John Bradford doesn’t just grow daylilies, he makes new varieties of them

The Day the Earth Stood Still. Vampire Romance. Witches Stitches. Lipstick Lips. These are just a few of the names you’ll see on labels as you take a stroll through the daylily gardens of Lake Charles attorney John Bradford.

Bradford’s West Prien Lake Road home is surrounded by hundreds of daylily blooms. His brother, Henry, a microbiologist in Abita Springs, La.,  became interested in growing the flowers first. Then, about 10 years ago, Bradford joined him.

“Now we have something in common and something to talk about besides LSU football,” he said.

The thing about daylilies is that, well, they last only one day. But Bradford doesn’t mind that at all.

“Every day I walk outside and see a different garden,” he said. “Yesterday’s flowers have wilted and died and a new crop has popped up.”

The flowers with the poetic names are ones Bradford has purchased. But he also comes up with his own varieties — a process called hybridizing — by pinching off the pollen-laden stamen of one daylily and rubbing the pollen on the pistil of another daylily.

“Then I let nature take its course,” he said.

According to Bradford, these plants have DNA similar to humans, in that two parent plants can produce “children” that have different characteristics from one another, just like the children of human parents.

“Each cross gives you a different flower,” he said.

That means daylilies can be selectively hybridized for things like fragrance (some have an aroma and some do not), color, height, and petal smoothness (Some petals have smooth edges and some are lacy and curly.)

Bradford credits his wife, Dinah, for being the excellent record-keeper of all his daylily cross breeding attempts.

As far as breeding for color, Bradford has a lofty goal in mind.

“I’ve been told it is impossible to come up with a blue daylily. But I’m trying to do the impossible,” he said.

In the daylily beds are blooms with touches of a blue-tinged hue that Bradford is attempting to bring out.

“Daylilies keep my mind occupied,” he said.

Online: Bradford, his wife Dinah, his brother Henry and his sister-in-law Patty have set up a daylily website at Bradforddaylilyplantation.com

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