Complex White Paphs: The Road Less Traveled

(Please note:  We have endeavored, where possible, to provide links to photos of the various crosses mentioned to assist you in visualizing the progression of white/pink breeding through the years.  In many, we have selected only one of several different clonal names as an example of the cross. Please see our photo album (almost 1500 photos) for additional examples of the crosses highlighted and to view many of the fine crosses our own breeding program has produced.  Enjoy!)

Nearly fifteen years ago I was trying to decide where it was that I wanted to go with my paph hybridization program. Much work was being done at that time with vinicolor breeding and within another few years, with the implementation of CITES, species would become all the rage. The flowers that I thought were the most beautiful, yet in which little work was being done, were those of the white complex. (I use the term “white” to include both white and pink types of offspring. With a large percentage of white breeding efforts there is the possibility for getting pinks; and likewise, when breeding for pinks one often gets whites.) Now, more than ever, it is hard not to be intrigued and indeed breed with the trends of the sanderianum and parvi lines. And, though I do hybridizing work from species and primary to strap-leaf and novelties, I have remained dedicated to a breeding emphasis on the white complex. The obstacles that make this breeding path so difficult are many. They include seed production that is often low or none at all, a slow seedling growth rate to maturity, limited access to the best parents to breed with, and high cost of those quality parents when available. Fortunately, a handful of other hybridizers have also followed this road less traveled to seek better white complexes. We now have a broader color spectrum from absolutely pure whites, to smooth pastel pinks, to almost “screaming pinks,” to whites with stipples everywhere. There have been great strides, as well, in size and form and many of the older awarded whites would pale by comparison to today’s best. In this article I would like to show some of the steps along the way in this difficult line of breeding. Some of the historically great whites of the past and their links to today’s breeding, color factors and influences of the parents used, and perhaps a glimpse of where we’re going.

No greater parent has ever made its way into white complex breeding than Paph F C Puddle. It is either a direct parent or in the ancestry of nearly 900 registered crosses to date. It has an almost pure white flower, is not particularly large or full-formed, but is a prolific breeder. While its whiteness proves to be highly dominant, its deficits in size and form are generally recessive and can be relatively easily overcome. These two traits of F C Puddle’s breeding, together with its high fertility, have made it instrumental as a white parent. From this starting point, many fine crosses have come about. This next step toward better whites generally involved crossing F C Puddle to other complex greens or golds to get bigger, fuller form. Usually the other parent had a great deal of insigne in its background and this often helped to improve flower size. The following are among the best in this next generation, from a perspective of both flower quality and future parental attributes: Ano Puddle ‘Eureka’ AM/AOS, Dimity ‘Alexandra’ AM/RHS, Glacier Creek ‘Crystal’, Huddle (various), Lucille Mackey ‘Lester’ AM/AOS, Luminance ‘New World’, Puddleham ‘Doolittle’ AM/AOS, Whitemoor (various), Salty (various), Susan Tucker (various), Greensuds ‘White Foam’, Freckles (various), Cinderella (various), Silvara (various), Blanche Sawyer ‘Snowman’ AM/AOS, Jack Tonkin (various), and Skip Bartlett ‘White Pepper’ HCC/AOS. From this league of white complexes come many of today’s best modern offspring. In order to improve this new generation of whites and take the next step forward, the normal method was to again cross to larger complexes. Greens or green/golds were crossed to these whites if one wanted clean whites in the next gereration. Often, however, brushed golds, honeytones, and even reds were used to add the size and form. New colors ranging from light pastel to deep pinks began to pop up in the next generation, along with the traditional whites.

Hellas ‘Westonbirt’ FCC/RHS proved to be an outstanding complex gold parent when crossed to many of the whites. One of the exceptional offspring in this line of breeding came in the mid 70’s. When Huddle ’Maybrook’ (Hellas x F C Puddle) was backcrossed to Hellas, a lovely rose pink flower was produced. The best of this cross was clearly the coveted cultivar Alabaster Brook ‘Ruth’HCC/AOS. On the heals of this fine cross was the very highly awarded Via Ojai (Freckles x Hellas). There have been almost a dozen AOS quality awards given to this grex. The idea of using Hellas’ genetics with complex whites to give better pinks has been demonstrated time and again over the years. The following are just a few of the many fine offspring: Tomas Garcia (Freckles x Inca…1/2 Hellas), Ojai Glow (Via Ojai…1/2 Hellas x Glowing Gold…1/2 Hellas), True Love (Hellas x Saint Ouens Bay), Snow Glory (Snowbird x Hellas), and Incan Treasure (Inca…1/2 Hellas x Porcelain Treasure). When Hellas is crossed to most whites, the green and gold pigments in Hellas are often suppressed. The honey and brown tones are then allowed to be expressed as pink, and overlay the offspring’s white background.

In trying to yield white rather than pink flowers, the whites such as Salty, Freckles, Jack Tonkin, Whitemoore, and others were bred to the fuller or larger clear green or green/golds. Yerba Buena (a medium sized green) was crossed to Salty and was registered in the mid 1980’s as Hama Snow. Some cultivars of this grex have very nice full flowers of almost pure white. Over the next twenty five years Yerba Buena has been crossed to a large number of the better old whites and produced generally high quality offspring. Since Yerba Buena worked so well when mated with whites, the logical next step was to cross one of Yerba Buena’s own big green complex offspring to a white. The now famous white, Skip Bartlett ‘White Pepper’ HCC/AOS, was crossed to the green breeder Green Mystery ‘White Lynx’ (Yerba Buena x Greenhorn). This mating produced a high percentage of very fine whites and the cross was registered in 1987 as White Knight. Soon after this cross became well known, Freckles was crossed to Green Mystery. The idea being that Green Mystery worked well with one white, let’s try a different white and see what happens. This cross, registered in 1996, was called Dottie McDowell and often had very large full flowers with minimal stippling on the best. Green Mystery was such a success with both Skip Bartlett and Freckles, a mating of it with Silvara ‘Halo’ AM/AOS was tried. The hopes were that since the first two parents had moderate stippling and the Silvara used has almost none, perhaps a large true pure white flower would result. The concept proved true and in late 1999 the cross was registered as Snowblind. As the name implies, it can produce absolutely pure white flowers, and an AM/AOS was granted to an outstanding example of the grex. The flower, Snowblind ‘Serenity’ AM/AOS, is quite large and well formed with pure white and no stippling. It is one of the finest examples of a clean white complex. Other famous crosses in the same green to white style of breeding include Snowbird (Jack Tonkin x Diversion) and Saint Ouens Bay (Denehurst x Whitemoore). Both of these have gone on to be great breeders as well.

Skip Bartlett ‘White Pepper’, mentioned earlier, has been the most successful parent to come directly from  F C Puddle. It is a mating between godefroyae v. leucochilum x F C Puddle, and the leucochilum used was the awarded cultivar ‘Bion’ FCC/AOS. ‘Bion’ was an immense example of the species, and probably contributes greatly in Skip Bartlett’s ability to fill out its own progeny. There are two other qualities for which Skip Bartlett excels. It has a strong ability to pass on its whiteness to its progeny, and it is quite fertile. The White Knight cross which we discussed previously, set the stage for breeding Skip Bartlett to many of the finest large complexes over the next decade. Nearly one hundred crosses have followed which have Skip Bartlett in their parentage. This is a testimony to the fact that Skip Bartlett not only breeds quality, but it is also very prolific. Some of the more well known offspring include: Lunacy (Hellas x Skip Bartlett), White King (Yerba Buena x Skip Bartlett), White Queen (Via Virgenes x Skip Bartlett), Lady Luck (Winston Churchill x Skip Bartlett), Pacific Foam (Necessity x Skip Bartlett), White Castle (Memoria Toshio Miyata x Skip Bartlett), Pixie Dust (Skip Bartlett x niveum), and Winter Ermine (Skip Bartlett x Virgo). These crosses usually involved crossing Skip Bartlett to the biggest and fullest complexes available at the time. The first Skip Bartlett cross made, White Knight, is now continuing forward as a parent with amazing success. It has produced a number of flowers of remarkable size, fullness, and clear color when bred to some of the best contemporary complexes,. These include Knight’s Chalice (Great Western…1/2 Yerba Buena x White Knight), Knight’s Challenge (White Knight x Memoria Toshio Miyata), Mystic Knight (White Knight x Elfstone…1/2 Yerba Buena), and Carmen Coll (Amandahill x White Knight). The best these approaches perfection.

No discussion of white complexes would be complete without mentioning the world renowned Miller’s Daughter. On one side of its parentage is Chantal ‘Aloha,’ a large well-formed green complex. On the other side is Dusty Miller ‘Mary’ AM/RHS, which is F C Puddle x Chardmoore ‘Mrs. Cowburn’ FCC/RHS. The ‘Mary’ cultivar is thought by many to be a tetraploid and is probably responsible for the exceptional flowers in the original strain of Miller’s Daughter. Several remakes of the grex have been done since the original making, and none have come close to the original for quality. Unfortunately, the Miller’s Daughters have been relatively infertile. Those cultivars that have yielded offspring have done so in very limited numbers. Some suggest that the Miller’s Daughters are triploid and normally only produce when crossed to other triploids. In any event, the lineage from them is relatively limited and few awards have come from their progeny.

The main benefit that I have gained from Miller’s Daughter is neither from the cross itself or its progeny. It is, rather, what I have learned. Chardmoore, when crossed with whites, can produce some very fine offspring! It was this concept that led me to decide to breed with a grex called White Legacy. It is what I consider to be one of the finest complex white breeders which does not have F C Puddle in its ancestry. White Legacy has the primary Greyi as one parent and Silver Anniversary as the other. Silver Anniversary is one half Chardmoore. What we get in White Legacy is a high percentage of the brachypetalums niveum and godefroyae (37.5% and 25% respectively). I then compare this to the makeup of Skip Bartlett which also has a high brachypetalum makeup with niveum, bellatulum, and godefroyae (6.25%, 6.25%, and 50% respectively). The brachy content of both is just over 60%. The similarity of brachy content combined with the Chardmoore background in White Legacy, led me to feel that it could be an instrumental white complex parent. Additionally, it has nice size and full form and breeds quite readily, similar to Skip Bartlett. The early results have been very promising. Many of the successful green parents used with Skip Bartlett have now been used with White Legacy. Those crosses that have recently bloomed out tend to have excellent size and fullness, an ability to mask green/gold color with white, and great hybrid vigor. As new grexes bloom out using White Legacy, more of its attributes will come to light. The prospect is quite exciting of a different path to better white complexes, a path which does not use F C Puddle. There may be new color spectrums, shapes, genetic diversity, and indeed future avenues which could be opened. It’s one more road less traveled on “the road less traveled.”

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