How To Hybridize

For the would-be hybridizer, here is a brief description of the operation, which can be adapted as required to most flowering plants. The plant which is to carry the seeds is first isolated from others by some kind of screen, made of gauze or muslin. This is erected so that fertilization by bees or other insects is impossible. As soon as possible, and well before they have started to discharge their dust, the stamens on the flowers of this plant must be removed.

When the pistil is in the right condition for receiving the pollen, generally when it is quite sticky and moist, stamens are carried from the other chosen parent, and their dust shaken or brushed on to the waiting pistil or pistils. Any blooms on the plant that are not needed for seed-bearing should be cut away, otherwise there is a danger of self-pollination, which would, of course, upset the plans of the hybridist. The fertilized flowers are kept protected until the seed has set.

It is important to keep strict records of experiments of this nature, and also important to gather the seed immediately it is ripe, and to store it carefully, if it is not sown at once.

Just one more point : on no account throw away the first generation of seedlings when you begin your experiments in hybridizing, even if they appear worthless. Mate them among themselves, and watch for the results of second and third generations, for startling new colours and forms may not appear until then.

Of all the various forms of vegetative plant increase, root division is probably the simplest and most common. Everyone who has ever had charge of a garden has been asked for a “ bit of that when it grows,” or has been given “ bits” to start the new border on its way. Root division is generally practised during the resting months, or when the stems and leaves are inactive, that is, during winter. The ordinary herbaceous plant almost disappears from view during the winter, and at that time it does not so much resent being lifted from its soil bed.

Any plant that can, after lifting, be easily divided into portions, each of which will have some of the fine root hairs that are present on all roots, is suitable for division. Plants that are difficult to divide in this way are plants like lupins, which have often just one long tap root, which does not easily recover if it is roughly torn apart.

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