Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meet Sally Marcum of Willowbrook Acres and Hemchat

Sally Marcum

Willowbrook Touch Of Midnight (2007)
Willowbrook Jurrasic Amber (2008)
Willowbrook Snappy Dresser (2008)

     Ever wonder where you can chat with knowledgeable daylily hybridizers
and growers in real time?  If you answered yes, then just maybe hemchat
would be the place for you too. started out as
and was owned by Mike Longo, owner of The Lily Auction.  The site had
around 140 members with approximately 1/3 of them actively chatting.  In
2008, shut down without any warning and everyone was told
that it wouldn’t be back.  That’s when Sally Marcum, owner of
Willowbrook Acres, stepped up and gave us all a ‘home’ to come back to.
“I have experience with the internet and computers, but I knew very little
about a chat room...When it closed, I felt like I should find a daylily chat
room for our members.  I started shopping around for chat software and
asking around what I needed to put up a chatroom.  One being the owner of
a chat that was similar to the room we were used to using.  That owner put
me in touch with Miles Trolly, a technician in Kentucky, that has experience
putting up chat rooms.  His price was right so I hired him.”

    Once someone was working on chat software, the next step was to
find a server to host the software.  Sally was familiar with
since they hosted the previous room, so that made the decision easier.
“Miles was a great person to work with.  He taught me how to manage the
site and to access chat room files on Blue Host through a managers area.  I
learned how to put up new animated icons using a specific set of codes in a
specific file area.  One extra dot or squiggle in the line of code could crash
the whole site.  It was very necessary I learn how to avoid a catastrophe by
backing up the file before I began to add anything.”  Occasionally she will
back up the entire site, just in case Blue Host itself crashes.

    “We welcome new members that want to discuss daylilies, plant
material and gardening.  To join, new members must provide a full name
and address and email address, a chat name and a password.  The link to
joining us is, click on the Hemchat Room tab, then click
on the Register link.  Registration is not automatic.  I will receive the email
and will set up the name and password so the person can log in.  I then
email the person that the log in is ready.”  The is an ‘Ugliest Dog’ contest
and a ‘Chatter’s Favorite’ contest for seedlings.  Everyone that uses the
room is a fount of knowledge.  We each do our best to respect the opinions
of others.  Swearing, political and religious topics and flaming (personal
attacks) are not allowed and will get you quickly banned from the site.  Big
Chief Thundercloud (Sally’s persona as moderator) takes his job very
seriously.  The chat room is supported by member donations and out of Sally's
own pocket.

    “Willow Brook Acres is now an American Hemerocallis Society
Display Garden that grew out of a love of gardening and amazement with
the most interesting and beautiful perennial garden plant, the daylily.
Willow Brook Acres is a state licensed daylily nursery.”  Sally’s love of
gardening began 20 years ago.  The mowing takes less and less time as the
gardens continue to expand.  Her husband John is the head groundsman and
makes sure everything from mulching to edging to mowing is done and
everything runs as smoothly as possible.  Sally is the hybridizer.  She started
growing daylilies about ten years ago and as with so many others, the
obsession continues to grow.  Visitors to Willowbrook Acres in Norwalk,
Ohio will see over 1,000 registered daylilies and many other perennials.
The gardens were part of the region 2 2010 regional tours last summer.  “I
hope to downsize to about 500 very good daylilies I will use in my breeding
program.  I will no longer be selling older cultivars $10 or under.  It is hard
to let some of them go.  I just can’t take care of the amount I have been
taking care of for 15 years.  My total emphasis will be my dabbing and my

    Sally starts between 300 and 500 seeds per year, some from her own
breeding and some purchased from the lilyauction.  “I will have 2 intros for
2011.  My hybridizing program is small and it takes several years to
increase a daylily that is good enough to register.  I have a standard of 3 way
branching and 15 buds before I will register a daylily.  A reblooming
seedling gets some priority so if it is a few buds short of my standard, I
might still register it.”  Pat Stamile is one of her favorite hybridizers.  They
are widely available and it’s hard to beat a stamile for a pretty face.  But,
one of the most influential people on how Sally actually grows daylilies is
Rick Yost.  I have a large collection of Yost daylilies.  They are northern
hardy and well branched.  Rick is a long time chat member.  His influence
comes from sharing with me, and others, his vast knowledge of hybridizing
and growing daylilies.”

    To label crosses, Sally uses the paper string tags for the most part,
although colored wires are sometimes used for long crosses or planned
crosses.  Wires can get confusing and they also have a tendency to fade.
“When I harvest a ripe pod, I put it into a brown paper lunch bag.  I write
the pod parent on the outside of the bag.  The string tag is inside the bag
with the pod.  I keep the seeds, in it’s pod, in the bag for a day or two, or
more actually.  When I take the seeds out of the pods, I let them air dry in
the open bag over night.  Then I put all of one cross into a labeled, small,
plastic, Ziploc bag.  It is helpful to put a square of paper towel in with the
seeds.  It does absorb any extra moisture.  I put them in the refrigerator right
away.  They stay there until I plant them.”

    Sally loves wild flowers, herbs and nature.  If a plant brings colors
and textures and also attracts hummingbirds or butterflies to the garden,
then she probably wants to try growing it.  Zinnias are among her favorite
annual for the afore mentioned reason.  Blue Salvia, both perennial and
annual, also have a special place in the gardens.  While she does love hostas
and iris’, she prefers a more naturalized landscape.  “When something
appears in the garden, I will let it grow even if it’s not a cultivated plant.  I
once identified a common weed/wildflower called wingstem and tagged it
for identification purposes.  It is a tall, sturdy plant that grew perfectly
behind a daylily.”  To set it all off, Sally is also a Master Gardener and has
been for the last 10 years.  Master Gardeners are not masters of the garden.
They are volunteers in the community that are dedicated to gardening.  “We
are volunteers with knowledge.  Not the other way around.”  While she has
held office in the local group, her favorite place to be is in the dirt, helping
to beautify her town or working in a community garden.

    The advice Sally would like to give to beginning hybridizers is to
“Just Do It.  Don’t wait until you know it all or have the best plants.  It is all
about loving the daylily and making new ones.  If you have the passion, do

    Sally’s website is you can find sales
plants and her introductions and seedlings there.  Visitors are welcome by
appointment or you can take your chances that the couple will be around
and just stop by before dark.  We all look forward to seeing new members i
the chat room.

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