Mary Barnes of Slate Hill Farm Daylilies is my kind of gardener: a mad scientist. I love her for allowing my kids to be mad scientists, too. She lets them hybridize daylilies and then gives us the seedlings to grow out, so they can see the fruits of their fun.
When we arrived there last Saturday, she had a milk crate full of seedlings for us, all labeled with a number indicating the cross and the name of the kid who decided that a plant called something like 'Screaming Meemie' desperately needed to exchange genes with another plant called something like 'Pants On Fire.' Subtle their crosses are not. They usually result in flowers so big the plant can hardly hold up its head and colors from a Velvet Elvis painting. I'm going to give these monster hemerocallis their own bed in the country.
Mary's own experimentation takes not just the form of professional daylily breeding, but also non-professional fooling around with seeds of all kinds. She saves her vegetable seed. She's growing quinoa and flax seed for her cereal. She's able to plant really unusual flowers, including a very tall and thin white and brown foxglove, because she raises them from seed.
On Saturday, she showed me precisely the thing that makes seed saving so fun.
Behold a poppy produced by saved seed:
Here is the poppy's much better-looking brother:
And here are lettuces from seed she saved:
The ones on the right are all from the same variety of lettuce. They all have the same trout-patterned leaves. But some of them are red-spotted chartreuse. And some of them are an even mix of red and green.
I love the idea of selecting my own flowers and vegetables, too, and breeding the better-looking lettuce. I've got an enormous parsnip sending out flowers while we speak in my vegetable garden, just because I want to observe the natural behavior of this biennial. But I frequently intend to save seed and then never get around to collecting it.
Too busy raising the results of previous experiments involving my husband, I suppose.