Q. How important is it to have a hybridizing goal?

That depends to some extent on what you mean by having a hybridizing goal. Saying that it is important to have a hybridizing goal is a clich‚ that is easy to repeat, but not easy to define. As a general rule you will eventually need to have some hybridizing goals, but it's not necessary to have one when you first start hybridizing. Look back at when you were first learning how to drive a car. You got into the car and drove around. You weren't concerned about where you were going. After you learned how to drive and got your driving license you then set out driving to a specific destination. It's basically the same with daylily hybridizing.

If you are going to start a hybridizing program you first have to learn the techniques of hybridizing - how to make crosses, save pollen, collect seed, germinate seeds, grow the seedlings to maturity and then figure out what to do with the seedlings. This is a learning process that everyone has to go through and it can take from three to five years. Also, at this time you need to explore the daylily germplasm base. Make a number of different crosses and see what you get. Don't get too excited about setting any hybridizing goals at this time.

During this early stage of developing a hybridizing program start to figure out what it is you like in daylilies. Do you like doubles, spiders, fat and round types, small flowered or large flowered, particular colors, eye patterns, ruffles, edges and any other number of traits that you may think of. Also, look at what is being introduced by other hybridizers and see if you can come up with something different you would like to see. There is little sense in trying to hybridize double daylilies if you don't like double daylilies, and there is going to be a lot of competition with more established hybridizers if you hybridize the same stuff they are introducing.

You also need to consider some other factors before formulating some hybridizing goals. Your really need to honestly evaluate your own visual skills. Go to the garden of some hybridizers and look at their seedlings and see if you can evaluate the seedlings. Some people have good visual skills while others will need some help. If you feel you have to go to judges training to figure out how to evaluate seedlings, then you probably will want to consider another hobby besides daylily hybridizing. Also, consider your resources and the reasons you are hybridizing. Is it just a hobby thing or are you looking at something bigger. Do you have a small city lot or many acres of land to work with? Do you have a good job that you like, or would you be willing to ditch the job if you discover that you have good hybridizing skills?

You can now start to formulate some hybridizing goals in terms of various traits you would like to see combined into one plant. Whatever goals you set should be goals that are on top of some goals that all hybridizers should be working for. As a general rule all hybridizers should be working to produce disease resistant daylilies that are vigorous and don't need to be pampered. Plants should also have nice foliage, a trait that doesn't get enough attention. However, there are some other factors that novice hybridizers either don't consider or give short change to when setting hybridizing goals.

When setting hybridizing goals it's really important to consider where you live as this will have significant impact on what some of your breeding goals will be. For example, if you live in the deep South then high bud count isn't important, but rebloom is important; but if you live in the cold north then high bud count and winter hardiness are important. If you live in the Pacific Northwest then cool weather preformance will be critical. Figure out what goals you need to consider because they are imposed by your climate. This will be necessary if you are to be successful at the regional level.

The one area most novice hybridizers fail to consider is the market for which they are hybridizing daylilies and where their customers will be located. Most people who start hybridizing daylilies are in effect hybridizing for the speciality, specimen and show market. However, there is also the backyard gardener who is not a daylily connoisseur, but who likes daylilies. These gardeners are often looking for something different then the specimen plants that connoisseurs seek. There is also the wholesale landscape market with its own demands. You also have to hybridize daylilies that are suitable for your customers growing conditions. If your customers are in the cold North, then your daylilies better be winter hardy; but if your customers are in the deep South, then it doesn't serve you well to be hybridizing strongly deciduous daylilies. Now, you are almost ready to get serious about setting some goals, but first there is one more thing to consider - production.

Most daylily hybridizers are hybridizing for the specimen, high end market and usually only plan on selling a limited number of plants. Production factors generally don't get much consideration. If, however, you are aiming for a bigger market, then you need to consider factors that lower production costs and make it easy to market your daylilies. For example, daylilies for the landscape market should be able to be propagated easily using standard propagation techniques, the fans should be easy to separate and the new fans that form should form off to the side so that the plant forms a loose clump.

Now, you can start setting some goals for yourself. These goals will give direction to your hybridizing program and help you in selecting the seedlings to use to achieve your goals. Your hybridizing goals should be more of a generalized statement then any specific, firm objective, at least in the early stages. A goal should help to give focus to your hybridizing program so you know where you want to go, much as you focus on the road ahead of you when driving a car while knowing where you eventually want to go to. If you don't watch the road ahead of you, you will end up in the ditch - the same can happen in a hybridizing program. Your hybridizing goal tells you where you want to go, but you then have to focus on that goal if you are to be successful.

A hybridizing goal should really be a goal and not some limitation to your hybridizing program. For example, saying that your goal is to hybridize small flowered daylilies is more of a limitation to your hybridizing program then a real goal. It's not necessarily bad to limit your hybridizing program, but you still need some goals to work for within the limitation you impose.

A hybridizing goal should also be realistic. For example, a hybridizer in the Northeast can decide to hybridize for winter hardy evergreen daylilies. This is fairly easy to achieve, but why bother? Customers in the North are not going to be fond of evergreen daylilies, even if they are winter hardy, and customers in the deep South aren't going to be impressed that the daylilies will survive 30 degrees below zero.

Exactly what goals you want to breed for are up to you - neither I nor anyone else will be forced to buy your plants! There is a lot of genetic variability within the daylily germplasm pool that is not being used and there still is a lot of work that can be done with many traits. The important thing to keep in mind is to not get so focused on a specific trait that you end up with severe tunnel vision. It's always necessary to keep in mind that you have to breed for the total plant, not just a specific trait.

Many, many people get the calling to hybridize, but few make it to the top. Set the right goals, focus on those goals and you too may climb up the ladder.