Sunday, January 2, 2011

Meet Bob Faulkner

Bob Faulkner and Rachel Lambertson

This has been a very difficult entry for me to write.  Anyone who has seen one of Bob's presentations or read anything has written, has realized that he has an outstanding way of describing his world.  I don't feel that I could have taken what Bob wrote and translated it into my own words and come away with the same picture.  So, even though this is the lazy way, here is my interview with Bob Faulkner, unedited  in his own words.
1. Do you have another job? If not what did you do before?
Ans—I retired from Hobart Corporation in 2008 after working there in the National
Service, Technology Center for 30 years. Before that I worked at Sears Department Stores
for 13 years. I sold shoes (before Al Bundy)…I would come home at night and my hands
would smell like feet.  I helped decorate the windows …that was a huge learning
curve…I didn’t even know colors had to match…I worked in the maintenance
department, the display department, the sign shop and in sales….all things that helped me
later on in life.
   The shoe department was on the main floor of a 3 floor building and right next to the
escalator.  I remember people getting their totes stuck in the steps and having them tear
right off their feet, I remember a 90 year old lady trying her best to run up the down
escalator, her wig was bobbing up and down on her head. One day a lady said she needed
a pair of sneakers, so she grabbed her left leg, twisted it off and handed it to me: “if the
left shoe fits this, then the right one will fit too.”  Customers on either side of her gasped.
Sales was interesting to say the least.
   I worked part time at a liquor store, keeping the goods stocked, I worked in a nursery
doing custom orders for customers and sales….and I worked at a small grocery just
around the corner from my house to put myself thru college.

2. When did you first discover daylilies?
Ans—We always had a clump of ‘lemon’ lilies by the back door when I was child, but I
didin’t know they were actually daylilies…they were very species looking but had a
fragrance.  Once I bought my childhood home and began to collect plants, my Uncle gave
me several clumps of his very old daylilies. They were pretty but would bloom in a flush
for about 2 weeks and be over for the year. 
   I was learning to amend the soil and I had removed all the perennials from my front bed
which was 10 feet by 80 feet, and was adding copious amounts of coarse sand to loosen
up the hard clay soil.  A friend stopped by and noticing my ‘old’ daylilies he told me that
I really needed to get some new ‘hybrid’ daylilies.  “They are much prettier, bloom longer
and are just all-around a better choice for your display bed.” Well, I didn’t know what
‘hybrid’ meant and was kind of interested, but where would I find those?  So we took a
trip to a local hybridizers’ yard.  The guys’ name was John Benz and he had a riot of
unusual daylilies like I had never seen before. One really grabbed me, it had two colors on
it…imagine!  He told me it was rather new and was a named daylily called “Fooled Me.”
Man, I’d love to have a start of that……John said; “I can get you a start for $50.”
   $50!!!!!  Well, once I picked myself up off the ground, I told him I didn’t think I was
ready to pay that much for any flower, or tree…Thanks anyhow.  I thought to myself,
“what’s wrong with someone who thinks a flower is worth that much money.?”   Are they
   On the one hour trip back home I told Mike that rather than pay someone all that money
for a daylily that I will just grow my own from seed. I have two acres of good soil, why
should I pay someone else that much money when I can do it myself for a lot less.  So that
was my snap decision that led me into hybridizing.

3. What drew you most to the patterns you’ve become known for?
Ans—Good question. That next year I started buying some very inexpensive daylilies
from a close-by hybridizer, Dave Jackson. He was very helpful, friendly, had a ton of
named varieties and sold me my first ever named daylily. He said if I was going to
hybridize I needed a good one and he recommended one named “Always Afternoon.”  So
I bought it along with some seedlings he would part with. I made a nice bed for them and
that was my beginning.
   The first three years was spent learning all the details of hybridizing, following all the
instructions and warnings that I read from any magazine (including the AHS Journal) and
just getting my feet wet into daylilies.  I would do all the careful crosses, no purple to
yellow, no big to little, no eyes to selfs…and after 3 years I was really bored with what I
was getting. 
   Begin a member of the AHS I would get several catalogs from hybridizers, (this was
before the internet was a big sales tool) and I would look at what they had and realize that
my daylilies were falling way short.  But another interesting thing was that when I would
see a ‘pattern color’ daylily I would think to myself, that’s the best one in the book!  Or I
would go on short trips and visit hybridizers and if they had a pattern seedling I would be
much more turned on by it than anything else in the beds.
   So in 1999 I had a light-bulb moment.  Why in the world don’t I just try and grow pattern
color daylilies? I like those the best, it would be worth the effort and maybe I’ll get some
daylilies that I really like. Nobody had ever done just patterns before, so It was
frightening to throw all my eggs into one basket, but I thought I’d either have great
success or nobody would ever know me.  But at least I would follow my passion.  Three
things I thought that the pattern color needed were (1). The pattern was so small in those
days, maybe the size of a quarter, so I needed to work on making the pattern larger, (2)
the flower needed to be flat and not trumpet shaped. A flatter flower will show more of
the pattern and (3) the sepals needed to show as much as the petals, because if the pattern
on the sepals could not be seen, it would take away from the appearance of the flower.  So
those 3 goals were what I had in mind when I started to work towards pattern colors in

4. What other forms/styles do you enjoy?
Ans--I’ve learned that I look at things with an artistic bent. So to me a flower needs to
have some kind of symmetry to get my attention.  Now that symmetry can come from the
entire plant and not just a bloom, for instance a nice unusual form may not have a very
symmetrical flower, but if  the entire clump has a kind of symmetry that is very pleasing
to the eye, I could like that.  I love good color, I love good contrast. Big is good, small is
good…long as they are pretty to me, I like them.  My biggest criticism is a dirty
background color. So many new intros are dirty…..if you would check the muddy pinks
against a nice orchid for instance and you will quickly see how bad the color might just
be.  A big edge isn’t the entire flower, nor is huge wide petals that hide the sepals. I look
at the whole flower.  Of course like in anything there might be an exception.  The reason I
stick mostly with pattern colors is the fact that it takes so much time and energy to just do
one area well.  I might take on another at some time, if I feel I can handle the work load.
So far that isn’t the case.
5. What other hobbies or plant loves do you have?
Ans—That’s an easy question. I try to limit myself to only those things that contain
chlorophyll.  I love plants, period. When I was a very little kid I can remember being in
awe at a plant, to watch it grow and get larger and bloom was simply a miracle to me. I
couldn’t get enough of that.  I started with petunias from seeds, I would grow them at the
edge of our vegetable garden. Then I would walk back into the woods and find unusual
trees and shrubs and one by one move them into the yard. I am blessed enough to be
living at the house where I was born, so I still have some of those trees I planted when I
was a kid.  One blue-spruce which I bought thru the mail for a dollar is now 60 feet tall.  I
collect rare and unusual perennials, weeping trees, I have a collection of unusual
Magnolias, 6 horse chestnut trees, a raft of rare and interesting conifers and lots in
   I also raise and show pigeons, baldhead rollers to be more exact.  I’ve had pigeons since I
was nine years old. I’ve learned so much about genetics, line-breeding, inbreeding and
color inheritance techniques from doing pigeons all these years that it was a rather simple
transition to daylilies using some of the same practices.  To not know basic genetics it to
do many more crosses than you would ever need to. I recommend to anyone to study
genetics for a while, go on line and look up some things about dominant and recessive,
dilute and primary colors…and other genetic factors.  It’s wildly interesting and valuable
to any hybridizer.
   If you go to study mutations in daylilies for instance…you will be hard-pressed to find
much information about where all our breaks originated. You can research pigeons and
find out where every mutation occurred, how it was obtained and more important, how to
go about getting it in your own line.

6. What do you feel makes a daylily worthy of registration?
Ans—Because the AHS has no standard for daylilies; what they should look like, how
they should perform, plant habit….it makes this question so subjective.  And I really
don’t think they should have a standard.  
Each person seems to have their own slant on this, and that is what makes this hobby so
interesting and so varied.
Having said that, on a scale of 1 to 10 I would think the number one quality would be that
it thrives well….at least in its own territory.
Number two is that it is pretty to look at. For a hybridizer you might need to add distinct
from any other daylily available. But then distinct is subjective too.
Going on from there…lots of blooms over an extended period of time.   Then, for a hybridizer it needs to be fertile, at least one way…for a gardener this wouldn’t
be an issue.  Other conditions would be disease resistant…weather resistant…sun resistant.  Blooms above the foliage would be pretty important…height is again so subjective. When
I began in the early 90’s for instance, hybridizers would cull anything that was too tall.
The daylily of that period had to have its blooms setting just above the foliage.  That trend
has all but died and now tall is very important to lots of people.  Given enough time I
imagine that we will see that reverse itself, or least moderate in the next 5-10 years.
   How fast it multiplies is important, unless you want the value to stay high, then a slow
increaser would be good.  “Angels’ Smile” would be the consummate example of this.
Introduced a long time ago, it still holds its value due to how slowly it increases.
   Taking all these qualities into consideration, for me then the most important thing for a
daylily to be worthy of introduction is that it has little resemblance to one already

7. What are your hybridizing, tagging and storage methods for seeds?
Ans—I use the white paper hang tags for marking my crosses.  Some people don’t like
them because they fall apart before the seeds are ripe. If you go to Office Depot, they
carry a ‘heavier’ version of hang tags that will hold up well all summer. The paper is
   I am finally deep enough that almost on any given day I can use fresh pollen to hybridize
with.  There are some flowers I want to use that aren’t blooming that day, so I use frozen
pollen from them. 
   Seeds are stored in small zip-lock baggies in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. I
don’t dry them, they go right in from the pod.  Perennial seeds need a little moisture to get
thru the storage period, especially in zone 5 where they get stored for nearly 6 months
before planting.  I go thru them once during the winter to remove any moldy seeds from
the bag.  It’s been my experience that a seed molds because it wasn’t good to begin with,
although it felt like it at the time.  Mold does not spread fast to other seeds, so you can
wipe them off and they are good to go until planting time.

8. Where would you like to see your line go?  Daylilies in General?  The AHS?
Ans—My goal has been all along to have the most beautiful pattern daylilies that ever
existed. Adding to that, I would love to produce one day a pattern that will be a great
enough plant to be a standard in landscapes…the “Stella D’Oro” of patterns.  Another
goal is to consistently produce daylilies that when purchased by others will produce a
wonderful line of flowers for them, and will be beautiful to look at and totally hardy. To
know that you made an impact long after you have left is a lofty and important goal to
   In general I think daylilies will not need my help in where they should go.  The public
already has dictated to us that they aren’t so keen on the newest and greatest thing to
come out of a hybridizers’ yard.  There are two schools of thought. One is the value a
daylily has to another hybridizer….the second is the value a daylily has to a petunia
   Supply and demand will always dictate where the daylily goes. We can’t ‘advertise’ our
daylilies enough to make the average gardener want to pay a lot for them.  The average
gardener will obtain daylilies when they are old enough to be affordable and pretty
enough and hardy enough to be a flower they look forward to seeing each and every year
in their own landscape….like an old friend. 
   As far as where I would like to see the AHS go….I believe they are already making
strides in some areas. For instance, when I first became interested in daylilies the AHS
seemed like an “Avatar” World somewhere out there in Pandora, which would take 5
years of suspended flight in total unconscientousness to become a part of.  Already I feel
the past few years have greatly changed that perception. It seems much easier now to be a
part of the team and to be counted, whereas before, it seemed like one had be a part of an
in-crowd in order to be heard. It was quite frustrating to think that one just didn’t have a
voice. I think some still believe that, but if they will put an effort into assisting the AHS,
even thru local clubs, whatever it is, they won’t go un-noticed for very long.  The AHS is
mainly volunteers and any help we can give them is so much more appreciated than you
can ever imagine.  I challenge anyone to give it a try. 
   I do think the AHS Editor and team could do themselves a big favor by finding a way to
make even more voices count. Perhaps a ‘letter from readers’ section where the good and
the bad could be aired out.  It is much easier to keep members, even frustrated ones, if
they feel their voice is at least heard by someone who cares.
   I think another good idea would be if when the local clubs have a flower show,  that they
advertise in the local paper.  There lie a vast number of plant lovers who troll all the
nurseries and catalogs looking for something different, new and exciting to add to their
landscape. I run into people like this everywhere….but 99% of them would never had an
idea that there was such a thing as a daylily show.  Advertising is cheap and if it would
bring in one more member, it would be money well spent. 
   I still think a seedling contest for the entire membership would be quite interesting,
especially in the winter months…but the details would be a difficult thing to iron
out…plus the cost.
Almira Buffalo Bone Jackson (2011)

9. Who would you consider a major influence in your program? Why?
Ans—all former hybridizers in one way or another have been an influence in my
hybridizing…Shirley Farmer would always drill into us the fact that “we all stand tall on
the shoulders of those who came before us.” I would like to have a more flowery answer,
but I don’t.  Liz Salter for pattern color was certainly an influence, Pauline Henry for
form and consistency was a major inspiration…but there are many I have admired in the
past and many going on right now that are inspirations. I am more drawn to a hybridizer
who is kind, sharing, fun and down to earth, than any of those who need to brag on their

My mentor in plants in general is a local friend, Mike Walters who is the most well
informed and intelligent plant person I have ever met. When we visit nurseries he usually
teaches the Nursery Owners something about plants. It is his influence that showed me
how to grow plants, how to prepare the soil, the importance of water and the importance
of learning botanical names.  Everyone should have a friend like Mike. I call him the
walking encyclopedia.
Dish Ran Away With The Spoon

10. Who else helps with the daylilies?
Ans---when it comes to gardening in general, I think most people find it very difficult to
find anyone who wants to just come over and do yard work.  I have some help…Tom
Polston for instance…but mostly I do the work myself. This summer when I developed a
bad case of pneumonia, I had several people, including relatives come over and help me
line out my daylilies and move my select seedlings. If it hadn’t been for them it would not
have been done in any timely manner.  I’m happy that I can still do most of the work and I
believe it keeps me fit to boot.

11. What are the unique challenges or benefits of growing where you are?
Ans—I really do think that our zone 5 is one of the best zones in which to grow daylilies.
I hear horror stories from others around the country fighting rust, rot, armadillos, wide
drops in temperatures, lack of rain etc.  We hardly ever experience any of those things.
The daylilies like the 4 equal seasons pretty well.  I think the biggest challenge for a
hybridizer in this area is to get adequate increase of a daylily in a fairly quick amount of
time.  That to me is the biggest drawback, but in light of all the other challenges, I can
surely live with that.

12. What are your talks/presentations about?
Ans---my talks are about goals, dreams, challenges and how to’s of hybridizing daylilies.
That is topped off with nice photos of my work.  I love doing talks, I really enjoy meeting
the different daylily enthusiasts all around the country…the AHS is very blessed to have
such a large number of quality people everywhere….it is a dream for an organization to
be that fortunate.  I love answering questions and I also really enjoy the enthusiasm that
giving a presentation seems to bring about.

13. Display beds or lined out rows?
Ans—display beds for show….lined out rows in the hybridizing areas.

14. Any Horticultural background?
Ans---nothing that comes with a certificate.  I’ve been growing plants my entire life, and
learning. I’ve never attended a session other than at daylily functions.  Although the
corporate standard today is that you don’t have a title unless it comes with written proof,
a hundred years ago, you just ‘were’ because that’s what you did….and everyone knew it.
Funny how things and technology change.

15. Advice for amateur hybridizers/growers?
Ans---Well, I get this question a lot.  Funny how it sounds like a great question, and
interestingly enough, you would think people would lean on every word, but that’s
usually not how it plays out at all.  What I find is that most people enjoy hearing your
advice, then when they get to their own back yard, they will do it their way anyhow.
   So I think that experience is the best teacher..honestly.  “Good judgement comes from
experience, experience comes from bad judgment.”  And I’m the same way…the first
three years I hybridized I did everything people said you should….and the results were
terribly boring. The forth year I began to do unlikely crosses, yellows to purples, big to
little, and that’s the point at which I began to become a hybridizer.  You can’t possibly
know what works unless you find out what doesn’t work.  Edison did hundreds of light
bulbs before he did one that worked well.  Were the others a failure?  No; they were
learning tools.
   My advice is to listen, read and watch everything everyone does….then, when you get to
your garden, do what your instinct tells you.  If you learn to rely on your gut feeling (your
spirit) you will soon realize it will quickly gain an abundance of credit.


  1. I don't know why this ended up being so complicated. None of the photos were the ones that were supposed to be used. Some were distorted in sizing, even though they were all the same size. Sorry Bob.

  2. Really good. I have enjoyed all of your postings. So nice to read the personal side too.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Great article Cody!!
    Bob, you are very encouraging to a wannabe pollen dabber. I love your patterns! You are a true artsy and a lot of fun! I look forward to following your work and hope to learn much more from you. Keep on diggin' and happy gardening new buddy! If you run out of weeds, I can send you some along with some kudzu!