25 April 2006

On hybridity

Freesia_alba.jpg

Despite the alleged threat of rain, the weekend remained dry enough to actually put some plants in the ground. None of which are particularly picturesque at the moment, except for these beautiful Freesia alba, so much more delicate, and spectacular-smelling, than the hybrids we inherited. (Which are still very nice, and also more floriferous, I'm not complaining). These almost make up for the snowdrops I had to turn down from my mom, because it doesn't get cold enough.

Hybridizers are still up to their old tricks, as anyone who looks at the big seed catalogs knows: Dahlias that look like "mums", "mums" that look like pastry, and plenty of things that look like nothing at all. Little has changed since Katharine White complained about this more than 40 years ago. Every year there's a bigger and less fragrant version of any flower you used to love. I've got an inherited bed of disgusting purple bearded iris hybrids to prove it. A joke compared to our native species. Taste is obviously in short supply among plant breeders, to return to an earlier discussion.

But it would be silly to write off hybrids a priori. Gardeners in colder climes are frequently grateful for a few extra degrees of hardiness introduced by the (metaphoric) turkey baster. Those of us with small yards depend on dwarf cultivars. And everyone benefits from disease resistance and longer flowering periods. It is only the excesses of hybridizers that offend.

Unless they happen to like the wrong colors.


2 Comments:

Anonymous kk said...

My hybrid pet peeve is probably fluffy tulips, which I find personally insulting. Tulips aren't even particularly my thing, but if one is compelled to fuck with them, leave their simple perfection of form in peace, and make em smell good.

4/27/2006 1:34 PM  
Anonymous kk said...

Also remember, hybridization occurs in nature, which is bothersome not only because of the lack of taste sometimes thus displayed, but because it undermines the definition of species, and the delightful categories into which I so enjoy forcing recalcitrant nature.

4/27/2006 1:36 PM  

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