Sunday, February 21, 1999

Bob Sobek, great NE hybridizer

Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 17:05:46 -0500
From: Bobbi Brooks
Subject: Bob Sobek, great NE hybridizer
Bobbie here in Gloucester Ma

Last week we had a great meeting at NEDS to clear away the winter blues...lotsa pics, discussions and we did a preview of what is to come from the hybridizers at NEDS...looking at the seedlings and hybridizing programs- always a highlight!

But to the topic at hand. Bob Sobek. Now, some of you might know of Bob, or of his intros, but being such a quiet person and not much into marketing his own things, I think He is a BEST KEPT SECRET of NEDS! To make his marketing even harder, some of his breeding lines are for earlies, and lates, which of course do not get seen during the regular garden visits of mid July here.

Some of his that you might recognize, and help me out here, if some of you are growing others of his that I am missing...

AERIAL, seen in a journal against something very dark like ED MURRAY, this small gold is tall and has many buds, and the slender scape allows it to move in the breeze. Not many that I can think of has the plant habits and look of this unique cultivar.

3 SEASONS, yes early, and late! and blooms its head off

IN STRAWBERRY TIME, one of his earlist (cross of Rose Cherub and Stella), repeats

PUMPKIN TIME, which I just ordered from Gail Korn in Nebraska to get a fan of it! one of his lates

FACE TO FACE, tall and small, out of Stella

ECHO THE SUN, which, again, small, yellow and repeating is one of the best landscape plants that I can think of!

BACKSTROKE which has a dark side to the sepals, a bronzey brown, making it neat to observe from all sides! (one thing that Bob looks for is shape as in trumpet, and good looks in the garden)

COOL ONE - Bob is into cool green yellows, and this one he calls a great landscape plant, lotsa blooms and tall, large, and cool yellow

Bob has gone back to the species, watches closely for all characteristics and doesn't give a hoot about whatever the latest trend is! His plants will be good quality and have great characteristics and be unique somehow, or else he would not be introducing them! Looks for bud count, branching, fragrance, noctunal bloom for early morning openers, and extended bloom.

His presentation was very helpful, showing parents and then seedlings, telling us what he was looking for, and got!

NOW, I picked up on more things than just his DO NOT JUST LOOK AT BUDCOUNT- that was the big issue a few years back, thinking the more buds the better the plant???? nope! Sometimes budcount makes the flowers open get disfigured bumping against one another, and also the plant can bloom itself out too fast.... he suggested that SCAPE COUNT be a better plant habit. Have fewer buds but on scapes than can come regularly and several to a fan. One fan producing more than one scape. How many plants do you know of that do this? I know that Mike Huben, of NEDS and this robin, is looking into that characteristic also.

He has one unique one that is starred next to my notes out of SUPER PURPLE AND AFRICA, looking for sunfast dark colored daylilies.... And then he surprised us with seedlings from his first TETS! PALMISTRY, out of ERIN PRAIRIE AND GULFSTREAM 'out of howard brooks, Maine' and is introducing COPPER CHAMELEON which he showed three slides of, each looking like a completely different flower! Bronzey, Black and Hazey. Heck it even had a metallic sheen to it! (luckily I am growing this one for evaluation next season!!!! I cannot wait!)

For breeding with species and spideries, his 90-60 out of CAROL SING (Saxton), a late spider x H ctirina looked interesting.

For lates, his 93-43 out of CAROL SING X ORCHID CORSAGE, has great branching and is VERY LATE (meaning SANDRA ELIZABETH time) He mentioned that PARDON ME, Apps, was being used in all 4 of his lines, something that certainly means that newer is not the only way to go! (Bob had given me Corky and Altissima to work with recently...maybe this year I will do that on his advice)

I asked him about his lates and if they opened well. Heck it does us no good to brag over a late that has bad form, just because there is a bloom there (BG). He has a 92-28 VL, that is melon Extract x his 88-45 (now I know numbers are not exciting, not to me anyway, but as a hybridizer, he is well aware of each of his numbers! LOL!) He says this one opens in 33 degree weather! Hey, I will take that! Another starred is FLOURISH OF TRUMPETS, a late from RAIN FOREST X BOUNTIFUL VALLY). Sorry, I dont remember what it looks like, but I do not star things unless they are really of interest...guess we just have to keep looking for it.

He is using PASTEL PINK from the Late MR LACHMAN, of NEDS quite a bit, and told us that this is a great clarifier, it opens up, and although not fancy, it is a breeders plant) He has seedlings that look great from PP with BERMUDA CORAL (Another NEDS breeder and late cultivar, from DON MARVIN) and with SANDRA ELIZABETH (yes, from yet another NEDS breeder, the late Don Stevens) Heck that one was introduced in 93 and still is the VL landmark.

Bob is now introducing through Tranquil Lake, and is in no hurry. He knows that he is breeding and looking for good plant habits and is not in contention for the latest shapes, sizes, nor edging breakthroughs. He is looking for the daylily to be a good garden plant. His conditions of growing in his Ma home are something to be seen....large field with no watering system, horse manure and wood chips. Bob is also a hybridizer of median iris, and those will be seen at his farm also.

I am glad that there are these small backyard hybridizers making unique and quality contributions to our hemerocallis. Bob certainly has shown us that we can all make a hybridizing program which counts, if we watch for good plant habits, observe what is happening for garden traits in F1, F2 and grow plants in clump strength and wait! I always come away from these lectures with more little side notes and tricks than just names of plants that I might want to purchase. One great thing about belonging to a daylily society is the sharing of information from growers and hybridizers.

And I certainly hope that more of you purchase cultivars of Bob's knowing that you are going to get a great daylily. I think with some arm twisting you might be able to get Bob to talk at your clubs as he LOVES to talk daylilies! And hunt down his cultivars. Watch Tranquil Lake for his new intros and seedlings under evalution, contact other NEDS growers who might also be a source.

any others care to comment on Bob's thing?

Bobbie Brooks, MA zone 6.5
Gardens In An Old Fashioned Way

Saturday, February 20, 1999

Re: Bob Sobek and his Daylilies

Date: Tue, 23 Feb 1999 19:11:28 -0500
From: Mary Collier Fisher
Subject: Re: Bob Sobek and his Daylilies
Mary Collier Fisher here in Walpole Massachusetts where the temperature dipped to 0 last night, a very cold zone 5b

Bobbie Brooks and Lynn Purse's posts on Bob Sobek were both enjoyable. I'd like to add to it a bit as well. When I first joined our local group, the New England Daylily Society, Bob Sobek was serving as our President. That year I attended my first August auction as well. Phil Reilly of this forum served as our auctioneer - a tradition he has maintained outstandingly ever since with great humor. Being a newcomer, you can believe that I thought the bulk of my purchases were already made at the bargain table before the auction started, because there were mini clumps of daylilies identified by their color sold for the price of $2.50 or $3.00. For the heck of it, I took an auction number to be able to bid, and I was amazed to hear of much more expensive daylilies being auctioned off for very reasonable prices, even to my newbie's definition of reasonable. I even bid on a few when there were so many fans being offered that the price came down under $10 and even under $5 - how could I resist a bargain like that (you all know this was the first sign of the imminent full blown hemaholism about to take over my life)? Then, onto the auction block came an offering called TOY TRUMPETS. Phil stated that this was this year's (1984 registration) introduction by our own President, Bob Sobek, and he asked Bob to get up and describe it "in a loud and booming voice" since Bob is quite soft spoken for a teacher . Bob described a charming, highly branched and budded, delicate clear yellow daylily with a reddish back to the petals and sepal. He went on to describe the details of the parentage of the daylily in depth (I must say he totally lost me at that point) and gave a great deal of information. Well his introduction price for this daylily was $25 and he had brought in several fans of this to the auction. Phil started the bidding at $25 and there were no hands up - the price started going down from there (which is the way our auctions all go). When it got down to $13 I was feeling so embarrassed that no one had bid yet that I bid for it. The final price that day was $13 for a brand new introduction. Although a bit over my maximum amount to buy one daylily for {that was a long time ago :-)}, I was really glad that I had purchased it for a variety of reasons. When it bloomed the next year, I knew that it was only the beginning of my getting Sobek daylilies. It has many of the same qualities as Bobbie described for AERIAL, being a sib I think. And many of the traits described by Lynn of CORKY, as I think CORKY was one of its ancestors. One of the first years I competed in our Flower Exhibition, I won Best Mini with TOY TRUMPETS.

GOLDORA is another of his that is described as a 1989 golden orange self, 26" tall, EE, 2.5" Dor, Dip. The clump I have of this flower was among the very earliest of mine to start blooming this year, and continued right on through til the lates were blooming. I didn't take note if it was a bud builder but it was one of the best clumps I had this past year. I can't imagine a garden without that bright sunny plant.

MELON EXTRACT, 1990, 30 ML-L 3 5/8" Orange melon self was described by Bob when he brought it to our auction as the clearest melon color he had ever seen. I have to agree with him. When it bloomed for the first time in my garden the day of our show one year, I bravely cut the scape and put it in the show. I won Best Small Flower with it that year - for just one pristine bloom opened on a clean scape. It was lovely.

PUMPKIN TIME, 1984, 37 Late 5.25 Orange gold self - I've posted about this one before. It makes my top 25 list each year. This is definitely a bud builder here, and keeps on opening flowers when not much else is in bloom. Another real bright addition to the border.

Bob is definitely a giver. He shares his information freely with those of us here in NEDS. A number of years ago, when he heard that my son (he's 18 now) was interested in hybridizing for a black daylily he shared a few of his seedlings and COAL MINER and AFRICA with him. I'm glad to say I've met Bob and very glad that I've enjoyed his daylilies.

Regards to all,
Mary Collier Fisher, Zone 5b, AHS Region 4, NEDS Bulletin Editor

Re: Bob Sobek and his Daylilies

From mhuben Wed Feb 24 11:46:52 1999
Subject: Re: Bob Sobek and his Daylilies
Well, Bobbie Brooks and Mary Collier Fisher have shamed me by their example into saying a bit about my mentor in daylily hybridizing. But first, I want to make it clear that Bob Sobek is not dead. :-) Many people aren't spoken of in such glowing terms until after their deaths: Bob just plain deserves it already.

There was an excellent article about Bob and his hybridizing program in a Region IV newsletter several years ago, for those who want to look it up. Unfortunately, I forget the issue number.

But basically, Bob does what we all should do. He exploits his natural advantages, which others might consider handicaps. Start with an unirrigated garden that has an exceptionally cold microclimate and a dry sandy soil that tests how daylilies perform under stressful conditions. Continue with a true plantsman's wide-ranging aesthetic sense that defies short-lived fashions that focus only on faces. And finish with great patience, keen planning, and discerning evaluation.

(A word on the side: Bob is just one of many here at the New England Daylily Society who have unbelievable discernment about what makes a daylily a good plant, besides just a pretty face or scape in a show. Other names that come immediately to mind are Phil Reilly, Susanne Mahler, Mary Collier Fisher. I'm trying hard to learn what I can from them.)

Bob also works on a three-year-to-bloom cycle: that's one of the "natural advantages" he exploits by working on goals that most people pass by in their quest to be fashionable.

Bob usually discusses his 5 breeding projects in a different way than I'm going to present his objectives. I think of his current breeding as attempting to bring the best modern and traditional daylily characteristics into important daylily niches: earlies, lates, northern rebloomers, species-like forms, unusual forms and colors, and talls.

When Bob introduces something, it has very few negatives and a long list of excellent qualities that can be taken for granted. Hardiness, sunfastness, floriferousness, thrip resistance, etc. While few of his introductions "smack you upside the head" with how novel they look, they are never "just another yellow" (even when they are yellow.) The advantage they have is simply summed up in a characteristic all too seldom considered: they have excellent or distinctive BEHAVIOR. Behaviors like high scape-count, good separation between buds, high bud counts, excellent increase, tolerance of environmental extremes like late frosts, opening well after cool nights, etc.

A few of Bob's intros that I grow are:

CITY OF SIN: a ***bright*** red self with terrific clarity of color and a great deal of sunfastness. I saw a block of it at Woodside in the afternoon that just stood out among the fields for its color and mass of bloom.

COOL SPICE: a light yellow-green unruffled self with a star-shaped bloom. Bud count is only in the teens. ***But*** the blooms last about 36 hours, have phenominal substance, will not melt or fade, it's very dormant, thrip resistant and hardy, increases rapidly, and essentially every fan makes a scape, even in clumps. Add to that a peculiar form of gracefulness which is hard to describe, except to compare it to true lilies. Every year I allow myself a cross or two outside of my main breeding program. The past two years, this is the parent I've used.

ECHO THE SUN: a tall miniature yellow self, but what a mass of bloom! This is another one I saw grown as a block at Woodside. It stood out as a great, tall chunk of yellow, composed of myriads of small, wide trumpets. In Bob's garden, it stands out among all the others at midseason. We counted 61 buds on one of the clump's scapes: I wonder what it would do in rich soil. It probably carries rebloom potential, since STELLA is one of its parents.

IN STRAWBERRY TIME: one of the earliest modern daylilies other than the yellow ones, a rose blend less than 2 weeks after its parent STELLA. A hybridizers' flower for two reasons. The color could be mroe clear, and it is strongly nocturnal: the flower begins to senesce (melt) around noon. While it does not rebloom up here, it is excellent for breeding rebloomers, and can throw near-whites as well as pinks.

PUMPKIN TIME: a pumpkin-colored late bud-builder that really will continue blooming until Halloween (though the blooms don't tend to open well after mid-September.) This is pretty strong bud-building: 15 buds on each of two branches. Pollen fertile only.

THREE SEASONS: one of the foundations of my breeding program. A small, unruffled light yellow self that routinely throws three scapes per fan, starting shortly after STELLA. In my garden, where STELLA hardly ever repeats! Around here, I get nine buds on nearly unbranched scapes, but I'm told that it's better down south. It increases rapidly, and in very loose, easily separated clumps. But oh! The seedlings! It passes strong rebloom tendencies, and a small proportion of the seedlings show little trace of the yellow.

TOY TRUMPETS: this is a trophy-taking minature yellow. It has fabulously branched scapes, often with many flowers open at one time. It seems to come away with best miniature at our local shows every two years.

Bob Sobek has released many others as well (I think his count is about 20), but I don't know them all well enough to report on them. Many of Bob's introductions have been out for a while, and are easily affordable. I only know of a few nurseries carrying some of them. Woodside Nursery has a few, and Tranquil Lake Nursery has many. Bob doesn't keep large stocks of his intros, but he does have some.

Bob is easily approachable, and only to happy to share his ideas and practical experience in breeding. He has a great many seedlings that he'll probably not introduce that are of great interest for many breeding programs, such as mine, and he has been very generous sharing them. I've used at least 5 of them heavily in the past two years. If you're breeding in niches outside the current fashions, Bob is the man to talk to.