The Hemerocallis Journal 17(1):36-37 (1963)
Where Did You Come From Dorothea
Out of the Nowhere into the Here?

Mary Lester
Atlanta, Ga.

Did Dorothea come from the blue Hosta? This question has been asked many times and I wish I knew the answer. Not being a plant Scientist I only know what I have learned from experience, by trial and error. This I do know. Back in 1940 I read in Dr. Stout's book on DAYLILIES in which he stated that the Hosta belonged to the daylily family, as the blooms opened only for one day and then closed. So I decided to try to cross the two. Naturally I used the palest yellow of the day which was Nesmith's STARLIGHT, the first one that was ruffled. Many attempts were made and failed. One morning I tried very early before the insects were out and then covered the bloom with a bag and it was left on for two days or until I was sure that the bloom had dropped off. There was a seed pod although it looked more like a gall on an oak tree and had only two seed in it. One seed failed to come up. The other grew into a plant with regular foliage, a yellow flower but it had an eyezone with several shades of heliotrope which led me to believe that there was blue in it.

Naturally I consulted a top authority and was told that it could have been a false hybrid or it could have pollinated itself. At that time there were only various shades of yellow from pale to apricot and reds of shades from cherry on to Dr. Stout's THERON, a dark red or near black, but none with signs of blue. All this made the belief stronger that the hosta had taken effect. I suppose I wanted to believe it but could not prove it. Carl Betscher said that he had successfully made the cross but ill health stopped his work with it.

So the long, long trail began to get blue from it. The first seedlings showed some magenta and then one seedling was named BLUE DANUBE only to be discarded for a better one to which the name was applied. I had an argument ready in case anyone said it wasn't blue—that neither was the Danube. After twenty-three years of generations from this line, I am now just beginning to get a few which are good enough to keep. It has been a much greater challenge than working on any other color even though I realize that visitors prefer pinks, reds and yellows. When they begin to exclaim over a lilac one, then I will be satisfied. People have told me I was color blind because I could see lavender and perhaps it is only in my mind but I won't stop working on it. In working for lavender we are going to have as much of a challenge as the Iris breeders in trying to get a true blue. There are so many shades of lilac and that color is already here but I have seen no lavenders. Dusty old rose or a rose with a touch of magenta in it is not lavender. I think that these colors are going to be so variable according to the soil, its moisture content and sunlight, that we will have many disappointments on the days we want to show off our new discoveries.

I am thrilled every time I hear of someone else working on "lavenders" because we are sure to get them. Will we want them when we get them? They are harder to place in a color scheme than other colors. Newcomers to the daylily world want only yellows until they study them enough to really love the daylily for itself and not just because their landscape architect told them to use only pale yellows and "be sure that they are the same variety."

To get back to DOROTHEA, as I said before I am not a plant scientist and I am not sure of anything. The only reason for this is that I was asked to write it. After I was told that I had made an error in thinking the cross was true, I began to doubt whether this was fiction, fantasy or fact but now that the offsprings or latest generations are showing up with foliage fully two inches wide, I am beginning to believe again. Wouldn't you?