can be seen pods in various stages of development, 1st and 3rd from left reasonably mature and 2nd just forming with many others in view as well.
Right: a mature pod left on a different plant left too long with much of the seed having already fallen out and only a few left at the very base of each chamber.
While pollinating blooms I invariably run across ripe pods, although when I'm done with pollinating blooms I usually make a special round to search for mature pods. It seems that search as I may, I can return and invariably find pods that have been missed. One can mark branches to locate pods, but in my case, I do it in such quantity, perhaps a hundred or two blooms per day, that it simply seems easier to make thorough searches on a daily basis.
With an indelible felt pen, the end of the tape is marked with the name of the pod parent (if a seedling the cross number and parentage) and the date of harvest. The pod is then wrapped in such a manner as to prevent the seed from falling out, and the pod placed in my pocket.
At the beginning of the following week, the one week old seed is processed, meaning that it is removed from the pod and placed in a hermetically sealed zip lock bags with the date of pollination, date of harvest, pod and pollen parent and the number of seeds contained written on the outside of the bag. This is done at the rate of about 20 pods per hour. With an average week producing 75 to 150 pods, this takes roughly 3 to 8 hours to accomplish. It isn't as boring as watching paint dry, but except for the mental anticipation of what each cross might produce, it is a rather mundane and unrewarding job. After the weeks supply of harvested pods has been processed, the above information is entered in a data base in my computer at which time a cross number is written on each zip lock bag, trying to keep them in rough chronological order based on the harvest date. This takes another hour or two. If I let the pods pile up as happened last year, this can amount toa couple of weeks worth of 8 hours a day work to process the refrigerated pods. Once the seed is thoroughly dried by leaving the zip lock bags open for an additional week in ambient conditions, the bags are then zipped shut and the seed is placed in the refrigerator. Handled in this manner it appears that seed will last a very long time, perhaps a couple of years with vitality diminishing slowly over that period.
It takes one hour to remove the seed from 20 pods (on blue cover) and place inside and label the zip lock bags (on red cover). The 3 bags of refrigerated seed in the large zip lock bags above, will require many 8 hour days to process.
My sincerest thanks go to Mr. Joe Ludick for allowing our chapter to copy some of his insights into hybridizing onto our site. Please visit Joe's website:
Keep Records and Breed towards a Goal:
We heard that a fellow in Punta Gorda (Fl), named Harry Goulding was turning out a lot of good seedlings -- in fact, he was taking over from a fellow named Rittenour who we had previously visited while passing through the Daytona Area. We jumped in the car one Saturday morning and headed for the west coast.
We found Harry in his shed behind his house working with his seeds, as it was time to think of planting. After a few cold beers, he explained to us about his "stud book", a 5x10 hard cover notebook in which he kept records each year. He showed us pages of all his crosses and the results. He first advised us that "a throwaway seedling is as important as a keeper. If a parent keeps throwing throwaways, then throw away the parent-- regardless of how great a seed setter it might be."
Secondly, Harry advised that "you should always have a goal in mind and breed toward it." When we first talked with him he was striving for a gold and along came Devil's Gold. Shortly thereafter, he wanted a large double that he could name for his wife, and he got Lovely Rea, a seven time best of show winner. Before leaving, he advised us that you "only hybridize in Florida between October 15 and April 15". He and one of his friends tried 1500 crosses during the middle of summer and got zilch.
Use Good Bushes:
Next, we traveled to Vero Beach, Fl, to visit with a couple of Harry's protégés, Norman Brubaker and Vance Walker. They were following Harry's advice and were trying for a brown bloom and after a few years, they came up with Beverly B. Their advice to Roberta and me was to "use only well foliated and erect bushes as parents. Poor bushes like Grey Lady, Cameron et al may give pretty blooms, but the bushes and frequency of bloom will not keep them around too long."
Mark Your Crosses:
Our next sojourn was to Palm Beach to visit Carl Wilbanks. Carl advised us on how to mark our crosses. He used a 1x3 white price tag on a string. With a marking pen, he wrote in the cross and then looped the tag around the stem of the bloom. If the cross failed, he marked it off and used the tag again. He also used small 1x3 envelopes --that I believe are used by stamp collectors-- to store his seeds. Author's note: don't forget a moth ball or two to keep out the insects.
Fertilize All Year:
We also drove to Ft. Myers to visit Gordy Fore. Gordy didn't do much hybridizing but he stressed bright colors in his harem such as Blooming Blazes and Red Bomb. As All A Glow was often used as a parent in his crosses, he got a lot of red, orange, and yellow in his seedlings. Gordy advised, "Don't cut down on fertilizing when the show season is over. If you are going to hybridize, you need healthy plants to expect full seed pods."
Use Healthy Plants and Distribute Your Blooms:
Our next stop was to Dr. Jack's (Doc Hoffman). Doc kept very precise records and stressed the importance of using healthy, well foliated plants when making crosses. He seemed to think that the blooms low on the north side of a bush will set seeds better than other blooms.
He also suggested that if you are going to be away from your plants for a while, "take gauze bandage and cut in into squares and put it around the pod. Secure it with a tie wrap around the stem. The pod will ripen and if it falls off, the seed will be inside." Doc's final suggestion was, "if you get a bloom that you like, whether it wins a show or not, get someone to graft a dozen plants for you and get them out to all the growers and exhibitors in the area. Sometimes our babies have a short life span and if no one else grows your cultivar but you, it will be lost." Author's note: for more information on healthy plants, see Charles Black's article on Wilt and Dieback disease in hibiscus.
Hybridize Every Bloom:
Lastly, we visited Gordon and Evelyn Howard, newcomers to the AHS. Gordon's main advice was to "hybridize every bloom". Every bush in his yard had 20-30 tags on it. He also said that the morning hours were the best time for pollen to be saved.
Enjoy Your Blooms:
With all the advice we had received, Roberta and I started our stud book in 1976. Roberta was a stickler for putting everything down in the stud book. In 1977, we had our first seedling that we named Thelma Knap (Mildred Rutter x Fire Engine). It was a large, red double. Fritze and Suzzan Rutsky got a gold with it every time they showed.
Since the only bloom with a white eye at that time was Lemon Chiffon, we decided to try for a bloom with a solid color petals and a white eye. Three years later, we got Pro Bono (Grey Lady x Cameron), a miniature deep lavender with a white eye. It was an outstanding bloom but had weak parents. We didn't get wood out to the growers and the bush was not strong enough to survive.
Our next white-eyed bloom was Rehneric, a metallic yellow with a bright white eye. It was a good bush but a poor bloomer. The Beacon is a deep lavender with a white eye and hybridized more recently, Jupiter Light is a medium red with a white eye. However, the jury is still out on this one!
I am still looking for a bloom with brown petals and white dots a la Mini Skirt- and of course I'm looking for one that I can name Roberta.