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Prairie Lily Breeders:

Ed Robinson Wawanesa, Manitoba

Adventures Of A Prairie Lily Breeder

By Ed Robinson

In the early 1950's, I started hybridizing lilies with a limited number of Preston Hybrids, and Skinner's 'Maxwill' and 'Scottiae,' and was fortunate to have a few of the better varieties for crossing, such as 'Sovereign', 'Typhoon', 'Corsair', 'Phyllis Cox', but the main seed varieties were 'Coronation', 'Edna Keen', 'Sovereign' and 'Maxwill'. From crossing these back and forth and as they were simple hybrids, a good amount of seed was secured from which was raised two or three thousand bulbs which were planted out thickly in long rows. The results as could be expected were satisfactory, but not spectacular.

Ten yellow seedlings from 'Coronation' were numbered (this is all there was of this color) and they varied from pale yellow to deep, golden with no two flowers or spikes exactly alike. Only one was named ‑'Goldfind'. Another golden orange was named 'Spotted Gold'. One of these and a 'Sovereign' seedling were sent to a nursery in the U.S.A. some years ago and are still listed.

'Sovereign' has given outstanding yellow seedlings, but some are prone to die. There were 10 yellow 'Sovereign' seedlings numbered and three were named and another should have been as it is very disease resistant and comes up year after year without any attention. The ones named were 'Citrus Pride', 'Lemon Lode' and 'Lemon Jade'. Three orange 'Coronation' seedlings were named because of brightness and size of spike 'Grandstand', 'Orange Flare' and 'Evening Star'. A good copper bronze seedling showed up with exceptionally heavy substance and was named 'Copperface'.

'Edna Keen' gave a multiplicity of shades and facing in all direc­tions, but my records show that only two were named ‑ 'Tanglow' and 'Radiant Glow'; the latter proved to be the keynote in crossing with 'Edith Cecilia'.

'Phyllis Cox', the bright reddish orange, peculiar little lily with the flowers around the top, gave two seedlings, which were named at that time, 'Sunglow' and 'Candlebuds'.

There were several dark reds with magnificent spikes in the 'Max­will seedlings, but as they were nearly all pendent and tightly reflexed, very few were given a number, besides they were prone to disease and thus only one was named, 'Garnet Gem'.

So much for the first generation. I will only mention color and names for the second and probable pollen of the first Patterson hybrids that were brought out.

'Edna Keen'‑ First Generation; 'Radiant Glow', 2nd, 'Red Spire'

'Plyllis Cox'‑ First Generation; numbered, 2nd, 'Orange Crown'

'Scottiae'‑First Generation; numbered, 2nd, 'Black Cloud' (‘Maxwill' pollen)

'Coronation' ‑ First Generation; numbered, 2nd, ‘Northern Lights’ (‘White Gold’ pollen)

'Sovereign' ‑ First Generation; yellow numbered, 2nd, ‘Yellow Totem' (Buttergold pollen)

'Maxwill'‑First Generation; 'Garnet Gem', 2nd, 'Bloodstone

This was about all the second generation that were named out of hundreds of seedlings.

From this time on, four of the Patterson Hybrids were introduced: 'White Gold', 'White Princess', 'Jasper', and 'Apricot Glow', only the latter would produce seed, and from it came 'Pastel Jasper'. There were many more splendid seedlings from 'Apricot Glow', but not suf­ficiently different to name. However, I still have them under obser­vation and one or two more will be named even though they have been growing for some years, the decision takes longer.

The first three Patterson hybrids were sterile, but peculiar seedlings have cropped up from the pollen and in one case an outstanding seedling is 'Northern Light'.

The next Patterson hybrid obtained was 'Edith Cecilia', the wonder­ful link for diversity of colors, but oddly enough its seedlings may give a range of colors while the form of the flowers and plant vigor leave much to be desired in many cases. I was indeed fortunate to hit on the right combination to get color, form and a good plant from the one cross that I am almost certain was 'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow'. I haven't any record for this cross, but I do have for the reverse cross and the colors are similar, but brighter, and the plant is different as expected, more like the seed parent in each case.

There were about 200 'Edith Cecilia' seedlings in the first cross, but not realizing the value of them, they were planted out in a 30 foot row and being so crowded they came into bloom slowly and so it was a couple of years extra before most of them had bloomed enough to see their value, so they were all dug up and moved to well‑spaced rows where in the second year they put on a grand show. Ten of these have been named and more are under observation.

There were many definite colors and many bicolours with as many as three colors in the same flower. However, the highlights were two pure whites, one proved unworthy of a name because the scales will not produce bulblets and the seed is sterile. It is still the same single bulb started seven years ago. It has a good spike of waxy white flowers. The white sister seedling named 'Snow Bunting' is just the opposite; easily grown from seed and scales readily, with good natural increase. The others named were:


'Ivory Snow' ‑ comes out palest primrose, changes to ivory and finally to near white.

'Royal Robes'‑ Deep purple red, large flowers.

'Snow Bunting' ‑ white with lilac spots, and white buds have a pink base.


'Ivory Supreme' ‑ ivory with straw yellow center, large flat flowers.

'Prairie Fragrance' ‑ light fawn with green and one of the few lilies of this class that are spicy scented.

'Prairie Fawn'‑ straw fawn with green, facing out, good spike.

'Lavish Lady'‑ one color, light mauve, few spots, shiny flat flowers.

'Summer Pageant' ‑ lilac mauve with lighter center, as flowers fade they face up, color of L. cernuum when first open.

'Summer Gem' ‑ large pale lavender, with straw center and triangular shaped flowers, red flecks on petals.


'Prairie Sunset' ‑ lavender straw with straw yellow face and darker lavender tips on tall good spikes and stems.

These and others in this lot have been diligently hand pollenated to see what the second generation will produce.

Further remarks on my lily breeding work from 1968 to 1975 seems to be of interest and for the records.

Some of my new hybrids will be grown for years to come, while others will be dropped for various reasons, which is true of all new varieties of plants. No matter how they are studied and tested by the originator, some will not pan out in many different locations.

I have been greatly encouraged by the public acceptance of many of my hybrids and the praise they have been given, both in North America and in Europe.

I would like to thank T. Ross Martin, Binbrook, Ontario for his help in listing and registering of my new hybrid lilies, which I did not have time to do myself since the breeding of plants is a time consuming oc­cupation.

Eight more seedlings were named, as follows, in 1968 from the same lot of seedlings as mentioned previously ‑‑ the cross of 'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow'.

'Coral Seas'‑ 'Edith Cecilia' x Preston Hybrid (0 ‑ 25) ‑ color, a straw coral.

'Garnet Light' ‑ 'Edith Cecilia' x Preston Hybrid (0 ‑ 25) ‑ blood red on a low stiff stem.

'Ivy Helen' ‑ 'Radiant Glow' x 'Edith Cecilia', an improved version of 'Edith Cecilia.

'Lunar Look' ‑ Preston Hybrid (0 ‑ 25) x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ a true pink color all over.

'Pink Shell' ‑ Preston Hybrid (0 ‑ 25) x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ a true pink color all over.

'Prairie Treasurer' ‑ 'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow' ‑ odd yellow color with heavy black spots. 'Royal Beauty' ‑ Preston Hybrid x 'Edith Cecilia'‑ a large pale laven­der bloom, with a large pale yellow center.

'Ribbon Bows'‑'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow'‑ bow like bloom of purple fuchsia.

Six more were named in 1969

'Russel Leslie'‑'Edith Cecilia' x Preston Hybrid (0 ‑ 25) ‑ cream with a pale orange frosted center.

'Ivory Sands' ‑ Preston (0 ‑ 25) x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ fawn, fuchsia green line on front of tepals.

'Lunar Landing' ‑ Preston (0 ‑ 25) x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ a pale primrose yellow.

'Manitoba Centennial' ‑ Preston (0 ‑ 25) x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ a pink straw, with a lilac line on front of tepals.

'Pink Watchea' ‑ Preston (0 ‑ 25) x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ pink lavender straw color.

'Prairie Sands' ‑ Preston (0 ‑ 25) x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ a straw sand color with lilac on front of tepals.

Six more were named in 1970

'Lightface' ‑ 'Radiant Glow' x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ fuchsia red, 'large straw face.

'Pink Skyline'‑'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow'‑ a pink straw color=

'Pink Triangle'‑ 'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow'‑ pale pink mauve. A triangular shaped bloom.

'Radiant Pink'‑ 'Radiant Glow' x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ a bright pink front and back of the tepals.

'Copper Gold' ‑ 'Radiant Glow' x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ a bright yellow with a reddish center and reddish backs.

'Rosylight' ‑ 'Radiant Glow' x 'Edith Cecil; center, clump forming.

Seven more were named during 1971 and 197

'Lilac Chiffon' ‑ 'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow’ – a lavender pink straw with a frosted center.

'Burgandy Rose' ‑ Preston (0 ‑ 25) x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ rose red, p. straw center, with ruffled tepals.

'Cream Orchid' ‑'Radiant Glow' x 'Edith Cecilia'‑ cream, pale straw center, short.

'Sulphur Gen' ‑ 'Enchantment' x 'Mega' ‑ a spotless sulphur yellow lily.

'Summer Tan' ‑'Typhoon' x 'Apricot Glow'‑ an upfacing bronze tan with large six inch flowers.

'Dessert Rose'‑ 'Black Cloud' x 'Edith Cecilia'‑ huge pinkish orange flowers with frosted centers.

Tourmaline Red – ‘Black Cloud’ x ‘Radiant Glow’ – light red, flat six inch flowers.

Three were named in 1973

'Harvest Moon’ – ‘Palomino’ x ‘Apricot Glow’ – upfacing cream, spotless.

'Summer Moon' ‑ 'Palomino' x 'Apricot Glow' ‑ a spotless greenish cream flower.

'Panned Gold' ‑ Preston Hybrid x 'Apricot Glow' ‑ yellow faces with frosted centers, red mottled backs.

Eight more were named in 1974

'New Snow' ‑ 'Snow Bunting' x 'Snow Bunting' seedlings ‑ a very white lily with furry buds.

'Snow Brite' ‑ 'Snow Bunting' x 'Snow Bunting' seedling ‑ a pure white lily, with flat outfacing blooms.

'Rosy Amber' ‑'Radiant Glow' x 'Edith Cecilia' ‑ rose bronze blooms with frosted blooms.

'Pink Floss' ‑ 'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow' ‑ a straw face with pink tips, the backs are all pink.

'Pink Lady' ‑ 'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow' ‑ all one solid deep mauve pink color.

'Purple Robes' ‑ 'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow' ‑ purple fuchsia with a lighter center.

'Prairie Harvest' ‑'Edith Cecilia' x 'Radiant Glow' ‑ a straw cream with a deeper colored center.

From the foregoing list of lilies which have been named, there are perhaps a dozen or more which are just as outstanding as these are which I have chosen not to name because while they are outstanding in one garden, they seem to be only fair in someone else's garden.

Some, which have only been fair to good in my own plots, I have sent out and they are reported to be outstanding in the gardens of my customers. Even two bulbs of the same cultivar planted in separate places in the same garden can behave very differently. Normally good clean, disease‑free bulbs will put on a good show the second or third year after they are planted. Then, if they are not well cared for and divided, the blooms are fewer each year until a new crop of bulblets take over and come into bloom once again. I have had this happen when all of the mature bulbs have rotted away.

What is the future for lily breeding? New colors, new forms, and disease resistance, just to name a few of the objectives.

Many of the lilies are seed sterile and as one progresses with them, their hybrids produce less and less viable seed in each succeeding generation. In most cases, this is perhaps a good thing for the plant breeder, as he is not taking up time growing a host of useless seedlings, as the few seeds that do grow are more liable to be worthy of the time spent on them.

In my own plots I can spot a number that are much different and are worthy of a name, I hope. One is the clear wine-red fuchsia lily, a fawn that faces squarely up with a perfect candelabra form of spike, taller upfacing pinks, upfacing bright whites, not off‑whites on taller stems. There is no lack of improvements to be accomplished, but it is such a slow process when one has to increase stock from a single bulb.

As for disease, the best cure I find is to move some of the bulbs every third year before any bulb disease has a chance to get a start.

The tops of old bulbs appear to suffer botrytis worse because of high humidity from above, as it is not there one day and devastating the next day; so, it seems to come from the sky, while actually it is the condition for the rapid spread of the disease.

Lilies, which are planted under trees, seem to live much longer before they suffer from botrytis contact than those lilies, which were planted in open spaces.

I do not spray for this disease as I want to weed out those seedlings, which are susceptible to botrytis. None of the lilies are completely im­mune to it, but many are resistant; while some, like `Dunkirk' and its seedlings are very susceptible.

At a time when the end of lily breeding was in sight with just im­provements on existing cultivars being done, a breeder comes out with a whole new series of spotless Tiger Hybrids which are going to be here for a long time to come as they have the vigor and resistance to disease which will be valuable for crossing into others of less resistance. This is the same break I had in crossing the martagon hybrid of `Dalhansoni' with the Chinese species lily L. tsingtauense, which gave larger flowers and stems and increased the martagons vigor and their resistance to disease. Another beneficial trait is that these hybrids are also easier to transplant than their martagon parent, and they also produce some viable seed in every pod. A full array of colors should be available in the years to come.

The species lilies are a challenge for the future but do not expect to get too much reward for your work. I have grown a few hybrids from L. amabile seed and L. cernuum has given nothing as a seed parent and I doubt that there is anything from its pollen; but let itself pollinate and it produces seed like it was crazy. L. duchartrei and L. lankongense are the same way and resist other lilies' pollen.

Another lily breeding project that should receive a lot of attention in the future is trumpet lilies for the cooler parts of North America. Many are growing a few trumpets and they appear to be hardy, but are they? I have a number of seedlings, which I have had for ten years or more and which have had more or less snow cover every winter. They do not increase as they should and I suspect that it is winter injury to the basal roots, and then it takes the bulb the whole summer to grow new ones again. However, they do persist and bloom beautifully and will compare with any trumpets which are grown in warmer climates. I have noticed considerable winter injury on the bulbs of `T.A. Havemeyer', but they increase fast and bloom every summer as well. Centifolium Hybrid bulbs have not persisted and have passed out in one or two years for me. A person has to be very careful with bulbs of trumpets and not plant them near any trees as they will not tolerate tree roots close to them, and will soon pass out if they are planted in this situation. `Black Beauty' still continues to come up yearly at my place, but I am not too fond of its color which may be a better color when grown in other places.