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2001 Paul Barlow

This article is reprinted with kind permission from the author Tom Mechen. Thanks also to the Canadian Chrysanthemum and Dahlia Society who originally published this article in the Schedule for the International Show, Toronto 1998.


Tom Mechen
New Zealand

Pollen magic!

In 1978 I discovered the amazing abundance of pollen in an Anemone-centered cultivar of renown named Claudete. The easy availability of so much of this magical substance from such a good cultivar was irresistible to me and I immediately set about organizing some suitable partners for pollenation. One of the partners chosen was a cultivar named Bridgette, an Anemone of Dutch origin. This happy union was to exceed all my expectations and reward me handsomely.

When I saw a seedling from this crossing blooming so beautifully in the seedling bed, I was absolutely thrilled and I knew that this was to be the very start of many years of experimentation with Anemone-centered chrysanthemums. This section was in a sad state of decline through a lack of new cultivars to maintain the numbers desirable for buoyancy. The realization that I could possibly contribute to the recovery of this section by means of hybridisation excited me greatly and I set about it in my amateurish fashion to organise my activities towards this end.

Seedlings on display in 1981

The 1981 Convention Show was a time of special endeavour and it was with great pride that I was able to display my first Anemone-centered seedling and it was with a greater and thoroughly indescribable mixture of emotive sensations that I was able to watch the judges, with accord, promote it to Champion status. A very exciting and memorable occasion.

This seedling, which is named Dorothy Mechen, heralded in the hoped-for era of recovery which was long overdue for this section. With the inclusion of four sports of Dorothy Mechen induced by radiation in 1981, there were an additional sixteen good cultivars available to the anemone enthusiast such as, Edith Mechen, twice best vase overall at National Shows, Adrienne Mechen, National Show champion, Smokey Cloverlea, Nation Show champion, Cloverlea standard, National Show champion and several others of high standard, all of these proving to be extremely popular and widely grown throughout the country.

Special class introduced

This enabled the introduction of a special class calling for 12 vases of Anemone, 3 blooms per vase, at the North Island National Show in 1989, the first time ever in show history in New Zealand. Experimentation has resulted in my introducing a lovely hirsute, bronze in colour, incurving, strong and vigorous named Allan O'Fee in memory of a highly respected Club member who passed away a year before it's introduction and I have under trial four promising reflexed decoratives and eagerly await their blooming this year.

Hybridisation - a new dimension

1989 also saw the introduction of a nice bronze fantasy raised by Mr. and Mrs.Walker of Aukland who have already introduced some lovely cascades, and we hope this will be the first of many forthcoming from this enthusiastic couple. Hybridisation has much to offer and as an extension of your hobby of growing and showing, can bring to you a new dimension of creativity, enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfillment. The beauty of it all is that the procedure is so simple. The amateur hybridist needs no special technical knowledge or training, no complicated equipment. The part that we are called upon to perform throughout the process is in no way complicated, it is easy to understand and just as easy to carry out. I believe many more would be enjoying this activity if they were only to realize the simplicity of the procedure involved. I feel that at this wonderful time of Conference, when we have come together from many parts of the world, to meet in goodwill and friendship through our love of and association with Chrysanthemums, to socialize and share our experiences and ideas, one with another, that I would be failing in my mission if I were not to recommend earnestly to many of you have that creative urge, to extend your hobby than you dreamt possible.

A simple procedure .....

"Now that I have delivered the commercial", I would like to briefly outline the simple procedure that I have employed as most effective to obtain the best results possible. Firstly of course - the choice of parents with desirable features is important and these should be healthy and pest-free plants. The aim is to improve by combining the best elements of both parents and have them expressed, hopefully, in the ideal performance of the seedling. Next thing is to grow the plants intended for the parent role to ensure that at the time of pollination the growth is firm, rather than soft and sappy, such as a plant that has been coddled and well fed with chemical fertilizers. The plant should be in an area that can be covered and kept dry and have plenty of light and air especially should you wish to have 4" of river sand only as a rooting medium and I allow these plants to mature as they root. They grow quite well and produce small flowers mostly with a large number of disk florets. I can sit at this bench and deal with these blooms comfortably when time for hybridisation comes along. Anemones grown in this fashion present little problem with pollen production. Allow each stem to carry no more than three flowers.

When the plants have bloomed and the flowers are at about three quarter maturity it is necessary to cut the petals back until the pistils which are encased by the petals exposed. Be careful not to touch the pistils with the cutting instrument. As the bloom matures the pistils will grow beyond the trimmed petals and the stigmas at the tip of the pistils will open out and present themselves easily for pollination. If a pocket knife seems too barbaric, sharp scissors can be just as effective. Should you have doubts about this process, practice on some blooms of no importance first and you will soon master the technique. Pollen you have gathered from the partner plant that you have chosen, can now be touched onto the awaiting stigma. Be sure that pollen is collected dry and kept dry at all times. To effect pollination a soft brash can be used. I prefer a toothpick, which I buff up with some very fine sandpaper that I keep handy during the process. Just touch some of this magical material onto the open stigmatic arms, preferably where the arms meet at the centre and if you will find with care that a little can go a long way.

So there you are, you have carried out these simple procedures and have done all that is basically required for pollination to be effective. Nature now takes over the tricky part of fertilisation and genetic relocation and we do nothing more then patiently stand by and wait for this to take place and the seed-ripening process to eventuate. This can take seven, eight or nine weeks, or even longer in some cases, but if you have grown your plant properly for this purpose and have it well situated with plenty of light, in a dry airy atmosphere, no serious setback to the procedure should be encountered.

Many prefer to cut the seed heads after pollination and allow them to mature indoors, once again ensuring that the vase is placed in an area where there is plenty of light and the atmosphere is nice and dry. When the seeds have been harvested and you look at them in your hand, you should feel a flutter of excitement, even at this stage, as you ponder the outcome and wonder as to the changes your actions have brought about to the genetic structure of the cultivar latent in that little brown casing that sits in your hand so insignificantly. For this reason every seed is special at this stage, that is why having lost an unacceptable parentage, by planting them directly into a seed-raising mixture, early in the programme, I adopted the procedure that I will now outline, which gives me almost 100% success.

I set the seeds out onto a plastic dish covered with filter paper, which in turn is covered with muslin cloth. The plastic dish is placed in a tray in about an eighth of an inch of water. The filter paper draws up the moisture and dampens the muslin. The seeds set out on the muslin germinate in about seven or eight days. This procedure is carried out indoors in ordinary room temperature where there is. plenty of light once again. The muslin material gives the seedling an anchor for the root to hold the plant stable and provide moisture, but the seedling is removed and transferred to prepared trays for growing on, before the root grows too long and becomes difficult to lift from the muslin. From then on it is just a matter of good husbandry and planting out and growing on to flowering.

Thrill of a new cultivar

This is of course a most wonderful, rewarding and fascinating time for the amateur hybridist. There is no thrill in growing like the thrill of producing a new cultivar, especially one of merit, but regardless of all else the inner satisfaction from playing such a part in this creative procedure, is something I hope you will all one day experience and if you do I know that you will treasure many moments and never regret the time spent in experimentation and will always be pleased that you chose to venture into the wonderful realm of hybridisation creativity. The programme I initiated in hope of helping towards recovery of the Anemone section, seems after nine years to have been quite successful. Had I had more knowledge and been able to apply a more professional approach, I probably could have achieved the same in much less time, however I was learning as I went along and have thoroughly enjoyed the time spent on this most interesting procedure.

Wonderful support and encouragement

One of the most wonderful aspects of this undertaking is that since the beginning of this programme I have been supported by everyone on the Chrysanthemum scene in New Zealand. Our International President, Mr. Leo. Clark on hearing of my intention to promote the Anemone section, sent me a plant of every anemone cultivar in his nursery at that time, which was an encouraging and wonderful gesture. Others have offered to grow area trials, others offered to provide plants and so on, while all around, members of the Society have been interested, supportive and co-operative in any way possible and have made it a joint venture in spirit. I appreciate and thank each and every one for their wonderful encouragement which has made it for me much more meaningful enjoyable and satisfying throughout.

From The National Chrysanthemum Society, N.Z.

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Last updated on 26 December, 2001