Manila gardener hooked on lily hybridizing

Monday, June 28, 2004
Danny Rhodes looks over his day lilies. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

Ten years ago Danny Rhodes of Manila would have laughed if anyone had told him he would someday be growing, researching, and hybridizing day lilies. Rhodes got "hooked" on day lilies in 1999 and his interest and knowledge on the subject keeps growing.

Rhodes and his wife, Barbara, built their home in Manila in 1999. While working on his own landscaping plans, he discovered day lilies but had no idea it would spark a full time interest.

He began his research on the internet and made contact with other day lily growers. That began his five year passion. He grows the flowers at his home and works with a grower, Carroll Querry, in Bono where they have several acres of day lilies in all stages of growth.

Rhodes finds the research fascinating. Querry has introduced a day lily that he named Alicia Rose Kiss. Rhodes said he has learned a lot from Querry.

"You can't produce day lilies from the same seed. Each seed is a different. You have to increase from the original seed," Rhodes said.

Most of the big hybridizers are in the warmer climates in Florida. Rhodes said they can introduce from one to eight new varieties in a year versus the one to four in this area. On an average 30 new day lilies are introduced in the spring and 10 in the fall. Most all the hybridizers are now trying to come up with a blue day lily.

"It takes years to get multiplied for market," Rhodes said.

Rhodes has sold some plants on E-Bay and shared several with neighbors and friends. He has sold and bought from the Day Lily Auction which is big business on the internet, he said.

Rhodes spends at least an hour a day and usually more tending to his flowers. He takes the pollen off the plants, places it in marked plastic bags, freezes it overnight and each morning sprinkles the pollen on plants. This has to be done early because of the heat.

He said for most day lilies 90 degrees is the magic temperature. He has a shade shack he uses to help drop the temperature a few degrees during the hotter weather.

"I have found plants are different. I have actually had a few that did well in the higher temperatures," he said.

Rhodes' hobby takes a lot of his time but he has found that he enjoys it more the longer he stays with it. He starts prepping in March and April and in early May he begins potting. At the end of May hybridizing begins and is finished by mid to late June. In August he begins digging up the old lilies. The ones that did well are split, but the ones that did not are given away or discarded.

He admits that he has lost some lilies, giving him expensive lessons on what not to do.

He visits other growers in Mississippi, Texas and other states and has made some very good friends through his work with the flowers.

As the new lilies are introduced, names are chosen. Rhodes said the reds are the hardest to get just right. His personal favorite is "Clothed In Glory."

Rhodes said he loves working in the flowers and gets excited when one does exceptionally well, and he is disappointed when one fails. Like all things, trial and error is part of the process. Like other growers, he hopes to introduce his own day lily in the future. Mrs. Rhodes said she has the name all picked out.

The Rhodes own Fast Tax in Blytheville and Jonesboro. During the tax season, Mr. Rhodes works in the Jonesboro business and Mrs. Rhodes works at the Blytheville location.

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