Monday, January 17, 2011

Meet Karol Emmerich of Springwood Garden

    When you think northern hardy, fancy edged purples, what hybridizer pops into your
head?  If one of the first isn’t Karol Emmerich of Springwood Gardens, then she should
be.  Karol attended the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, graduating in
the top ten percent of her class in 1971.  At that time the plans she and her husband Dick,
whom she met at Northwestern and married in 1969, had made for their live didn’t
involve daylilies in any shape or form.  Instead, they had planned to work really hard and
save all of  their money for five years and then move to California to spend their lives
raising five children and doing nonprofit work while managing the couples money.  That
didn’t exactly happen either.  Karol ended up running the financial operations for the
headquarters of the Dayton Hudson Corporation, now known at Target.  “At that time I
had no clue there was an American Hemerocallis Society or something called hybridizing.
But I did know that working in my garden on weekends was a wonderful stress reliever
from the corporate world. I had a great job (money, power, fame, etc) but was profoundly
bored, as the job just didn't encompass enough of who I was as a person. I felt God was
calling me to do something different with my life.”
Filled To Overflowing (2004)

    While the decision to leave the corporate world for the less stable horticulture
world was never easy, but once made She never looked back.  In 1993, she left Dayton
Hudson and spent the next few years doing volunteer work and establishing the 1.5 acre
garden in Edina, Minnesota.  Setting her own agenda and being her own boss are just two
of the reasons she loves what she does now.  The other is more spiritual, “I feel like I've
found my real calling in life - creating beauty by developing flowers (and gardens) that
bring joy to people and put a smile on their faces.”  Karol didn’t sell her first daylilies
until 2003, although she started hybridizing several years previous.  “It’s like being in the
wine business: It takes years and years and years to build your vineyard up before you
actually produce good wine,” she said.
Woman At The Well (2005)

    Gary Schaben was the one who encouraged her to first try her had at hybridizing,
as he did with many other people in that area of Minnesota and beyond.  Around the same
time the club she belonged to had Dan Trimmer as a speaker and he spent several hours
before the meeting giving her advice.  Karol’s main inspiration began and continues to be
Larry Grace, the two of them spending countless hours talking about everything daylily.
She spent three months a year, for three years apprenticing with Larry in his Alabama
Blood Sweat and Tears (2006)

    The goal Karol has strived to acheive from the very beginning was to create
beautiful, stop you in your tracks flowers with interesting or thought provoking
inspirational names.  “ I wanted to create 6-7", easy opening, loosely formed, northern
hardy purples with fancy edges. Before I'd ever seen a seedling bloom, I daydreamed of
millions of people all over the country seeing my special flowers at their local nursery and
taking them home.”  Since the beginning only beautiful, color saturated flowers eluded
the compost heap, which makes the following generations easier to use in hybridizing for
great color, being built upon for so many generations.  While purple remains the primary
focus, lavenders, rose and hot pink also make the list.  “ I believe you should go where
the flowers take you, which is much more interesting than anything I could dream up on
my own. I'm now getting lots of interesting echo patterns, white swords and even a
fleur-de-lis, plus neon lavender and neon pink eyes. I'm crossing them with each other to
see what might happen next.”
Moses In The Bullrushes (2007)

    Karol does her hybridizing in a greenhouse, filling it up with approximately 250
of the previous years seedlings, current and prior introductions, a few intros from other
hybridizers and about 5,000 new seedlings.  “I walk the aisles waiting for a flower to
"talk" to me, saying "choose me, choose me." If I hear its call that day, I pick it and carry
it past each of the flowers in bloom, matching it with the colors and forms and patterns of
the other flowers to see what will work the best.”  Occasionally, plants with low bud
counts will be used as bridge plants if they’ve got amazing habit or if it has a killer face
with colors or pattens that are new to her.
Entwined In The Vine (2008)

    With 20,000 seedlings planted near the house and another 13,000 across the street,
they’ve just about reached the limit in terms of keeping them weeded, mulched and
evaluated.  The couple is now working on finishing the courtyard in the front of the house
and doing extensive hardscaping on the northern side of Springwood.  “The daylilies and
Springwood take up most of my mental, physical, and emotional energy. They capture so
much of who I am as a person, and include: hybridizing, evaluating, advising other
hybridizers throughout the year, running the spring fling and other science meetings in
our area, acting as a tour guide at Springwood in the summer, serving as region 1
president, serving on our local board, being on the regional tour this summer and the
national in 2013 (and serving as co-chair), speaking, attending symposiums, blogging,
doing a website and catalogue, shipping, weeding and watering and fertilizing and insect
control, supervising helpers,  hanging out with daylily friends, and developing the
grounds and house at Springwood.”
Cloud Of Witness (2009)

    While the hybridizing is done under controled conditions, the actual growing and
evaluating is done au naturale.  Springwood Gardens is in USDA zone 4, positioned on
top of a hill, providing it’s own special problems.  The constant winter wind blows away
the protective blanket of snow.  “The winters can be brutal. For example, I often need a
blowtorch to unfreeze the lock on the greenhouse. And once, I even got trapped in the
greenhouse for a while when the doors froze shut. Because I live 30 miles away from the
greenhouse in the winter, I'm always anxious when it is super cold or snowy. Although I
have an alarm that will call me if there's a problem, it's still stressful not to be there all the
time. In a couple of years we'll be moving out to Springwood full time, so I'll definitely
sleep better then”
Cup Of Cold Water (2010)

    Per year, approximately 25,000 seeds are made, but only 4,500-5,500 are actually
planted.  “ I usually introduce 12-22 a year, and have a large number waiting to be
introduced. It's hard to estimate what percentage make it to introduction. In some crop
years it's very few.  In a really good year I suppose it might work out to be 1 out of
100-200 that make the cut. The goal is to obviously make the plants better and better so
that the percentage improves.”  Ideally, to be worthy of registration a particular plant
should be recognizable in any garden you go to, have high bud count, be super hardy,
have great branching, amazing colorand northern rebloom.  “In certain cases I will
introduce something with 15 buds rather than 25 if it is a real break. Or something with a
flaw (like some spotting) that is a hybridizing giant. Or a gorgeous flower with super
plant habit that has a similar face to something from the south that won't grow in the
north.  Or a northern rebloomer with great plant habit and a pretty but not drop dead
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (2010)

    Springwood Gardens is open at any time of day by appointment, during bloom
season.  The website can be found here
Karol's blog can be found here property is not only filled with stunning flowers, but the bronze statuary are worth viewing also.  Another interesting article written about Karol Emmerich can be found here
    Congratulations Karol on your an Award of Merit for Heartbeat of Heaven.
Heartbeat Of Heaven (2005)





No comments:

Post a Comment