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Creating Hybrid Plants For Gardens
January 25, 2010

Just think, only 11 months till Christmas.

I had to throw that in here :-)

Karen's Pacemaker replacement went off without a hitch and is healing nicely, though she is very sore.

Actually, what they did was replace the battery or what they call, 'the generator'.

Still, anytime the body is cut open and any type of invasion takes place, I consider to be major surgery.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

The past couple weeks have been a bit above normal temperature wise and below normal sunshine wise.

Not to mention, no snow.

What we have on the ground in most locations is a couple inches of dirty, crunchy snow.

Yesterday's rain melted even more.

Winter promises to return later on this week, however.

Keet (Akita) continues to walk with me and the weather conditions never seem to be an issue with her.

The only problem she has is not wanting to wear a sweater on certain days.

The mild weather hasn't kept the birds away and it hasn't kept the hawk away either.

The latest victim or the feathers, appear to be that of a Dark-eyed junco.

The wild turkeys come out into the open a bit more often this time of year as they scratch around for something to eat.

In years past, they have visited my yard looking for food.

When turkeys scratch for food, they can rip up the ground in a hurry.

Wild turkeys will fly only when they have to.

Turkeys fly from trouble and will fly to find a night time roosting spot high within a tree.

Now, they aren't the most graceful fliers and to watch these large birds fly in and out of a tree is almost comical.

This picture was taken a couple of weeks ago when something startled a small flock and the birds headed for the trees.

This picture is a good couple hundred yards away from me and a good 60 to 70 feet up in the trees.

Hopefully you can tell it is a turkey.

Speaking of birds.

If you live in Michigan or in the Great Lakes Region, here is a wonderful new birding forum you may enjoy.

I visit the site as do many of you already.

Sandy has done a wonderful job.

Michigan Birding Network is tastefully and very creatively put together and encourages member interactions. Putting on your photo images is a snap, which is often a problem for someone like myself.

For great conversation and wonderful photography, stop on by.

Give it a look see and develop new friendships along the way.

If you're starting your own seed geraniums, pansies and fibrous begonia, now is a very good time to get them into the seedling trays.

And as a rule of thumb in USDA zone 4/5 - start those and perennials now. Start most annual flowers towards the end of February.

Most vegetables towards the end of March and vine crops such as melons in mid-April.

Quick and easy time line for getting your seeds into seed starting trays.

Warmer climates, you should have many things started by now.

I don't plant as many seeds as I once did.

I suppose if I had a greenhouse, I would be planting all kinds of goodies.

Even the novice or rookie gardener can get a few thing growing on the windowsill.

You will have successes and failures.

Don't get discouraged when things don't go well, learn from your failures.

Hybrid plants and seeds are an everyday part of our life.

Again, some of you understand how this works while many know the word or term, but may not understand completely.

For all of you, please be patient with me as I try to explain a few basics on hybridization and hybrid plants.


It should be remembered that today, that a few of our popular garden flowers are still the original species.

Hybrids are every where.

You can run down the list .

Peonies, roses, iris, phlox, delphinium, poppies, gladiolus, marigolds, petunias, zinnias, tulips, daffodils, and more.

The same goes for our many of our veggies.

Shrubs such as lilacs and azaleas and others are in the forms we use in our gardens, are the results of man-made crosses.

Hybrids bearing little resemblance to the original wild species from which they have been developed.

This hybridizing process goes back, in some cases, through hundreds of years.

In some, as with the rose, so far as to be lost in antiquity."

What Are Hybrid Plants?

Now, many of you know this, but for our new gardeners and readers, here is a bit of a lesson.

Hybrid plants are the result of cross-breeding similar varieties of parent plants.

The goal is to produce desirable characteristics in the next generation, meaning that the hybrid seed will carry the newly combined and desirable genetic makeup.

Plants and nature have been doing this all by themselves for as long as they have been making seeds.

Natural selection has allowed certain plant mutations to be forwarded to succeeding generations, establishing a solid and healthy biodiversity.

Hybridization techniques use the principles of natural selection in controlled plant breeding circumstances, allowing specific genetic crosses to be made.

The resulting seed produces the hybrid generation we enjoy in our flower beds and veggie gardens today.

A great example would be the 'tangelo', which is a mixture of an orange and a tangerine and last week I mentioned the 'Big Sky' series of Echinacea as hybrids.

To insure the quality of these hybrid plants, they are also reproduced by cuttings, plant division, budding and cell growth.


Hybridizing began to grow in interest when Gregor Mendel studied plant genetics in the 1860s.

He experimented with peas, and tracked specific characteristics from generation to generation.

His studies showed that characteristics could be controlled by using specific pollen with specific flowers to produce seeds that carried the desired characteristics.

Although his work was not widely studied in his day, it became popular in the early 20th century when seed companies began experimenting with his ideas.

Pioneer Hi-Breds of Des Moines, Iowa, was founded in 1926.

These scientists were the first to work on developing hybrid seed corn for large scale agriculture applications.

Eventually, universities joined the research, and widespread commercial production of hybrid seeds with superior characteristics soon followed.

Better plants produce better yields. Better yields are needed to feed a growing global population.


Open-pollinated plants produce seeds that will grow true to type or species.

Each succeeding generation of open pollinated plants will be closely similar to the preceding generation.

Open-pollination is achieved by wind, animals or insects mixing pollen from hundreds or even thousands of the same variety of plants.

This creates a strong and healthy genetic diversity.

It also creates an environment where the best genetic material is dominant, ensuring a successful future for the plant variety.

Hybrid plants grow from seeds which were created by purposely crossing two plants of the same variety with genetic differences (though this does happen in nature as well).

A hybrid is a controlled natural cross of pollen from one variety with a flower of a similar variety, with a viable seed result that will produce a new plant that carries the combined genetics of both parent plants.

Plant hybridizers look for specific traits in the plants grown from this resulting seed, such as improved plant , cold and drought tolerant, disease resistant, vigor and increased yield.

Here is an example:

Corn was the first hybrid seed crop to be marketed extensively, and it is still the most important economic crop grown in the United States.

So, examining the breeding of corn gives us a good insight into the science of hybridization.

The first generation of a controlled cross is a simple hybrid, called an F-1 hybrid. When F-1 hybrid corn seeds are planted, for example, they will display the improved vigor, yield and other traits bred into them.

If F-1 pollinates F-1, the resulting seeds, if planted, will revert to one of the original parent plants or a weaker inbred version.

Seeds produced by two identical F1 hybrid plants are often sterile.

This does not alter the fact that the F-1 hybrid seed produced vigorous, high-yielding plants with a healthy crop.

Growers and breeders must breed a fresh hybrid seed crop every year for us to grow on our farms and our gardens.

More complex hybridization techniques are used to combine characteristics from more than two parent plants.

A simple illustration of this type of hybrid is a double-cross hybrid, which is created when four inbred parent plants are combined.

Plants A and B result in seeds AB, and plants C and D result in seeds CD. When AB and CD are hybridized, the result is ABCD, a double cross hybrid.

Corn is hybridized by planting a few rows of female seed (desired seed) and a row or two of male seed.

When the time is right, the tassels are removed from the female crop and the wind moves around the pollen from the male crop.

Each silk on an ear of corn is a single female pollinating organ.

One pollinated silk, one kernel of corn.

A full ear of corn means good pollination.

After pollination, the male stalks and ears are removed from the field so all that remains is a field of pollinated corn plants without tassels.

In some instances, helicopters are used to wind blow the male pollen to the female silk.

This can continue until desired results show in plants and or fruits.

Years of fine tweaking often takes place until these desired results happen.

Crops grown from F1 hybrid seeds have helped revolutionize US agricultural production for 100 years.

My new nephew in law and his family work about 4,500 acres near the Indiana (in Michigan) border and part of their business is to hybridize seed corn for one of the big producer/sellers.

I know how it works, but we've been invited to the farm to see the operations this summer.

Hopefully we can make the trip.

Hybrid seed was a driving force in the agricultural improvements made by American farmers during the 20th century.

Because they are the result of natural pollination, (with man's help) hybrid plants can continue to safely improve crop production in developing countries by improving plant vigor and yield.

Today, many modern plant genetics rely on biotechnology laboratory work and testing, not necessarily hybridization (is this another letter).

Raising and saving seed is obviously not for everyone.

The gardener whose only aim is to grow a few backyard vegetables is certainly not interested.

That gardener to whom the height of adventure is trying a new variety will certainly back away.

But the avid gardener who enjoys a challenge, who likes to try something different, who wonders about the "why" of how plants grow - - this person should probably try raising seed.

There will be failures, problems and disappointments, but these will only make successes that much sweeter.

However, this isn't for me as I have little time or patience.

I will cross pollinate squashes simply to have them pollinate and grow fruit (male from a 'Zucchini' to a female of a 'Pumpkin' or 'Butternut squash'.

Now if I was intent on hybridizing the squash or pumpkin, I would have to do a couple of things.

First I would have to make sure I have a male and female flower that will open the same day.

Squash are viable for a few short hours.

I would get up bright and early, before the bees or other pollinators and go out to the garden.

Taking the pollen from the 'Anther' of the male flower and rub I would rub it on the 'Stigma' of the female flower.

Assuming pollination took place, I would then secure a paper bag over the female insuring no other form of pollination can occur.

By the end of the day I can remove the bag.

Because the seeds grow within the fruit, the pollinated flower will grow to be a fruit that the package said it was.

One year I should try and see what I developed just for the fun of it.

The seeds planted next year will be the hybrid.

Flowers that have both male and female parts and last for days are more complicated to hybridize.

Crops like corn, where the seed is on the outside, will look like the cross pollination this year.

Think bi-colored sweetcorn.

You may save seeds from hybrid corn, zinnias, marigold or what have you, but often these seeds are sterile, produce from one parent or a very weak copy of the hybrid itself.

Often showing weak or poor characteristics (much like inbreeding) as flaws are magnified.

Sometimes when attempting to breed a better plant, certain qualities are lost.

Flavor in vegetables is often lost for higher yield or other reasons (this has brought heirloom tomatoes to the forefront once again).

Certain flowers loose their natural smell when cross bred to make a larger or more disease resistant plant.

Sometimes the gene pool reverts back to old parentage or isn't what was intended and you have something different.

In some cases, it is wise to stay with native cultivars. Plants that have survived your regions growing habits for millennia.

Plants that can take your abuse or neglect.

I digress.

Once a hybrid has been established and ready for market, a name must be created and trade marked.

Often the common name and or binomial name will bare a definition of the plant or crop, or maybe the breeders name.

Sometimes the second name may be that of a child or something else all together.

Trademarks, Copyrights and Rights reserved are all reasons why it is illegal to reproduce or propagate the plants for profit.

Well, I hope at least one of you learned a little something today.

It is time to fly for now.

Before go, here is your positive thought for the week.

I searched through rebellion, drugs, diets, mysticism, religions, intellectualism and much more, only to begin to find...that truth is basically simple - and feels good, clean and right.

Chick Corea (1941-) American Jazz Musician


An absolute amazing quote don't you think?

Many of us have been there.

We've tried different things.

Went along with the crowd.

Try it you'll like it.

I'm trying to find myself.

What other reasons or excuses are needed to lie to ourselves or hurt others?

When all we need to be is truthful.

Be truthful to yourself and to others.

It feels good and it should.

It is the right thing to do.

Anything else and we get caught up in a web of lies.

We begin to hurt our loved ones and our self.

The truth is so simple.

So pure.

So honest.

The truth is so right.

It is what God wants from us.

Isn't is wonderful to look at yourself in the mirror everyday and know you are being honest and truthful.

When you are truthful, you love yourself.

When you love your self, you can truly love others.

You care for your self, and you now look at life in a whole different light.

You become that someone special.

You can't find anything as simple and delightful as the truth and love.

You wont find it in pills or a bottle.

Its not in made made religions or herbs.

You will only find it in the 'Creator' of all things.

The Truth Rocks.

Until next time my friend.

God Bless.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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