I have been blessed in more ways than I can understand or deserve. I would like to thank The American Hosta Society and the Eunice Fisher nomination committee for this honor. But most of all, a very heartfelt thank you to you who are in attendance today, for without your support, your purchasing our plants, no hybridizer is truly successful. I would like to share my story with you.
During my junior and senior years of high school I had the opportunity to work at Kingwood Center, a horticultural estate in Mansfield, Ohio, and my appreciation of plants began. Little did I realize that the director of Kingwood, who hired me, was a founding father of the AHS! Years later, Mardy and I entered our Blueberry Patch farm era. We enjoyed the u-pick blueberry farm with its associated greenhouse sales of perennials and annuals for almost 25 years. At the Patch, I started my hybridizing interest. I planted OP [open pollinated] seeds from Hosta that weren’t sold in the greenhouse operation, in labeled flats. My germination rate was 4 or 5 green seedlings in 4 trays planted. I had a lot to learn.
I purchased a complete set of AHS Journals and read every article pertaining to growing seeds and hybridizing. Thank goodness we had Drs. Kevin Vaughn and Jim Wilkins fully explaining the process. My first registrations were in 2007—took me just 17 years to get there, definitely a slow learner.
A day in the life of a hybridizer is always exciting. Pick the parents, pollinate the moms (3,000 to 5,000 crosses per year), collect the seeds, plant the seeds (60,000 to 100,000 per year), cull the seedlings, plant the surviving 1,500 seedlings in raised beds, look in 2 years, look in 4 years, replant to trellis and if deemed worthy in two more years plants get a name. The short version, 100,000 seeds translates to 3 to 5 plants per year as a named cultivar after 6 to 8-years.
I need to mention the Convention of 2005 in Ohio. Mark Zilis, during the auction, was one of two highest bidders who got to choose 20-25 of my seedlings we were growing at the Blueberry Patch Farm, which we soon were to vacate. Mark’s eye served him very well that day as one of my seedlings that he chose, named and marketed has now been chosen as Hosta of the Year 2018, H. ‘World Cup’. Truly an honor. Thank you, Mark.
Over at First Look a while ago, they held a naming contest for another seedling of mine that I had given away. The naming contest winner turned out to be none other than Mildred Seaver, the Queen herself. She named it H. ‘Aventurine’. How cool is that to have another winner of this award, the Eunice Fisher Award, name a seedling of mine.
I met several other hybridizers at the Great Lakes Regional annual spring event Hosta College and FOoSF, Fraternal Order of Seedy Fellows, was formed. The members of that group: Alttara Scheer, Stuart Asch, Kent Terpening, Monty Carlson, Ron Livingston, Bev and Dave Stegeman, Indiana Bob (Bob Balitewicz), Virginia Skaggs, and our leader Brian Skaggs. Some of their creations are H. ‘Maya Kingsnake’, ‘Boondocks’, ‘Skylight’, ‘China Girl’ and of course ‘Empress Wu’. I cannot tell you how much fun and how valuable this group has been. We have shared seeds, breeding stock, finished plants, information, ideas and most of all special friendship. Thank you FOoSF members.
First Look is a hybridizer’s dream showplace. The only hostas permitted are seedlings and sports, all unregistered and unnamed. Categories are gold, green, blue, streaked, margined, centered and sports. The first time I entered I ended up with an honorable mention. My next trip in 2011 I took 4 plants. Meg Dalton and Kent Terpening, the check-in chairs, found several reasons the plants didn’t qualify, “Just kidding,” they said! This First Look was special for me. Best in Blue, Best in Gold, Best in Streaked and Best in Show with Green by both judges and the public. But hold on—upon splitting and growing in the ground that beautiful gold, ‘Corn’ I called it, a ‘Sum and Substance’ seedling, just never grew and looked the same. The blue, once split and planted in the ground, literally blew up. However, the green one became H. ‘Leapin’ Lizard’. Hybridizers forage on.
I must pause for a moment to acknowledge that all hybridizers have mentors and one that has taken many hybridizers under his wing is Bob Solberg. Bob, I thank you for all your countless efforts in helping me become a better hybridizer.
In the entire hosta world I have not met more kindred souls than Van Wade and his wife Shirley. Trips to Van’s nursery, too many to count, his untold generosity, his dedication to Hosta and his willingness to assist me are immeasurable. His interest in hybridizing and bringing the newest cultivars to Ohio are in his own right legendary. He offered to share his bounty with me on so many occasions than I can’t count them. He too was one of my mentors. Thank you Van and Shirley.
Mardy’s dedication to my hobby is unbelievable. Picking breeding plants, sorting seed packets, evaluating seedlings, always weeding the trial beds and bringing on the names are but a few of the things she brings to our hobby. This is why we share the registrations.
My primary direction currently is in tetraploids and reds. I’m trying to bust the leaf form which is primarily H. ‘Patriot’ shaped leaves. I have a blush plant that looks exciting.
It’s time to turn to selecting a hosta, which is like traveling down memory lane. We considered: H. ‘Singin’ the Blues’, ‘On the Border’, ‘Lady Amy’, ‘Megan’s Angel’, ‘Pebble Creek’, ‘Leapin’ Lizard’, ‘Sand Storm’, ‘Blue Tooth’, ‘Banana Split’, ‘World Cup’, ‘Brutus’, ‘1st and Ten’.
We have teased you enough I’m sure you have figured out our choice. I began this speech that I have been blessed beyond belief. The mother of our chosen plant was ‘Halcyon’. The pollen donor: a seedling out of ‘Breeder’s Choice’ that we nicknamed ‘Spoons’. Named at first glance by Mardy and our choice to be recognized: H. ‘Cup of Grace’.