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Journal American Rhododendron Society

Current Editor:
Dr. Glen Jamieson ars.editor@gmail.com


Volume 62, Number 2
Spring 2008

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Let's Talk Hybridizing: Four and A Half Seconds of Fame
Chris Trautmann
Amelia, Ohio

        An 8000-horse powered nitro-burning top fuel dragster covers the quarter-mile drag strip from a standing start in 4.5 seconds at a speed of 337 mph - an awesome display of power and speed! That same elapsed time of 4.5 seconds is the critical time element in this ongoing experiment.

n 8000-horse powered nitro-burning top fuel dragster
An 8000-horse powered nitro-burning top fuel dragster.
Photo by Chris Trautmann

        This horticultural folly began in 1999 when I made the deciduous azalea cross: ‘Girard Yellow Pom Pom' crossed with the large yellow, single-flowered ‘Chetco'. Seed was plenty, so I thought I would have some fun.
        The seed was divided into four lots. The procedure was to put three different time segments into a 1000-watt microwave, with the fourth segment as the check. The three elapsed times for the seed were the following:
        1st group: 4.5 seconds
        2nd group: 7 seconds
        3rd group: 10 seconds.
        The 7-second group did nothing. The 10-second group turned into "popcorn" (seed literally exploded!). The 4.5-second group was more fortunate and eventually sprouted! The fourth segment, which is the check, has produced all yellow offspring with the plants now being anywhere from 4 to 6 feet tall and normal in every respect.

'Girard Yellow Pom Pom' X 'Chetco' at bud stage.
'Girard Yellow Pom Pom' X 'Chetco' at bud stage.
Photo by Chris Trautmann

        The "Franken" group of 4.5 seconds (thanks to Hank Schannen for the term) grew very slowly the first year, hardly attaining a height of 1 inch. After eight years, the plants are scarcely 6 inches. The largest plant of this group may be 10-12 inches tall and is very multi-branched like the rest of these "sea urchins." I donated one of the nicest looking ones at the recent ARS Eastern Regional Conference in Cleveland hosted by the affable Steve Krebs, director of the Leach Station, and it went back to Massachusetts with the happy new owner. The world-class photographer Wing Fong thought the grex name "Mikeywave" was "right on target." But a grex name of "Altered States" may work because there are almost fifty of them, and they can each have a name: largest plant, 'Altered State Alaska' down to the smallest one, ‘Altered State Hawaii'.

Seedlings of microwaved seed, 1st Group.    Seedlings of microwaved seed, 1st Group.
Seedlings of microwaved seed, 1st Group.
Photo by Chris Trautmann
   Seedlings of microwaved seed, 1st Group.
Photo by Chris Trautmann

        What do you think? Unfortunately, none of the 50 or so plants in this grex has flowered. Therefore, this plant folly continues. Job number one will be that when one or two flower, I will self them and go from there. This coming growing season, I will use some cottonseed meal to maybe push some buds. So next winter if you want to have some fun, put some seed in the micro and start your own plant folly.

Chris has been an ARS member since 1977, owns and operates Mowbray Gardens, and enjoys breeding elepidotes, loves his eight cats and digs nitro drag racing.


Volume 62, Number 2
Spring 2008

DLA Ejournal Home | JARS Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search JARS and other ejournals