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3 Ways to Make a New Plant Science of Gardening
 

Hybridizing at Home

This activity is all about reproduction. (If you aren’t all that familiar with plant sex, you might want to have a look at The Secret Lives of Flowers.)

If you are a patient gardener, consider growing your own hybrid. Bearded iris, a very common garden plant, is easy to work with, since the plant parts are big and easy to find. The flowers are also quite large, so color variations in the blossoms can be noticeable, and a plant will grow to flowering size in 3-5 years.

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The first step is to pick your female parent plant, and cut off the male parts on one of its flowers before pollen has begun to appear. Then you’ll need a male parent plant with lots of pollen. You can cut off the entire flower from the male parent and simply dust it against the pistils of your chosen mother—or you can transfer the pollen with a soft paintbrush.

Hybridists will traditionally cover the mother plant with a paper bag to prevent any other pollen from bastardizing the flower. Bagging the bloom also makes it easier to collect the seeds when the flower has matured. A most important step, often neglected by amateurs, is to label the stem of the pollinated flower with the names of both parents. Tie-on tin or copper labels will hold up the best, and you can use the same label to mark the flat where you grow the resulting seeds.

Other garden flowers easy to hybridize are daylilies, true lilies, and roses. Rayford Reddell’s book Growing Good Roses has a very easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to producing rose hybrids at home.

Will fame and fortune follow? Just keep in mind that professional rose growers often do 100,000 crosses before they wind up with a hybrid worth offering for sale.

 

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