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*this intro was presented at one of the MRLS Zoom Meetings - the Video to go with it with be added to the website soon***


A Legacy of OTs and Tetra Asiatics from Dr. Bob Griesbach By Arthur Evans (with his permission)

It began when I attended the 1987 Show in Portland.  Very soon after being blown away at the Portland Show, I was determined to learn all I could and perhaps even become a NALS Show Judge, myself!

Calvin Helsley, who still treasures his wheelbarrow full of silver and crystal he won at Regional and International Shows, taught a Judging School for our infant group, the Ozark Regional Lily Society.  The next season, I started hopping around the Regional shows to do my internship as a Student Judge.

The hybridizing bug hit me in the mid-80s.  There’s no cure and no vaccine, but as obsessions go, it’s not too bad.  It probably saved me from golf, or even worse.  The late Asiatics were a pretty rough lot at that time, so my first hybridizing goal was to improve the selection of varieties which closed out the season.  I never got anything even passable from Yellow Blaze.  Nutmegger had a lot more going for it in addition to the recessive color yellow.  It had a big inflorescence, lateness, and excellent resistance to viruses and Fusarium. Some of my best Asiatic seedlings have come from Dr. Bob Griesbach’s tetraploid conversion of “The Mighty Nutmegger”, as Julius Wadekamper used to call it.  About that time, Dr. Bob released his ‘Leslie Woodriff’, named for another hero of mine, along with a bulb of a Tetraploid Aurelian trumpet, for the impressive price of $60 dollars.  When they arrived, I thought “maybe I could separate just one scale of ‘Leslie’ as a spare in case I lost the main bulb. Sure enough, the small, blooming size bulb of ‘Leslie’ fell apart in my hands, leaving a handful of scales and a bare basal plate.  Dang! I soaked the scales in a weak bleach solution while I made up a batch of Lily Multiplication medium from Carolina Biological Supply.  After the tubes cooled down, I planted each scale in a tube and crossed my fingers.  Luckily, I was able to salvage 9 bulblets from my clumsy mistake.  Suddenly, I was two years behind, but I had more bulbs to work with, and I did work them pretty hard.  That was the foundation of my OT breeding.

It did not take long to realize how infertile those early OT crosses would be, but I had heard the ‘Big Guys’ talk about embryo culture to save embryos which could live temporarily in the imperfect seed, but then die because it did not have the life support system of an endosperm around it.  The next year, the NALS International Show was back in Portland again, and Judith Freeman taught a hands-on Embryo Culture course.  I was on it like a duck on a June bug!  I had the very great good fortune to team up with another of my Lily heroes, LeVern Freimann.  Freeman and Freimann, you couldn’t ask for a better pair of mentors!

My wife, Crow, built a plywood transfer case to do the surgery in for my birthday, and I was in high cotton.  She’s also handy with electrical wiring and a guitar.  She wrote and sang a song of lost love, “Looking for Edith Cecilia”, referencing the near loss of a charming but rot prone Asiatic of that name.  Not a dry eye in the Awards Banquet.

There were more downs than ups, because we live in the woods where lilies fall prey to all manner of hungry critters. But, there were some successes too, 2003 was one of those golden years when the stems came up as big as shovel handles, there was no late frost, and nothing ate them.  As the buds developed, I thought,” You are good, you are novel, and we are going to The Big Show in Minneapolis!” .  ‘Crowbird’ won The Isabella Preston Award for Best in Show, and ‘Lady Liberty’ won the Hornback Award for greatest advance in hybridizing.  I love it when seedlings win all the marbles! That tells me we are making progress.  Unfortunately, it was several years before either one showed any fertility.  Johan Mak says he has also seen that strange early infertility which later resolved into at least modest fertility.  His new introduction, ‘Icelandic Sunrise’, did that, as well.  It was 7 years before it made any seed at all.  I’m glad it sorted itself out and gave me a dozen embryos as a pod parent with my ‘Lady Liberty’ a year ago.  They are slow in culture. Should be ready for pots this summer.

I was very sad when Bob Griesbach gave up his great garden in Delavan, Wisconsin, and moved to Florida.  That’s serious culture shock for a gardener.  All that wonderful breeding stock was at risk. Thankfully, Jeff Stiller and his local lily society organized a major rescue effort to save 50 years’ worth of hybridizing work.  He even invented a new “turning fork” to make the “Big Dig” go faster.  Jeff distributed bulbs to people who he thought could make good use of them in further breeding.  He sent me 4 big boxes of Asiatics, Trumpets, and OTs.  When I saw that treasure, the vegetable garden was history!  With the bulbs I inherited from Dr. Griesbach and Calvin Helsley, it filled up my small garden, so I no longer have room to grow out the seed I produce.  What to do?  I live on a rocky ridge line with almost no soil, so I buy new soil for any new bed, and I am completely out of room.  Several hundred year old oaks have already been sacrificed for more sun, but I’m not cutting any more of them. My mission now is to make the best crosses I can with the best Tetra seedlings from Dr. Griesbach and my own Tetra Asiatic and OT seedlings, and the diploid Aurelian seedlings from Calvin Helsley.  Of course, I try out new cultivars in large pots.  If a new cultivar is not better in its second season in my garden, it is compost.  No room at Possum Holler for malingerers.

For the last several years I have sent 95% of my seed crop to the NALS Seed Exchange.  I’m doing what I can to carry on Bob’s excellent work, and now I am asking you good growers to help me carry on his breeding lines.  I sent David Whaley a big box of seed from promising crosses a short time ago.  Most are small lots because I had a Botrytis outbreak, which damaged half the leaves on most Asiatics.

It was hard to hold back, but I made only one pollination on each semi-healthy stem.  When the Seed Exchange opens, grab what you like quickly, because the best will be gone right away.

So, what am I breeding with, and where am I headed with these lines?  The Griesbach Asiatics are all 1a and 1b orientations in a nice range of colors and forms.  Even his average seedlings are very nice.  The OTs are also quite varied in colors and forms, and most were vigorous at first, but my garden harbors almost every known virus, plus Botrytis, Fusarium, and Rhizoctonia.  Mom weeds out the weaklings for me, especially since I seldom spray for Botrytis or aphids. I don’t breed with any that are declining.  The pinks and reds are more prone to show color-breaking virus than other colors.  Silver lining?  The OTs are not as delicious to Short-tailed voles and Deer mice as the Asiatics are.  Of course the voles always go for your best seedlings first.  That’s Murphy’s First Law of lily hybridizing.

I decided that Bob Griesbach’s Asiatics and OTs already had excellent colors and forms, so why mix them up with diverse types and get a mish-mash of unpredictable seedlings and probably lesser quality?  I’m not fighting his colors.  I am trying to refine them.  Most of my crosses are with similar colors, to consolidate and enlarge those gene pools.  If you want to make diverse crosses with the seed I produce, fine, but right now, I am preserving a legacy for the next generation of amateur hybridizers.

When you look at the crosses in David Whaley’s Seed Exchange list, my notation is fairly intuitive.

GROT – 000 = Griesbach OT seedling , with the seedling number.

GRTr – 000 = Griesbach Tetra Trumpet, with the seedling number.

GRAs – 000 = Griesbach Tetra Asiatic, with the seedling number.

AEAs – 000 = Art Evans Tetra Asiatic, with seedling number.

AEOT – 000 = Art Evans OT, with seedling number.

Tricolor means (tip-midpetal-center), usually White-Red-Yellow in OTs, Pink-White-Pink in Asiatics.

Please keep a durable label with the seedlings to keep track of the parentages.  If something wonderful happens, you might want to show the parentage to be eligible for The Dr. Robert Griesbach Award at an International Show.  This new award is to a seedling or named variety tracing ancestry back to Bob’s hybridizing.

By the way, I always go by the APC Rule:  Always Plant Chaff Sometimes even the most unlikely looking seeds will germinate.  With luck, I will get my systemic fungicide sprayed on before the Botrytis attack this season.  I use propiconazole once a month.  No unsightly spray residue, unless I include some copper in it.

OK, let’s see some pretty pictures of my breeders and new seedlings. You might want to have a pen handy to write down seedling numbers you like.  If you suggest a cross which I can make, I will send you some seed from it.  That could give you a several year’s head start in your own breeding.  If you have seedling numbers, you can make better choices.