Tue, 20 Jan 2004 19:26:08 PST
"Mark Smyth" wrote:
re: [pbs] Re:  Glaanthus DNA

>let me throw a spanner in the spokes in 
>defence of Galanthus. What about the
>number of Daffodil cultivars out there? 
>And hardy Geraniums ... and Day Lilies
> ... and ..

Jim McKenney wrote:
re: [pbs] More on snowdrops

>John Lonsdale's remarks about snowdrop identity 
>gave me a good laugh. He's so right about this; 
>and it's just as true for lilies, daylilies, daffodils, 
>bearded iris, gladiolus or any other group where 
>everyone with a bit of the huckster spirit has 
>jumped into the hybridizing fray

I must admit regarding Galanthus, I just don't get it.  As delightful as 
snowdrops are, it's a genus of small white things; it's an Alba-Viride thing!  
White... just white,  (did I mention the flowers are always white?) with a 
variable blob of green... ooohh, those sublimely subtle differences in green blob 
shapes, and ever so rarely, the green blob is yellow(ish), the basis of hundreds 
of cultivars.

So, I think we're talking about two different things here.  One item, is the 
very limited-scope genus (Galanthus) with a disproportionately high number of 
cultivars (how many different green-blob shapes are worthy of names after 
all?), versus the opposite end of the spectrum, with genera like Lilium, 
Narcissus, and Hemerocallis, that indeed have been hybridized to the nth degree, with 
seemingly infinite number of look-alike cultivars, yet they have a huge range 
of color and form compared to the monochromatic Galanthus.  

With Lilium, Narcissus, and Hemerocallis, the range of color, form, and 
texture is as HUGE as the genera themselves.  We're not talking about mono-hued 
plants, or galathus-mezzotints, but the sheer range of color and form in 
daylilies, lilium, and to a lesser extent in Narcissus, are mind boggling 
comparitively, even if hugely over-hybridized at this point. 

Let's take Hemerocallis.  It's a genus I openly admit to not liking very 
much... just too gaudy and "over blown", substandard foliage, and just how many 
yellows and muddy-ruddy pinks can there be. With tens of thousands of cultivars 
in the fray, it seems a little bit ridiculous. I wonder, what's the point of 
continually hybridizing with a genus that is already so heavily hybridized.  My 
pessimism was dispelled this summer when Kevin Vaughn visited, showing slides 
of his Hemerocallis and Narcissus hybrids.  I was beside myself in awe of 
what he has achieved, and I would gladly mortgage my house for a collection of 
his daylily and narcissus hybrids. So there's still room for spectacular new 
plants.  But on a diversity scale, from 1 - 100, Galanthus scores a mere 6, 
whereas the other genera I mentioned each score 60 - 80.

Now, I'm sure to offend the Galanthophile with this message.  But, again... I 
just don't get it.  Having been an avid gardener for the past 40 years, 
succumbing to many "special interests", whether it be Hosta (here's an overbred 
group), Penstemon, Iris, Daylily, Hibiscus, Sempervivum, Erica, Rhododendron, it 
is only the Galanthus fascination that eludes me.  As I said, I don't get it.  
I see other groups with equally intense "collector level" followings, such as 
the recent craze on Japanese Hepatica cultivars that defy belief and stagger 
the imagination, in every sort of color combination, color spectrum, and 
floral form. Then I come back to Galanthus, sweet little Galanthus, with those 
charming little white flowers in late winter and early spring, and I try to fathom 
the esoteric devotion to the green on white.  Their mystery eludes me.

I do love Galanthus, such a regal small genus, but like Jim McKenney, I 
appreciate their early flowering and undeniable charm, for what they are, without 
the need to analyze every minute nuance of green marking.

Stepping down off my soapbox now...

Mark McDonough Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States "New England" USDA Zone 5
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