It gives you immense satisfaction and delight when you successfully cross two different types of lilies with the aim of producing a new lily that did not exist earlier. New forms of lilies are raised with the aim of creating blooms with new hues or to alter/ modify some other attribute of the flowers. For instance, a lily grower may desire to breed a lily with enhanced disease resistance ability. Alternatively, the grower may also want to create a new form having shorter stems that are more resistant to winds. Before you undertake the breeding process, you need to ensure that you carefully select the parents. Moreover, a lily breeder who is serious ought to learn a few things regarding genetic inheritance. On the other hand, for an amateur or less serious lily breeder, the various color forms of lilies are the primary attraction for hybridizing plants of these species and their cultivars. In due course of time, he/ she will start picking up a few tricks on how they can control their crosses. This will also require some amount of experimentation.
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It is possible to pollinate lilies without much difficulty, since all the reproductive parts of these plants are not only large, but can also be located easily. The main idea is transferring the pollens from a selected plant (the male or pollen plant) to the stigma of the female or seed plant, which produces the hybridized seeds.
When a bud on the selected female parent plant is just set to open, its petals and sepals (perianth segments) ought to have eased upon and, at the same time, the entire male anthers be removed using a pair of pointed, sharp scissors. You ought to be careful not to damage or cut off the stigma of the flower. The anthers are removed with the aim to prevent self-fertilization by the flower. Subsequently, you need to cover the flower-head using a cotton bag that will allow air circulation, but prevent stray pollens or insects from coming in contact with the stigma. These days, a number of lily growers also make use of perforated polythene bags for this purpose. However, most growers still avoid using polythene bags because they may promote a moist environment which is conducive for rot to set in the cut stamens. Many growers prefer another means to protect the selected stigma - they cover the stigma using a small piece of silver foil, while allowing the remaining flower head to be open to air. A few days later, the stigma turns sticky and shiny - an indication that it is ready to receive pollen.
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Anthers should always be removed from the pollen parent using a pair of tweezers and it should be gently chafed all over the three-lobed stigma in a way that the pollens glue to the latter uniformly. Then you should place the bag over the stigma for some days during which fertilization takes place. Soon, with the development of seeds, the ovary will begin to enlarge. You can remove the covering bag when the petals start withering. Leave the seed pod undisturbed, as it will continue to grow and ripen. You can harvest the completely ripened seedpod.
When we undertake artificial pollination purposefully, it denotes that we are crossing plants of our choice. While doing so, it is important to take adequate precautions to put off any random stray pollen from coming in contact with the stigma of the chosen female parent, thereby spoil all our efforts.
Usually, a hybridizer selects his/ her potential pollen and pod parents possessing traits, which when blended will expectantly create the lily that has been visualized by the grower. The new plant may be a complete picture of what the hybridizer has envisaged, or an intermediary step to yet another cross that the hybridizer has in mind. In fact, an amateur hybridizer enjoys several advantages over those who hybridize lilies commercially. The basic advantage is that the hobbyist can have a much wider assortment of potential results from any cross. Moreover, they do not function under any pressure to produce a plant that is commercially viable.
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The basic hybridizing procedure is not much complicated - it simply involves collecting pollen from the anthers of the selected male or pollen plant and applying or transferring them to the stigma of the female or seed plant. While this seems to be very simple, you need to follow a number of vital steps prior to pollinating the flowers with the purpose of creating new hybrids.
The plant that has been selected for pollination is known as the "pod parent", while the plant from which the pollens are collected for pollination is known as the "pollen plant".The first step involves removing the anthers from the pod parent much before they become mature and are ready to let go their pollens. In case the pollen from the pod parent comes in contact with its own stigma, it will not only self-pollinate itself, but may even prevent the pollens from the pollen parent from fertilizing the ovules of the pod parent. You can remove the anthers from the pod parents using tweezers or even with your hand.
When the stigma of the pod parent is ready to receive pollens, it will begin to ooze a transparent, sticky fluid. This is an indication that the time is right for you to apply the pollens collected from the pollen plant to the pod parent stigma. The easiest method of applying the pollen to the stigma is to take the ripened anther from the pollen parent and paste the pollen uniformly on the stigma, which typically comprises three lobes.
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In case the lilies you have selected for crossing do not bloom at the same time, you may store the pollen from the pollen parent for future use. In order to store the pollen, you need to remove the anthers just prior to them splitting open and put them delicately in a plastic container. You should keep the lid off and allow the anthers to remain in a warm and dry place till the time they split open on their own and become dehydrated. It is essential to label the container's lid immediately after you place the anthers; for chances are there that later you may forget the precise name of species/ hybrid from which they come. Once the anthers have dried out and the pollen have become free, store the closed container in your household refrigerator till the time when the stigma of the pod parent is ready to receive the pollen. If you follow the procedure correctly, it is possible to store the pollen for several months. In fact, it is also possible to freeze pollen for prolonged periods. It has been found that old film containers are excellent for storing pollen in this manner.
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A Q-Tip will work excellently if you are using stored pollen for pollinating a pod parent. This is because a Q-Tip is disposable. After pollinating the pod parent, you should envelop the stigma using a cap made from doubled over aluminum foil. For the majority of lilies, the aluminum foil cover can be made by shaping it over a pencil's eraser end. This cap will protect the stigma from stray pollens as well as insects that may come in contact with it. At the same time, it also shields the stigma from potential damages caused by insects, rain, and chemicals.
At the same time, it is important to fasten a label to the flower-head, which has already been pollinated. This label should include information regarding the two parents - pod parent and pollen parent, in addition to the exact date of pollination. This apart, you need to record all such information in a more permanent manner in a notebook together with additional details regarding the consequences of the cross.
Having pollinated one plant, you need to sterilize your hands as well as tweezers with wood alcohol (methylated spirits) prior to dealing with another plant. In fact, it is not necessary to confine hybridization only to plants in your own garden. You can dry anthers by packing them in a tube or bottle containing a good desiccator - calcium chloride works excellently for this purpose. You should put the powder at the base of the tube and keep it in place using cotton wool. Subsequently, place the anthers on the cotton wool and hold them in position by adding more cotton wool on top. When this process is complete, you can send the tube or bottle to other growers for them to undertake hybridization.
Alternatively, you may also keep the tube in the area of the refrigerator which is warmest. When stored in this manner, the pollen will remain viable for up to two to three months. Subsequently, you can use the stored pollen on plants, which would not be possible to pollinate with the selected male plant in normal situations, as the two parents bloom at different times.