JARS v61n1 - Let's Talk Hybridizing: New Plants for the Great Lakes Region and Beyond

Let's Talk Hybridizing: New Plants for the Great Lakes Region and Beyond
Chris Trautmann
Amelia, Ohio

A number of years ago, my family got together to dine at the world class Maisonette in Cincinnati, Ohio. Amazed at the delicious dinner I had, I asked Chef Haidon, "How did you get such a wonderful flavor in my duck entre?" He replied, "It's all in the way you combine the spices and the sauce."
That same conclusion has helped guide me for years in my breeding of rhododendrons - combining the right parents with the right goals. My breeding started in the early '80s with the guidance from my friend Dr. Tom Ring. I remember asking Tom during a visit in '81, "What are your favorite hybrids?" And his reply was "mine." Many of his early hybrids are still going strong and win Best in Show quite often. My desires started to jell after a visit with Tom to Weldon Delp's in 1985. That spring was the second year that 'Fiery Orange' flowered - no one had ever seen a hardy, large-flowered rusty orange rhodo with yellow tones and red speckles! I can still hear Tom Ring coming over to me and saying, "Leave a little pollen for Weldy!" - it was the lone truss on the 4-5-year seedling. Years later, the pollen of 'Fiery Orange' would play a prominent role in my quest for a hardy orange. That thread of breeding followed shortly later with Tom putting 'Fiery Orange' onto 'Weldy', a nice hardy cross with lots of flowers on a good sized truss.
Tom gave seed of that 1988 cross to Weldon and myself. Weldon grew 333 seedlings to bloom - all peach-yellow and orange seedlings with maybe two being white! I managed to bring ten to flower with one being somewhat hardy with pink-orange and yellow in color. That one important plant became 'Sardinia' - yes, I was there for two months in the mid-'70s with my tennis-doubles partner who happened to have a seaside villa in the Costa Smeralda, the Italian Riviera.
To get the ball rolling, I put 'Sardinia' onto the very reliable Leach-Pride plant, 'Blazen Sun' (orange color), which has 'Russell Harmon'* in its parentage. I knew this "should" give some nice offspring. Over the years, I've grown and flowered near 100 seedlings of that cross, all nice, but my goal was confirmed with the plant 'Orange Noise'*, named for a local '60s rock group that I followed at the time. My next obsession was to produce a hardy bicolor that resembled 'President Roosevelt' - Weldon Delp has some nice bicolors but not the depth or hardiness I desired. So I started with a cross I made of 'Java' X 'Swen'. I loved and named it 'Rhodstar' but could not propagate it. Thank god, I put the pollen of 'Tom Ring's Tecumseh'* onto 'Rhodstar' and got the only seed from this lost beauty! This cross was performed in the mid '90s and seedlings started budding up in two years. Most were very good bicolors with plant and foliage like 'Chionoides'. For this article, I will tease with 'My Red Ferrari'* and 'Fire Mountain'* because an article on my bicolors is in the making. 'Anna Delp' X 'Samoa' has also given me a number of nice bicolors: 'Fire Mountain'* has the biggest flower I've produced to date. Sister seedling 'Photos of Ghosts'* may be my favorite bicolor in flower and plant, with great foliage to boot!
All my seedlings are looked at and grown in the ground or raised beds for over four years and must have good foliage. We all know the facts about most of the seedlings we grow: Fact # 1: Plants with the best flowers have the worst foliage, and Fact #2: The nicest foliage plants have weak, small flowers. But through growing lots of seedlings, you can segregate maybe one or two that are overall heads above the rest.
In the early '90s, my friend George Gray of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, gave me seed of an unnamed Delp hybrid crossed with Delp's 'Jet Set'. This very rare 'Jet Set' cross gave me a nice double yellow I named 'Chiquita'*. Having plenty of pollen of 'Sardinia', I put that onto 'Chiquita'* and got the beautiful yellow 'Trautmann's Crowning Touch'*. I could have stopped there, but I wanted the perfect, hardy yellow. Always admiring the tough and hardy 'Sandwich Appleblossom', I put it onto 'Trautmann's Crowning Touch'*. I needed some R. catawbiense and large frilly flowers to complement the yellow tones that I wanted. Seedlings started to flower in 2000 with a couple of nice plants showing up. Then the floodgates opened - with now over four sows of this cross, I've flowered 60-70 that were all peach-yellow, pink-yellow and yellow!
In spring 2003, 'Yellowstone'* flowered for the first time. I liked it and planted it outside in a raised bed. This past spring it really showed its worth. Also, it's one of the few yellows that open up the same color as the expanding buds. Its great compact habit and color prompted me to put four different caps of pollen onto it. Propagation is right around the corner.
Another nice plant to pop up is 'Trautmann's Monarch'* named in respect for Tom Ring. In 1984, Tom Ring made the cross 'Newburyport Belle' X 'Graf Zeppelin'. From that batch of seedlings, he named the very nice 'Ring's Monarch'. So impressed with the plant's color and vigor, Tom pulled the seed back out of the refrigerator in the late '90s and sowed it again. He potted up three flats with 30-40 seedlings per flat and gave Jack Looye of Canada and myself a flat. I grew my seedlings on and selected three plants from that batch: 'Amsterdam Breeze'*, 'Cha Cha Muldowney'* and 'Trautmann's Monarch'*, with it having the nicest pink color I've ever seen! Other seedlings that panned out for plant and flower are: 'Krell Dynasty'* - a very different color, 'Tony Soprano'* - a large hot-headed red, and 'Better Cheddar'* - another nice 'Blazen Sun' cross, and 'Banana Republic'* - a great plant that is a cross of 'Casanova' X 'Barbara Cook'.
My continued breeding goals are to produce more beautiful and hardy plants suitable for the Great Lakes Chapter and the rest of the world to enjoy.
Time will tell, as I have a bunch of "lottery tickets" still to bloom.

Trautmann Crosses
'My Red Ferrari'* ('Rhodstar' X 'Tom Ring's Tecumseh'*)

R. 'My Red Ferrari'
'My Red Ferrari'
Photo by Chris Trautmann

'Photos of Ghosts'*('Anna Delp' X 'Samoa')

R. 'Photos of Ghosts'
'Photos of Ghosts'
Photo by Chris Trautmann

'Fire Mountain'* ('Anna Delp' X 'Samoa')

Chris Trautmann with Fire Mountain.
Chris Trautmann with Fire Mountain.
Photo by Chris Trautmann

'Tony Soprano'* ('Anna Delp' X 'Sandy Petruso'*)

R. 'Tony Soprano'
'Tony Soprano'
Photo by Chris Trautmann

'Krell Dynasty'* ('Ronald Otto Delp' X ['Whitney's Orange' x 'Catalgla'] x Otto Prycl's yellow-flowered selection from R. fortunei )

R. 'Krell Dynasty'
'Krell Dynasty'
Photo by Chris Trautmann

'Yellowstone'* ('Crowning Touch* X 'Sandwich Appleblossom')

R. 'Yellowstone'
Photo by Chris Trautmann

'Trautmann's Crowning Touch'* ('Chiquita'* X 'Sardinia')

R. 'Trautmann's Crowning Touch'
'Trautmann's Crowning Touch'
Photo by Chris Trautmann

'Trautmann's Monarch'* ('Newburyport Belle' X 'Graf Zeppelin')

R. 'Trautmann's Monarch'
'Trautmann's Monarch'
Photo by Chris Trautmann

'Orange Noise'* ('Blazen Sun' X 'Sardinia')

R. 'Orange Noise'
'Orange Noise'
Photo by Chris Trautmann

'Banana Republic'* ('Casanova' X 'Barbara Cook')

R. 'Banana Republic'
'Banana Republic'
Photo by Chris Trautmann

* Name is not registered.

Chris Trautmann is a member of the Great Lakes Chapter and owner of Mowbray Gardens, a landscape design and installation firm. Chris also enjoys grafting and hunting for conifer witches broom.