Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wine Country

The land was paved with gold. Everywhere we looked we saw wild mustard growing . . . in the fields, in between the vineyard rows, up and down the sides of the roads. This is the time of year for the annual Napa Valley Mustard Festival. We found this field along a country road in the Alexander Valley (picture above) that seemed to go on forever. Wild mustard is a cover crop in the vineyards during the winter and in the spring is tilled into the ground as a natural source of nitrogen. 

The picture to the left shows the mustard growing between the rows of vines at Chase Winery in St. Helena. Jeff Blaum, who through the years has become a friend, is the manager and winemaker. Their specialty is zinfandel, and excellent wine it is. Shown above is the Hayne vineyard, which was planted in 1903. The vine in the foreground is 107 years old. The picture above shows Jean with Jeff and a LARGE bottle of Chase Zinfandel.

Each trip has its special memories. There were two on this trip besides having Jeff Corbett and his friend Johnine Casdorph, and Jeff and Nancy Bailey who are daylily friends, join us. We are big fans of the movie "Bottle Shock" which chronicles (in loose fashion) the 1976 Paris wine tasting in which wines from California were paired against some of the finer French wines. Well, if you know the story, you know that this tasting turned the wine world upside down because it was thought that no wines could be as good as those of the French, yet a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay swept the competetion. To add insult to injury, a Stags Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon took second place.

Above (L to R) Jean, Lee, Gustavo Brambila, Thrace Bromberger, Johnine Casdorph and Jeff Corbett in the GustavoThrace winery tasting room in downtown Napa. Notice the "Bottle Shock" poster on the wall.

One of the main characters in the movie "Bottle Shock" was Gustavo Brambila, played by Freddie Rodriguez. Gustavo was an assistant winemaker at Chateau Montelena during the time of the Paris competition. We were fortunate to be able to meet Gustavo and his partner,  Thrace and taste their wonderful wines. This was probably the highlight of the highlights of the trip.

The second highlight was taking the "Bottle Shock" tour at Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, where portions of the movie "Bottle Shock" were filmed. It was great to hear the story, some true and some fiction, and to see where it was filmed. Above is a picture I took of the winery. It is more beautiful during the summer when the vines crawling on the face of the winery are all leafed out.

And one final landscape picture that I thought was quite beautiful. It was taken from the back patio at Bennett Lane Winery in Calistoga. The contrast between the leafless trees, the shrubs, the mustard, and the vineyards in the back was quite breathtaking. 

It was a great trip and I look forward to the next visit the wine country.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day 2010

My Valentine

It does not seem possible that Jean and I met almost 56 years ago this coming May. Jean grew up on a farm near Colo, IA, a farming community in north central Iowa of about 800 residents. I grew up in Colfax, a farm-to-market town 30 miles south of around 2,500 residents. A farm-to-market town was much larger and attracted more shoppers than a farming community town because there were things to do on a Friday or Saturday night.

Jean’s grandparents lived in Colfax and her family visited some weekends with them. She was also friends with one of my classmates. One Sunday, I noticed my classmate in a soda shop with this very pretty girl and I wrangled an introduction. This was in early May, 1954. I got her name and address (at that time just her name Jean Manley, and Colo, IA, got a letter to her). My High School graduation was on May 24 and I knew from a letter that I received back, that she would be there to see her friend graduate. I crossed my fingers, called, and asked her for a date. My fingers worked.

Our first date was on May 24, 1954 and we went to the city of Des Moines, IA, about 25 miles away, with a cousin of mine and his date who had also graduated. We went to a place called Mama’s Pizza Place. Now, in 1954, and having lived a sheltered life, neither of us had any idea what Pizza was and decided that whatever it was, we didn’t like it upon tasting. Of course, that has changed.

Three years and three months later, we were married. Jean had graduated with a 2-year teaching degree and I was a journeyman printer. We started our married lives in Iowa Falls in north central Iowa. She taught fourth grade and I worked on a newspaper. In our second year of marriage, we decided that I should go to college (four years after HS graduation). I went two years to Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls then we moved to Cedar Falls where we both attended Iowa State Teacher’s College (now the University of Northern Iowa) and both graduated in 1962. During those two years, we also had a daughter, Christine Ann who was followed four years later by our son, Jaimie.

I won’t bore you with more of our life story. I just want Jean to know that when she said yes, she made my heart and my life complete. She is my wife, the love of my life, and my best friend. Since our 50th anniversary in 2007, there have not been many mornings that we have not kissed and said, “Good morning, I love you, and happy anniversary.” At this point in our lives, every day is an anniversary, and every day is special with my Jean.

 Friends (?) decorate our 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air convertible at our wedding.

These are for all you ladies out there!
And, while you enjoy your roses, listen to the incomparable 
Frank Sinatra!
(copy and paste to your browser)

Jeff Hundt
(Please send us your address) 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Greenhouse Hybridizing . . .

For me, there is no greater plea-
sure in daylilies than hybridizing 
and walking the seedling fields 
to see the results of your art. 
Yes, in my opinion, hybridizing
is as much an art as brushing
paint on a canvas. You select a 
pod parent and combine that 
with a selected pollen parent. 
Your selections may be for a 
particular color, large or small 
flowers, full formed or UF's, 
eyes and edges, teeth and 
tentacles, etc., etc, the select-
ions are unlimited. Select for 
what makes you happy.  

In this instance, I am working 
for reds with teeth. Toward 
this goal,  I used  H. 'Horny 
Devil' as the pod parent, and  
H. 'Jean Pickles' as the 
pollen parent with a result-
ing first generation seedling 
shown. Now, I need to work 
on cleaning up the color and 
enhancing the teeth. I would 
like to get the teeth in both 
white and gold, maybe with 
a watermark on the bloom..

Another cross that I was 
anxious to make was to use  
H. 'Elisa Dallas' and H.  
'Crazy Ivan' with each other. 
I have always admired the 
eye of H.  'Elisa Dallas' but 
wanted a little better plant

under it along with a larger 
flower. I thought H. 'Crazy 
Ivan' might do the job for 
me so I used it's pollen. 

The resulting seedling was 
larger with a better plant 

underneath and I picked 
up the form of  H.  'Elisa 
Dallas' that I prefer. The 
eye shows with a small
watermark and a great green 
throat. A very striking flower.

All of our hybridizing is done in 
the greenhouse between 
late February and the end of 

Hybridizing daylilies is 
easy which is probably 
why so many people are 
doing it. As I have shown
above, you pick your two
parents with a goal in mind,
or,as many hybridizers do,
simply put pretty on pretty.
When you have selected a
pollen parent,you break off
an anther and place the
pollen on the tip of the pod
parent pistil. If the cross
takes,you will see a seed
pod forming in a few days
which will mature between
50-55 days.

The pollen should be yellow and fluffy. If it is white and hard,
it is probably not good. Images showing good, fluffy pollen (top)
pollen to pistil (center), and newly formed seed pod (bottom).

As I said, hybridizing daylilies is easy . . . try it, you might like it. 
I guarantee that once you see some of your own seedlings 
bloom, you will be hooked.

Life is very, very good. 

to be continued . . .

Monday, February 8, 2010

Greenhouse 1 . . .

When we purchased our 2-acre property in 1993, one of the first things we did, after remodeling the house, was to build a green-house. This first greenhouse was 24’ wide by 36’ long and had a crown of 8’. It was covered with two layers of poly and heated by a 75,000 btu natural gas heater. You can see this greenhouse just after we had a light snow. In the back, the roof barn appears above the greenhouse. This particular snow closed our schools for one week. Hamilton County and the Chattanooga area consists of valleys, ridges and mountains that become very treacherous even with light snow if the weather remains cold so it can’t melt.

Remember,  guys toys are never large enough . . . the same with the greenhouse. In 2007 we tore down the old greenhouse and built a new one 30’ wide X 44’ long and a crown of 14.5', which doubled the square footage of the first one. We also had to double the size of the natural gas heater to 150,000 btu’s. This allowed us to put four 4’ wide benches the length of the greenhouse. You can see the potted plants to the right of the greenhouse awaiting cold weather.

The front and back of this greenhouse is made of rigid double walled plastic.  The remainder is a double layer of 6 mil. plastic.

That's all for today, February 8, 2010

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What we are about . . .

Lee is the one most recent recipients of the Helen Field Fisher Gold Medal. Established in 1950, the Helen Field Fischer Gold Medal is the American Hemerocallis Society’s highest honor and is the official recognition for distinguished and meritorious service rendered the AHS by a member on the national level. It is named for the founder of the American Hemerocallis Society.

Lee is past President of the Tennessee Valley Daylily Society and travels extensively giving presentations to daylily clubs and symposia. He joined the AHS in 1986 and immediately put his skills to use for the benefit of the AHS. Lee was elected Regional Vice President for Region 1 in 1990-1992. He served as the Editor of the region’s newsletter in 1990-2002 and distinguished himself as one of the first to introduce color and desktop publishing software to daylily newsletters. In recognition of his groundbreaking newsletters, The Daylily Appeal won the AHS Best Newsletter Award in 2000.

Lee broke new ground by introducing the concept of off-season symposia and chairing the very first Mid-Winter Symposium (MWS) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He chaired 11 MWS. Off-season symposia further the educational goals of the society and foster social networking within the society at a national level. Lee is also a distinguished daylily hybridizer. He registered his first daylily, ‘Choo Choo Fantasy’, in 1995 and has registered over 130 cultivars.

In 1993 Lee and his wife Jean purchased two acres in Hixson, Tennessee just about twenty minutes north of Chattanooga. One of the first things they did at the new property was erect a greenhouse to further their hybridizing and seedling growing efforts. Hybridizing is now done in the greenhouse during March and April. This allows for earlier seed set and harvesting which in turn allows for earlier planting and increases the chance of 90 ­ 95% bloom by the second season. The seedlings, 3000-5000 per season, are evaluated outside so as to get a “true” measure of their performance.

Lee and Jean were both educators. Jean taught fourth grade most of her career, retiring in 1999. Lee started out as a classroom teacher and moved on to administration, ending his career as an administrator in the Dean's Office at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He retired in 1998.

Jean is a Master Gardener and is quite active in their projects. In her spare time Jean is an accomplished rug hooker. She is also an accomplished dog walker and a volunteer at the Tennessee Aquarium.

In the off season they love to travel with the Napa Valley and National Parks being some of their favorite vacation spots.