How to cull ?

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How to cull ?

Postby Rob » Mar 22, 2012 8:58 am

About 6 years ago I started my first batch of seedlings.
Must have been beginners luck, but from that first lot I was left with plenty of nice looking, well growing plants.

As I'm in to solid colored plants, culling was extremely difficult.
If you breed for variegation, lots of seedlings can be composted fairly early on.
Making my heart a stone, I managed to toss more than half of the number of seedlings from the good batches. Everything with poor substance, poor growth, common looking (compared to other ones from the same batch). Less interesting batches were disposed of all together.

In the end I was left with about 100 "promising" plants.
Now most of them have matured, changing considerabely in plant and leaf shape, with one thing in common: they are excellent growers. And I like them all!!
I know, 100 is way over the top, 10 would be more like it (even better: 5).
But I can't do it; I can't throw my babies (well, teens) on the compost heap.

I know some of you must have faced this terrible dilemma yourselves.
How did you solve it?

Greetings from Belgium,

Rob

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How to cull ?

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Re: How to cull ?

Postby Chris_W » Mar 22, 2012 9:08 am

Hi Rob,

I tell someone else to do it for me, only to find them hidden out in the woods somewhere because Brian didn't have the heart to toss them either :lol:

Seriously, though, at some point in time you have to decide how many and of what types you want. Decide on your best dark green, best ruffled, best yellow, etc. When going for solid colors, I say pick the most architecturally interesting plant. Also, the most desirable plants tend to the the minis, smalls, and then the giants. If you have a ton of good growing, medium sized plants, they aren't going to be as appealing should you ever market them, unless they have some really interesting form.

Hope that helps a little.

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Re: How to cull ?

Postby kHT » Mar 22, 2012 9:29 am

I agree with Chris, save what you fancy and not the common ones. You will know when you have to many!
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby eastwood2007 » Mar 23, 2012 4:17 am

I'm not sure this will work, as it is just a theory at this point, but I'm going to start growing all my seedlings in pots. The really special ones will go ahead and go in the ground, the others will remain in pots for evaluation. Then if I decide they aren't ones I want to keep, I can either give them away to friends or take them to the local farmers market.

The question I have about will it really work, is whether you can trust that a plant has shown you its true identity in a pot compared to in the ground? Any thoughts?
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby Rob » Mar 23, 2012 9:38 am

eastwood2007 wrote:I'm not sure this will work, as it is just a theory at this point, but I'm going to start growing all my seedlings in pots. The really special ones will go ahead and go in the ground, the others will remain in pots for evaluation. Then if I decide they aren't ones I want to keep, I can either give them away to friends or take them to the local farmers market.

The question I have about will it really work, is whether you can trust that a plant has shown you its true identity in a pot compared to in the ground? Any thoughts?


I've used a variation on this theme. I started out with all the seedlings in seperate pots. After 2-3-years I made a first selection, and the remaining plants were planted out in a bed. This gave me an idea about their value as garden plants. The bad eggs either died or did'nt grow very well. After 6 years the remaining plants were potted up again. And that's where the problems started: they all look good to me. To be honoust: I know which ones look best and are special.
I guess the rest will be moved to my neighbour: he has a large, shady garden, with plenty of room.
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby isadora » Mar 23, 2012 11:50 am

I have just really started growing from seed this past winter, just for the fun of it. Now I have all these hundreds of seedlings, and like you the quandry of what to cull....I have access to lots of plug trays, so they are all going in them to grow on a bit, then into bigger plug trays when they outgrow the first ones, and so on. Eventually I'll put the best looking ones into pots, maybe give away the rest. Some might go as ground covers in the woods where if the deer eat them, well that's life in the big woods.

So far there isn't much that looks like anything but green, except for a batch of yellow ones, but some of the leaf shapes are quite different, and I know some of them might get variegation as they grow so I'm having fun keeping an eye on them!

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Re: How to cull ?

Postby Chris_W » Mar 23, 2012 12:19 pm

Or you could do what one well-known hybridizer does - introduce something "new" every year and replace it with a better plant the following year, then something better the next year... I don't recommend it, but some people do this :(
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby Rob » Mar 26, 2012 8:57 am

Chris_W wrote:Or you could do what one well-known hybridizer does - introduce something "new" every year and replace it with a better plant the following year, then something better the next year... I don't recommend it, but some people do this :(


Hello Chris,

I don't intend to introduce any plant that doens't bring something new or better. I'll register the best ones (4 or 5) and see if there is a market for these plants. If not, they can spend their lives as "collector's item". 20 others will be planted in our garden. The rest will find new homes with friends, neighbours and family.
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby Tigger » Mar 26, 2012 11:36 am

Chris_W wrote:Or you could do what one well-known hybridizer does - introduce something "new" every year and replace it with a better plant the following year, then something better the next year... I don't recommend it, but some people do this :(

You forgot to put "better" in quotation marks. Many of these improvements might take a few years to show their superiority, if any, to existing look-alikes. (I spent the weekend making up a catalog for our hosta society's spring sale.)
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby ViolaAnn » Apr 07, 2012 9:23 am

I think you need to find a "friend" with lots of land and give them many of your seedlings. :lol:
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby kaylyred » Apr 12, 2012 10:20 pm

I was talking to Jeff Miller (from Land of the Giants) tonight at our hosta society meeting and he gave some great advice about culling:

- Cull for lack of substance
- Keep anything that has unusual traits for further observation

So, for instance, anything streaked (obviously), anything cupped or unusually shaped, anything with unexpected color, etc. that has good substance is worth taking a further look at. That made a lot of sense to me. Jeff said that he'll start to cull some of the weakest links when they have two leaves. But then again, he has thousands of seedlings in his basement. With my small setup, I'd probably give them a little longer than that.
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby isadora » Apr 13, 2012 11:25 am

I think sometimes it takes a long time to tell if a plant has any good characteristics. I found a tiny green seedling once with slender pointy leaves and decided to keep it. It got kind of long and graceful after a couple of years, but now four years later, it has long, sweeping leaves that curl at the tips and rippled edges. Think I'll keep it. Another little green one with round leaves turned out blue after 3 years, bigger than Blue Mouse Ears but similar in shape. One from last year came up with a white streak down the center of the leaves. So I think I'll just watch my babies and wait!

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Re: How to cull ?

Postby ViolaAnn » Apr 13, 2012 11:58 am

I agree. I found one that has blue (sort of) leaves. Thought initially it might have been a seedling of my 'Tokudama Aureonebulosa', but later decided, based on its characteristics, that it was more likely from 'Great Expectations'. Anyway, it was a nice bluish hosta for the first several years but by the time it was 4 or 5 years old it had completely outgrown the space I had for it. It now graces the hosta garden at my church. And I have one which is a reverse variegation of it's mom - 'Last Dance'. It looks nearly identical to 'Dance With Me'. But I didn't notice anything special about it at all in the first year.
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby kaylyred » Apr 14, 2012 12:18 am

That's mostly what I do, but I like to play with seed starting and I have limited space, so anything that's coming up with thin leaves, or that seems to be needing some babying, or just doesn't look like it's thriving...gets cut from the team. But I've kept some plain, nothing-special greenies just because they were SO robust and vigorous. I have just one such baby planted out this year, and I'm pretty impressed by the size of the second-year eye that's coming up. I have no idea what to expect from it, but it seemed worth watching.

Still, if you have to be a little merciless because you just don't have room, I'd say culling anything thin-leaved, ordinary or fussy is a good way to go.
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby casagrande » May 30, 2012 1:11 pm

throw them on the compost heap! can you not share them with friends and neighbors? I would be thrilled to be your neighbor and get a few. hope you didn't have to do that. sandy in usa, north carolina
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby isadora » Jun 01, 2012 12:14 pm

A lot of my culling got done for me, first a mouse, then a squirrel, one really hot day when I didn't get home in time to water, and a few just too weak to make it. Only have about 700 babies left out of a possible thousand.....probaby enough to play with until Mom Nature helps me cull them again, ya think? Lol!
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby lykaon78 » Mar 28, 2013 12:26 am

Sorry to resurrect an older thread but my question is more about when to cull. I've got seedlings that are just throwing up their second leaf. Is now the time to cull?

Space is a major limitation for me but I don't want to cull out something too early.

When does everyone make their first round of cuts?
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby ViolaAnn » Mar 28, 2013 6:14 am

I won't cull anything until near the end of the first season except for those that don't survive being transplanted into their own styrofoam cups at some point during the summer - I generally seed at least 4-5 seeds per starter cup; so they have to be given their own before too long. Mind you, at that transplantation stage when I'm dealing with a lot of little seedlings I sometimes destroy quite a few that look like weaklings. It gets a lot easier after I've been doing this for an hour or so.
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby kaylyred » Apr 02, 2013 10:20 am

I haven't been growing hostas from seed for more than a few years, but I do have a system. I ask myself, "What do I like about this seedling?" If I can't find one feature that I really like (leaf shape, vigor, size, habit, coloration), out it goes right after it gets its second set of leaves. But if something strikes my fancy and I'm curious about what it might turn into, I give it time. I always cull the weaklings very early on, though. In my experience, if a hosta starts out needing babying, it's simply not going to get any less needy over time.

I'd say that, if you have the space, Anne's probably on to something--let your favorites be for a season to see what happens. A lot can change over time. I've had some that I initially thought were rather plain, but one feature or another caused me to keep them. (And sometimes that feature is just that the hosta grew like a weed. Vigor is a good thing!) I try not to get too attached, because I know a hosta can turn out to be nothing special after a season or two. So far, though, I've been pleasantly surprised with the ones I've let stick around.

I think that when you cull them really has a lot to do with how much space and time you have, and how serious you are about producing something truly special. If you're looking for something specific, you might need to be more ruthless in your culling and start eliminating all but the best and brightest after the second set of leaves appears. If you're open to pleasant surprises (and the occasional disappointment), and you have the space, give them a season or two and see what happens.
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Re: How to cull ?

Postby Linda P » Apr 12, 2013 9:36 am

Culling is such a highly personal issue, and there are so many variables. I have quite a bit of space to grow on the seedlings that I keep, so I do keep some that might not make the grade for someone with limited space. I agree totally that the ones with little substance can go very early. That is one thing that doesn't change with time, in my opinion. I focus more on solid color ones, too, so it's often a number of years before I know for sure. You have to just forget about what you threw away as soon as it's gone, or you could wonder forever. The first year I grew seedlings, I kept almost everything. That was 1999. I still have quite a few of those original seedlings, and some turned out to be good garden plants. I have one very slow-growing Love Pat seedling from 1999 that just really showed its full adult potential in the last couple of years. Obviously that is not going to be a good commercial plant, but is one that will stay in my garden and I'll enjoy looking at it. If you're looking for commercial plants, you do have to keep your eye out for anything different at all. I want to see them growing in the ground for at least 5 years before I would consider whether they are worthy of introduction. Last year I had a large number of seedlings from 2008 that really surprised me with the changes that appeared. They'll be in their 5th year this year, so this will be the year that I go through and remove (give away, or donate to the master gardener's plant sale) the ones I don't want to keep any longer, and that will leave room for this year's crop.
The thing I've learned about culling over the years is not to linger too long over it. I pull out the ones that look weak early on, usually when they have 4 leaves or so. Then the next time I cull, I will pull out the ones that I want to keep and pot them up, and leave the others in the starting medium for later evaluation. When they go outside I cull again. The next culling happens over the first winter, with the ones that don't make it.
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