Friday, July 19, 2013

Color differences in Seed-grown Trumpet Lilies

Lilium regale variance

Some lilies are known as "Strains", having been grown from seed for diversity and low cost production.  The second or third year will find bulbs that have divided on their own, plus the grower may plant back any stem bulblets produced in that time, adding several "Clones" to the group. Over time, the strongest and most eager bulbs will dominate.

Lilium regale
The white lily pictured is Lilium regale, the top photo shows a young stem,  in the 2nd year of growth from seed.  The two bottom photos are part of the mix and  even if they had been grown from the same pod, there can be slight differences in the petal "reverse" color.  Although a particularly warm summer may fade the pink coloration so that it almost fades away, these two were grown side by side in the same row.

Yearling bulb from the 'Golden Splendor' Strain

Heirloom Trumpets

The highly scented 'Golden Splendor', 'Pink Perfection' and 'Copper King' are all lilies that were at one time "clones", meaning each bulb was genetically alike and without variance.  The seed stock that produced them was from a group of trumpet lilies purchased by Jan DeGraaf in the early 1960's from Mr. LeVern Freimann of Bellingham, WA. 

Yearling bulbs from the 'Copper King' Strain

Further refinements
Jan de Graaf crossed the most promising seedlings back and forth until finally producing a reliable and uniform group of lilies that did show some differences between the flowers, but had very similar colors.

'Golden Splendor' Strain were the yellow to gold trumpets with a pink to brown petal reverse.  'Moonlight' Strain had  green petal reverses, 'Copper King' Strain tended to be yellow-melon to orange with a dark reverse and 'Pink Perfection' Strain was in all shades of light to dark pink to near purple.

All of the old-fashioned Trumpet flowers, except for those of 'Golden Splendor' and 'Moonlight' Strains tended to fade after a few days in hot, direct sun.  The darkest pink to purple clones made up the 'Midnight' Strain, which still would become lighter with age, but overall remained the most colorful of these older lilies.

The original clones were kept for seed production, under number, and were not released.  After Cebeco Lilies of Aurora, OR - now gone as well - purchased all the breeding stock, a few of the important breeding clones (seed parents) were finally made available to other hybridizers.

Tiny white edge on a seedling, will it fade away?

Making new selections
Currently, it appears that all of those important seed parents have now been lost for commerce, but when individual seedlings showing the original genetic characteristics are found, they are tagged for future use.

For example, the purple seedling on the right had a tiny white edge upon first opening, something that could easily be missed during a quick inspection.  Will it's overall color fade quickly in the sun because the layer of color is thin or will it be lighter next year?  Those are questions that need to be answered before a selection is made for further study.  This particular plant was tagged, because even though the edge disappeared, the dark purple color muted to an evenly shaded, dusty lavender-purple and the overall shape of the flowers was quite pleasing.  Only another two years will tell how tall the mature stem might be.

Future availability
Although general mixes of 'Golden Splendor' Strain and 'Pink Perfection' Strain are offered from time to time, 'Copper King' and 'Midnight' are being slowly increased and will not be available again for another year or two.  The brighter colors of all these old-fashioned Trumpet lilies are best shown in the highly acidic soil and cooler summers of the Western States, in the more alkaline areas of the Midwest and East, colors will not be as intense, even during cooler summers.  For the Midwestern states, we recommend 'Eudoxa' for melon color with shorter, sturdier stems, and 'Bellsong' for a good, heat-tolerant pink.


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