Leading the way with Dianthus
British National Carnation Society
Border Carnations “New Beginnings.”
I have now for the past few years been trying to breed new Border Carnation cultivars and have found the experience to be a very relaxing break from just growing and showing them, of course it can also be very frustrating but a new cultivar that has never been seen before soon makes up for any disappointments. I start to look at future cross plants after the show season has finished as I find that I am less distracted, in that I am not concentrating on a bloom for showing. I can now in fact spend more time in looking at the plants habit of growth rather than just looking for show blooms. I find now in August is the best time to mark out plants that are still growing well as there are still many that have yet to flower, paying particular attention to those plants that have all the attributes of a good Border Carnation, good strong stems and more so that it has plenty of good healthy grass, scent is an extra bonus as the seedlings will adopt this trait if crossed with a scented parent.
There are many articles that explain in more technical terms how to cross plants but I have found that the best way is to not to disbud the stems as if for exhibition, I find it is better to let all the side buds bloom as this will increase the chance that they may carry the pollen, I even go to the extent of removing the crown bud as I have found in the past that the crown bud is sometimes void of pollen and its removal can assist in the secondary blooms having pollen.
It is now a daily task on keeping an eye on the selected parent plants for when they begin to flower and when the stigmas or styles protrude from the centre and are glistening then it is time to apply the pollen from the other selected parent. The bloom must be fresh not long opened and I gently part the petals to reveal the stamens carrying the pollen sacs. The books tell you that noon on a warm dry day are the best time to secure the dry pollen. I gently use a sable brush to transfer the pollen but you can use any means available, even removing the whole anther by tweezers and then lightly applying the pollen to the waiting stigma. Within 24 hours you will know if you have been successful as the pollinated bloom will close up and once this happens I carefully pull down the petals to split the calyx as this will allow the base to dry out. Leaving it as it was would allow the moisture to rot the ovary and thus the seed. After awhile the petals will dry out and can be removed but only when they come away easily and not the stigma as this could damage the seed pod.
The seed pod must be now kept dry as possible and must be watched daily as when it starts to turn brown carefully remove it. The seed pod will be quite hard and the seed can be collected, I like to place a sheet of white paper on the bench and then gently prise the pod apart, one must be very gentle as damaged seed will not germinate. The seed looks black; hence the white paper to locate any dropped seed, harvest it in a small envelope type packet and store it in a dark cool place and mine is in the refrigerator. Remember to write the parents names on the envelope and store it if you wish till the spring. I sow the seed in Scotts F2+S but any low nutrient compost such as J.I.No1 may be used. When the leaves first appear they are broad and round called cotyledons, wait till the first true like leaves appear and gently remove them with a dibber and pot them on, before finally going into 4” pots of J.I.No2 compost to grow on throughout the year, they will flower the following year. Remember to label the plants individually with the parents for future identification.
Why not give it a go; you never know what gem may be found.
I remove the crown bloom to assist in the other buds to produce pollen. As soon as the bud begins to open I try and collect the pollen and allowing all the side buds to bloom this gives me a better chance of succeeding.
The first leaves are called cotyledons and are broad and rounded. When the true sword like leaves appear, ease the seedling out very gently and pot on.