Monday, January 21, 2013

MARLS 2013 Educational Talk

The 2013 Mid America Regional Lily Society educational meeting, will be held on Saturday, March 9th, from 9:30 AM to NOON, in the Beaumont Room at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

From the numerous excellent presentations given at the 2012 National Lily Convention and Show, we have elected to share (via prerecorded video) the presentations given by Nigel Strohman, who presents the lily breeding work of Ed Robinson, and Sara Williams, who talks about four men, who contributed to the breeding of lilies.

Nigel Strohman from Neepawa, Manitoba offers a presentation on the breeding work of Ed Robinson and the ongoing evaluation of his martagon seedlings. Nigel grew up in the small farming community of Neepawa, Manitoba. The Strohman family formed the mail-order business called The Lily Nook, which has become a tourist attraction with up to 10,000 people visiting during July and August. The Lily Nook is a nursery dedicated to the hybridizing, growing, showing and selling lilies. The Nook grows over 2000 named cultivars of the genus Lilium spanning most divisions with up to 30,000 seedlings in various stages of growth.

'Pink Taurade' Martagon
The Lily Nook is one of the test sites for new material sponsored by the Manitoba Regional Lily Society, the Morden Research Station and Jeffries Nurseries Ltd.  One of the lily articles contributed by Ed Robinson to the Manitoba Regional Lily Society, named Prairie Breeders, can be found in the Prairie Lily Breeders section of the Manitoba Regional Lily Society web site.

Sara Williams from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, will tell us about early prairie lily breeders. This presentation focuses on the lives and stories of four remarkable but very different men: Frank Skinner, Cecil Patterson, Bert Porter, and Percy Wright. Together they left a horticultural legacy, not only for the Canadian prairies but much of the temperate world. Their hardy plant introductions included fruit, trees, shrubs, and perennials, but their contribution to the breeding of lilies was truly outstanding.

Frank Skinner began breeding asiatic lilies in the 1920’s. He also developed a number of significant hybrids of Lilium martagon and his later breeding work included hybrids with Lilium leucanthum var. centifolium and Lilium henryi.

'White Princess' Lilium
'White Princess' Lilium
Cecil Frederick Patterson (1891–1961) was renowned in Saskatchewan for his work on hardy fruits and flowers. Dr. Patterson began in 1921 as a lecturer in the College of Agriculture and headed the newly organized Department of Horticulture in the following year.  In his thirty-nine years as head of the Department of Horticulture, Patterson was responsible for the introduction of more than 52 new varieties of hardy fruits for the prairies and over 18 varieties of hybrid hardy lilies, as well as several varieties of ornamental plants.

He was also deeply interested in expanding Prairie gardens and developing varieties which would withstand the harsh Saskatchewan winters. He succeeded, with his name becoming synonymous with a collection of lily varieties in pink, white, rose and other colours, the result of a dedicated and patient cross breeding and selection program which spanned over 20 years. Among his breeds, "Edith Cecilia" (named after his eldest daughter who died at age 13), "White Princess", "Jasper", and "Apricot Glow" are the most popular today.

Bert Porter, widely recognized for his work in developing new lily varieties and small fruits in Saskatchewan, was born in Guilford, England, April 15, 1901. He came to Canada at the age of six when his father, a lay preacher and grocery clerk, took out a homestead near Parkside.

After high school in Moose Jaw, Bert took teacher training in Saskatoon and taught in a number of rural schools over the next 12 years. He gave up teaching in 1934 and took up a vocation he had been experimenting with for years - horticulture. Initially his nursery stock consisted of crabapples, hardy plums, strawberries and raspberries. In the 1950s he obtained some lily bulbs and launched into developing new lily varieties. His lilies have made him famous around the world.

He has always stressed hardiness, flower quality, disease and insect resistance. Because of this approach Honeywood Lilies have been in demand in such countries as Argentina, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Britain, Japan, New Zealand, the Soviet Union and all over Canada and the United States.  Photos and lists of the Porter Lilies can be found on the Honeywood Lilies website.

Among honors given Bert Porter was the highest award to a lily breeder on the North American continent, the E.H. Wilson Memorial from the North American Lily Society. The Manitoba Horticulture Society presented him with the Stevenson Gold Medal (1963) and he obtained three merit awards for his lilies from the Western Canadian Society for Horticulture. He received honorary life memberships from the Saskatchewan Horticultural Society, the Western Canada Horticultural Society, the Saskatchewan Nursery Trade Association, the Walter Willoughby Horticultural Society and the Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists. In 1963 the University of Saskatchewan conferred on him an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Percy Wright was a brilliant individual who kept up to date on the latest developments in horticulture plant breeding at the various experimental farms and research stations across Canada.  Wright often wrote about his plant breeding experiments, and suggested crosses that might be worthwhile, recognizing that he probably wouldn't be around to carry out all these trials himself.  In addition to writing a newspaper column, he wrote gardening periodicals for 'The Prairie Garden', 'Garden Clippings', and 'The Canadian Rose Annual'.

The Royal Horticulture Society gave hime an Award of Merit in 1959 for his 'Nubian' lily, which was widely propagated and used in the breeding programs of other lily breeders.  In total he named or introduced at least forty-eight roses, nine apples or crabs, eight lilies, seven honeysuckles, two willows, and two cherry-plums.  These were all from his own breeding and selection work.

We hope you will find some time to join MARLS at our annual educational talk where we will focus on the fascinating lily hybridizing efforts that helped shape the Lilium we grow in our gardens today.

--By Lynn Slackman