Popular Gardening and Fruit Growing 6: 66-67 (1890)
Joys and Disappointments of the Hybridizer.
The production of new varieties of plants, vegetables, fruits, etc., by crossing and hybridizing is a favorite line of work with many progressive horticulturists, and altogether an interesting subject of study. But the path of the hybridizer is not always strewn with Roses, especially with such as are free from thorns, and the reward in brilliant results, or the pay financially, for the labor, is frequently not forthcoming.
Mr. E. S. Carman told a very instructive story concerning his joys and disappointments as a hybridizer at the last meeting of the Society of American Florists.
The subject will be made much more simple, Mr. Carman said, if we think of the stamens as "fathers" and the pistils as "mothers," and the petals and corollas as houses. These members do not always live together in the same house or flower, so the male in many cases must do his courting by proxy, as by insects, wind and water. Again, the male and female may not be in love at the same time, as the anthers may or may not be in condition to shed their pollen at the time when the pistils are ready to receive it. These things are accounted and arranged for by nature, and in attempting to do nature's work in crossing one must also understand these peculiar conditions.
As to the tools required for the work, all that is wanted is a small pen-knife, a sharp pair of scissors, a tooth pick and several sheets of tissue paper for carrying the pollen, flowers, etc. In undertaking the task resolve that no guess work will be allowed; do this matter up thoroughly, so that when a cross is made and progeny is secured we may be absolutely certain as to the parentage.
Do not make the mistake of supposing that all you attempt will be successful as you will have to bear many disappointments. From 2,000 seedling Potatoes, which I at one time had, none are left, as they gradually dwindled down to nothing. Often in our crosses the resulting seed are imperfect, as when I crossed Geranium sanguineum (female) with a Pelargonium I got only shells instead of seeds.
Petunias of the finest strains were sown, and the best flowers crossed; these then produced the most remarkable Petunia flowers I have ever seen, some being 7 inches in diameter. In crossing these large ones, however, we got but few seeds, which in turn, strange as it seems, produced only rosettes of green leaves, there being no trace whatever of a flower.
For five or six seasons we worked to improve the Pea by crossing, but were at length discouraged because the strains could not be established. Again, I endeavored to secure from Corn twice as many ears as were raised ordinarily, and here is a stalk [showing one] five feet high in which you can see that there is at the axil of each leaf an embryo ear, seven in all. Here my intentions were defeated because the flowers at the top could not bear pollen enough to fertilize as many ears, so that my object as yet has not been fully attained.
Among many other things I have tried crossing the white Weigela and bush Honeysuckle, Catalpa and Trumpet vine, Currant and Gooseberry, Apple and Pear, Cherry and Plum, different kinds of Grapes in the hope of getting superior sorts, but all in vain. Nothing of importance has resulted; yet do not understand me to say that everything has failed, for this is far from being the case.
Fifteen years ago I crossed Wheat and Rye, in the attempt to secure a new and valuable grain. The first result were some seed of which ten germinated. Through these fifteen years of work a hybrid grain has been secured that is 15-16ths Rye; the seeds at first were nearly all sterile, but they seem to be improving in fertility Some of these grains have already been introduced by seedsmen, and others will be in the future. The kernels are large, early as Rye and perfectly hardy.
Crosses of Blackberry and Raspberry resulted in mixtures of which some were intermediate, others resembling either parent. Whether they will amount to anything commercially remains to be seen; many of them bear flowers but set no fruit.
In my work with Roses, I have in the past made no attempt to produce any except from the pink Rosa rugosa as the mother and Harrison's Yellow as the male, both being very hardy, the former bearing single flowers and the latter semi-double ones. Most of the seedlings obtained died from mildew, only, thirty surviving. Of these the most resemble the male in foliage, the flowers were small, and all had either light or dark fruit, there being no yellow or white whatever.
Some of the plants bear flowers so double that they cannot open; such as show rugosa blood have semi-double blooms, which so nearly resemble Gen. Jacqueminot that they cannot be distinguished except by the foliage. They bloom during the entire summer, but that only so small a proportion of the seedlings should resemble a parent having the extremely strong characteristics of rugosa is a most strange and unexpected result.
The present season I have secured 3,000 seedlings of Rosa rugosa (female) and the yellow tea rose. A disappointment has been felt in that the children of so rugged a mother should resemble her so little in constitution as they do, being weakly and easily destroyed by mildew; the seeds also are not virile, having but little vitality.
Rubus phoenicolasius is a splendid plant, that is worthy of a place in every garden. The berry is enclosed in a calyx which is covered with viscid hairs, which protect them from worms; the fruit has a spicy flavor that is quite pleasant to many people. The plant has been crossed with R. rugosa, but the results, as yet, cannot be known.