About bloodline

Bloodline 2019 (Tequilla sunrise open pollinated seedling x First Blush)

The mother bloomed 2 weeks before Tequilla Sunrise, which made the timing for my climate possible.

Bloodline gets ready for lab production in mid july of 2019

Out of all the blushers I’ve created so far Bloodline’s blushing lasts the longest. I’ve been using it and it’s siblings to create more blushers through its pollen. For me It was a breakthrough plant, not only because of its reliable blushing, but also because it blooms several weeks earlier than First Blush. For my garden that was the first hurdle I needed to get over.

First Blush as many hybridizers have found out blooms late in the season. For my Minnesota garden that’s too late. Not only does frost threaten in early October, but the waning days of sunlight often reduces the plants energy to produce seed as it wants to rest and go dormant. The result is often seed that doesn’t germinate. Or develop at all. I was able to overcome this when Bob Solberg sent me First Blush plants he had started early in North Carolina. It was the best of both climates. His early warm spring southern days got the plants moving and my cooler summer days and longer daylight hours did the trick. The plants were blooming by early august. That’s prime time in my garden. The heat of July has subsided and many later hostas are blooming. Enough time to meet that crucial 8 week mark that hosta need to have viable seed.

Luckily for me First Blush is a beast. If you put it in a pot and fertilize it heavily and expose it to plenty of sunlight it will respond. And that it did, it bloomed even though they were quite young plants. Its secret weapon is its pollen. It passes along it blushing trait as a nuclear trait. Along with its bright red petioles those locator genes that bring pigment into the leaf are in there. Genes that carry the anthocyanin up around the edges of the leaf filling it up from the tip to the base. Its something hosta enthusiasts have dreamed of for years but now was becoming reality.

For me the big question was this trait limited to hybrids derived from species of longipes and pycnophylla? Species that we commonly think of possessing the most anthocyanin in their petioles. Could these traits be blended with other hybrids from other species? My answer is yes. Although not without a cost of diluting the strength of anthocyanin inherent in the late reds. So without lottery winning luck of the genetic wheel the answer is to do multiple crossings back to other seedlings that have the blushing trait. Enhance the trait!

Its important to remember that anthocyanin is a volatile pigment, it is degradable and it moves thru the veins and sub veins and into the epidermis. It is synthesized by external factors and works in concert with the plants cell maturity. So each year may show different amounts of blush, as well as different colors as it comes and goes. I’ve come to enjoy its subtleties as well as its drama.

This photo illustrates the vascular structure that First Blush uses to transport water, nutrients and pigment in and out of the leaf.

desiccated veins of a First Blush leaf

Now about that blushing in Bloodline. From what I’ve learned about the blushing effect in other plants is that it is a defense mechanism. I’ve seen it in my own yard as the snow melts. Creeping Charlie and Sedum using it to defend living tissues from the freezing cold.

Creeping Charlie after snow melt
Sedum after snow melt

Aside from cold weather protection its used by the plant to protect against sun damage in young emerging tissues. This is the best part for hostas. When they emerge is when the freshest blushing colors appear.

Bloodline emerging

As new flushes of growth arrive you may see blushing in summer and reblushing in fall. It all depends on where you and your plant are in your part of the world.

new flushes can show blushing

And with each generation of crossing new colors will emerge with different shapes and sizes.