Don Bright, originally from South Carolina, former
football player at Tulane in the 1960's, served in the US Army and Army
Reserves, then for many years was involved in the container
import/export business. He and his wife Jan live on Lucks Lane in
Midlothian in the midst of Bright Acres, our daylily growing ground.
Their three daughters are grown and in the midst of producing his
grandchildren. Don is a workaholic's workaholic. The ideal partner for John.
John Paine, originally from Massachusetts, a retired
chemist, remarried a few years ago (Kathy) , and became a daddy of
something other than daylilies for the first time at age 58. Daughter
Julia is now six, and has been stopping traffic since birth (She started
out looking very much like the "Gerber" baby.) John has been hybridizing daylilies since 1989. He somehow obtained a garden catalog from Carroll Gardens in Maryland in 1985, shortly after he bought his first (and only) house, and finally had a living space whose landscaping was his to control. There was a considerable section in the catalog on daylilies, which were described as being essentially idiot proof. Just the flower for him. He ordered four. The local deer permitted him to observe one or two blooms before they descended en masse. Nonetheless, he was duly impressed. In 1986, his mother returned to her roots in Warrenton, Virginia. Shortly after came an invite to tour a local garden with her, called Edgewood. (Anna Walrad was the proprietor). No fewer than 500 daylily cultivars were on the premises, blasting away. He bought 40, and never looked back!. Of course the deer came in force in 1988, necessitating a lot of fencing and delaying his entry into hybridizing for a year. He did a lot of touring, mostly in the South, in those early years, and bought from a wide range of hybridizers to accumulate a large amount of breeding stock. It took several years for his own creations to appear, and as these have grown ever more numerous, opportunities for travels to other gardens during his own bloom season have gotten way fewer. He is a true "Prisoner of the Garden"! No true enthusiast could be anything less!!!
At first John Paine carried out his hybridization at Trilithon Road. The first seeds were planted in the ground in 1990, but the lot was heavily wooded, and on a hillside, and it did not take long for the seedling patch to run out of room. The next innovation was to plant seed in pots, which could be grown on the driveway. Just as room ran out for that, Don Bright was introduced as a fellow enthusiast with lots of land, in search of good daylilies to fill the void. A marriage made in heaven so to speak. We did have a few glitches at first. The worst was to use compartmentalized styrofoam planters to grow individual seeds into plugs. The tetraploid program survived this, the diploid program nearly went down with all hands! I will spare you the sordid details. Suffice it to say, we went back to pots for starting the seed. This allowed us considerable flexibility as to when daylilies got transferred into the ground, And as far as a tiny seedling is concerned, the whole pot volume is available to it, regardless of the presence of other seedlings. So each can end up with a nice root system.
Technical Contributions. As a scientist, John Paine felt obligated to pass on to others various findings to improve the culture and cultivation of daylilies. One problem faced at Trilithon Road in the early 1990's was a mysterious die-off or rot. A white cottony fungus, not unlike seen permeating some decayiing tree roots would turn up in the daylily roots as well. What was eventually found, when plants went to the Cooperative Extension for evaluation, was that some of my daylilies were being attacked by bulb mites. In retrospect, I now realize that some lily bulbs imported from Oregon had been infested, and it may be they transferred themselves to the far more numerous daylilies, once the voles had finished off my lily collection. Indeed, vole tunnels may have provided accelerated access between the victims. I ended up contributing to an article in the Daylily Journal on the bulb mite question. I found that water soluble systemic pesticides such as Orthene or Vydate (Restricted Use) pesticide was effective in bulb mite control, when used as a soil drench. It was appreciated that the bulb mite lives symbiotically with a rot pathogen. The bulb mite uses the rot pathogen to break down the carbohydrate polymer cellulose to water soluble mono- or oligosaccharides, which it is then able to digest. The pathogen must need the bulb mite to continue digging into the crown, because if the bulb mite is killed, the associated rot goes away. You will be relieved to know that we have no bulb mites in our Lucks Lane growing fields, which are about 8 miles from Trilithon.
The bulb mite issue faded in significance once daylily rust appeared for the first time in the USA in 2002. I am sure that some southern growers are longing for the days when they had "only" bulb mites to worry about. We saw a bit of rust in 2004, but it did not overwinter here, and we have not seen it since. We do not spray for rust, and are hoping the need will not arise in the future. We would appreciate it if any prospective visitors who have just visited a garden where rust is present would be sufficiently considerate as to make a point of not visiting us. To this day, we do not know how the rust appeared the one time we saw it.
Hybridizing Tip: I will pass on to you an idea I communicated a year or so ago to the Daylily Digest robin. It had to do with how to protect daylily seed pods from being eaten by the local deer population. Back in about 1999, the last time serious hybridization was done at Trilithon, instead of at Lucks Lane, I had been setting pods on all the magnificent pink tetraploids I had gotten from Pat Stamile. I had several dozen pods coming along nicely, until one night, a deer came along and ate them all. No tetraploid pink program for 1999. Fast forward to 2009. The finest hybridizing weather we had seen in half a decade. Lots of pods, and signs of deer around the perimeter. It suddenly occurred to me that if I wrapped the pods in aluminum foil, they would not longer be the green color deer associate with food. I had been using aluminum foil of various colors for years to identify crosses, so it was only a small stretch to wrap the whole pod with foil. This worked like a charm. Not a single pod was eaten by the deer, and the foil did not "cook" the pod, and the lack of light on the pod did not affect seed maturation or viability. I use heavy duty foil to make sure it stays on the pod.