Leading the way with Dianthus
A nice way to while away a few hours and increase your knowledge is to read through some of the old year books issued by the British National Carnation Society. I have been doing this recently just looking at the articles on Border Carnations. In the year books I looked through there were many articles to whet my appetite. I will not dwell on the show reports, which are interesting in themselves, but give you some examples of what was being written about 30 years or so ago.
In the 1970 Year Book, Stanley Stroud wrote about raising thoroughbreds and the reason for doing this - saying that cultivars will not last forever and that, on hybrids, virus will take its toll. The aim should be to improve on what is available today and it could be quite challenging to achieve this. Stanley goes onto say he only uses seed produced by his own plants and that the parent plants should be the best of their kind and be healthy. Pollen should be transferred from bloom to bloom on the selected parent plants and to cross the 2 parents every time pollen is available and until the petals fade and wither, you will then get seed. Once seed is obtained the resultant seedlings are used in the breeding programme as to produce something entirely new and bred by yourself, you must start backcrossing. According to Stanley it takes three interesting years to develop your own strain starting with names cultivars:-
Year one cross Tom with Mary = TM
Year two cross Tom with TM = TTM
cross Mary with TM = MTM
Year three cross TTM with MTM = MTMTTM
This is the start of your own strain, from this point on the seedling will be your own strain and exclusive, although the characteristics of the parental lineage should be noted.
When raising new cultivars Stanley goes onto say that any new bloom should not be viewed through rose tinted spectacles but the raiser should be objective and also seek the advice of two or more good growers when choosing varieties to grow on and choose only the very best and only then when they are better or have better characteristics than the existing cultivars.
It pays to keep a record of your crossings. Hybridisation is interesting and rewarding and it is satisfying to know that you are helping to maintain a race of beautiful flowers, some of which will be the best of their kind and standards by which newer ones are judged. What Stanley wrote in 1970 is still true today.
Preparing for pollination. Left:Filaments and styles (petals omitted).
Centre: Bud stage for emasculation.
Right: Styles ready for pollinating.