Bill Carter, Washington

What are the key criteria for deciding if a new bloom is worth registering?

January 6, 2013

Category: Hybridizing

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I’m new to breeding and thinking way ahead.  I hope to be introducing new flowers over the next 30 years.   What criteria is used to determine which flowers are worth registering?

5 responses to “What are the key criteria for deciding if a new bloom is worth registering?”

  1. Bill,

    The main topic of discussion at the Hybridizer’s Breakfast held during the 2013 A. D. S. National Convention in Columbus, Ohio will be: Key Flower & Bulb Criteria for the Dutch Commercial Market.

    This will be the first time that this fascinating topic has ever been discussed in depth. As the Hybridizers Chair, I am planning a handout that will give pointers and ideas from Dutch commercial growers. The idea is that the hybridizing community might use the ideas presented to consider and apply during their individual Selection phase.

    Truly a fun and significant reason to attend this years A. D. S. National Convention.


  2. Mary Lou Gripshover, Ohio Mary Lou Gripshover, Ohio says:

    Hi Bill,

    I think the first thing might be, “is it different from anything else?” followed closely by “do you like it?”  For instance, Bob Spotts has raised some lovely flowers with narrow petals, like ‘Spider Woman’.  Conventional wisdom would say that the petals should be broad and overlapping.  So don’t be afraid to be different and follow  your own path.

    Different can mean many things.  A pink and white Div. 2 daffodil that blooms at the very beginning of the season is different, as is a trumpet daffodil that blooms with the poets.  Harold grows some beautiful flowers in his climate that I couldn’t grow here in Ohio without some kind of winter protection; maybe there are things you could grow that he can’t–like late flowers, maybe poets crossed with other standards.

    Once you’ve decided that a flower has potential, look for its other traits.  Does it have a good, strong stem?  You don’t want the bloom down in the mud.  Is it consistent from year to year?   Is the color clear, and does it hold it through most of its life?  Does it burn in the sun?   Does it multiply at an acceptable rate, or is there still only one bulb after 10 years?  Is it healthy, or is it susceptible to basal rot?

    When you have a bloom that you think has merit, try to enter it in a show.  Stand aside and see what others think, not just the judges.

    Good luck!

    Mary Lou

  3. Goodness, this is a topic for a doctoral thesis! Some thoughts and opinions on your wide, far ranging question.

    To put things in perspective, there are around 27,000 named daffodils with a few hundred being added each year! Far, far too many for the “market” to absorb. The last is especially true when one realizes how few remain in general commerce a decade or two following their Registration and Introduction. Hybridizing is an ever evolving process with most things being made using painstakingly slow, tiny incremental steps forward. These tiny steps build on what has come before. The goals are clearly a moving target.

    Naming and Registering a new cultivar is really the “tip of the iceberg” or the ultimate successful conclusion of a lengthy, intense, many year process. Making a cross, planting seed and waiting 4 to 7 years for things to flower is the easiest part. SELECTING which of those seedlings to grow on for a careful, lengthy evaluation is more of a challenge. The art of Selecting pre-supposes that one is intimately familiar with that which already exists. Selections really must be “better”, in multiple aspects, than those things that already exist. If the Selection is not better in multiple aspects from those things that already exist, it is most probably NOT worth Naming and Registering.

    Having specific, tightly defined goals in mind can yield dividends. As an example, let’s say you would like to develop intensely colored 2Y-R’s. In order to really begin to understand and get a feel for the range of expression possible in existing 2Y-R’s, you might need to grow 100 or so (pick a number here, it might be even larger or somewhat smaller, depending) of the best 2Y-R’s that exist. You might be able to cut that number down somewhat by visiting other growers, attending daffodil shows wherever and whenever you can and the like. In my opinion (and experience) nothing really can substitute for LIVING with the things. Once you become more familiar with those things that exist, careful and controlled crosses can be used to combine the best things that you grow, to meet your breeding goals.

    It is fairly easy to get COLOR, it is fairly easy to get FORM, It is fairly easy to get HEALTH and VIGOR. In my experience, it is very, very, very, difficult to get all of the preceding combined in “one package”. That, I guess, is what makes the entire process, fascinating, fun, challenging, and so absorbing.

  4. Bob Spotts, California Bob Spotts, California says:


    Might I add to the excellent responses you’ve received something from Wim Lemmers, a prominent daffodil personality in Holland. As a beginning hybridizer many years ago, I was walking a field of daffodil seedlings with him. He was looking for potential seedlings for his purchase, growing and eventual sales. I was looking at blooms. He told me, never look at a bloom until you have first studied the plant. The health and sturdiness of the plant must be the primary criterion.


  5. Clay Higgins, New Jersey Clay Higgins, North Carolina says:

    Thanks guys,

    I really appreciate the education on how daffodils are numbered.  My mentor did not hybridize, however, I have been at it now for about 13-14 years without a mentor.  A few years ago Graham Fleming got me interested in some of the things he is doing and I greatly appreciated his sharing with me and got me really started.  I can see an improvement in my hybridizing since Graham started helping.  However, I never asked the question about numbering and just made up my own system.  I do however, always put the year on the label when I plant seed.  That stays with those seedlings, even after I transplant them at 3 years, until they start to bloom,

    Thanks again for the education.  I really appreciate.  I really like Brian Duncan’s system and will start doing mine better with the knowledge.