This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
The object of seed-saving is the improvement of existing varieties. It is not conclusive, however, that all seedlings will be improvements; in fact, it is far from this, as the greater proportion are inferior to their antecedents. Only those who give the most careful consideration to cross-fertilization are certain of marked success. Hand-hybridized seeds possess value over those haphazardly pollinated by wind and insects only according to the degree of intelligence employed in the selection of parents. What the result will be when a white flower is fertilized with a yellow one, the operator cannot determine at the outset. It may be either white, yellow, intermediate, or partake of some antecedent, and thus be distinct from either. Improvements in color can be secured only by the union of colors, bearing in mind the laws of nature in uniting two to make the third. Red upon yellow, or vice-versa, may intensify the red or yellow-give orange or bronze, as nature may see fit. The operator is more certain of improving along other fines, such as sturdiness or dwarfness of growth, earliness or lateness of bloom, or doubleness of flowers. The selection of those most perfect in these particulars is very sure to give similar or improved results.
Always keep a record of this work showing the parents of a seedling. The satisfaction of knowing how a meritorious variety was produced more than pays for the trouble, and may lead to further improvements along certain lines. - The operation begins when the flower is half open, cutting the petals off close to their base with a pair of scissors, until the style is exposed. Should the flower show signs of having disk or staminate florets, remove these with the points of the scissors and thus avoid self-fertilization. When the styles are fully grown and developed, the upper surface or stigma is in condition to receive the pollen. By pushing aside (with the thumb) the ray-florets of the flower desired for pollen, the disk-florets which produce the pollen will become visible. The pollen may be collected on a camel's-hair pencil or toothpick and applied to the stigma of the flower previously prepared. If a toothpick be used, never use it for more than one kind of pollen. By allowing the camel's-hair pencil to stand in an open-mouthed vial of alcohol a few moments after using, it may be again used, when dry, upon another variety without fear of the pollen of the former operation affecting the present. - Cuttings struck in June and July and grown to single bloom in 4-inch pots are the most convenient for seeding.
Such flowers, if not given too much food are more natural and furnish an abundance of pollen, as well as being easier to trim than the massive blooms produced for the exhibition-table. The pollinating should be done on bright, sunny days, and as early in the day as possible. As soon as the seed plants are trimmed, they should be placed by themselves to avoid fertilization by insects, and should there remain until the seeds are ripe. Keep the plants rather on the dry side, and give abundance of air. Seeds, which ripen in five to six weeks, should be saved without delay, and carefully labelled. In sowing seeds, they should be covered very lightly and kept in a temperature of 60°. When the seedlings are large enough to handle easily, remove to small pots, or transplant farther apart in shallow boxes. Chrysanthemums flower the first season from seed.