Hand Pollinating Delphiniums
Hand pollination is easy and very rewarding.
There is something magical about producing your own hand crossed seed, the characteristics for which have been selected using plants that appeal to your tastes. Below are a few photographs which may help those of you wanting to give it a go.
The prime consideration of cross pollination is to get the ripe pollen from the desired male parent onto the ripe stigma of the female parent, preferably without contamination from other pollen sources.
De-anthering the female parent: just before the flower buds have opened (when a small hole can be seen at the opening end of the bud) is a good time to de-anther. The floret should be carefully opened by hand and the "bee" petals removed. Next, take the unripe anthers between thumb and forefinger and, using a gentle squeezing and pulling motion, remove the anthers. This will leave a rather ratty looking middle to the floret. The second picture below shows florets with anthers removed.
Several days after the anthers have been removed the stigmas should be protruding (the time will vary with variety) and ready to receive pollen (see the second photo). The best way to test this is to apply pollen and check to see if it sticks to the stigma (you will need good eyes or a magnifying glass) I usually pollinate the same flower every other day, 2 or 3 times just to make sure. You will quickly get your timing right by observing the pollinated florets over the next few days and seeing which begin to swell. If you are doing this for the first time I suggest you try pollinating different florets at different stages to see which works best.
We usually use the pollen fron the male parent after several anthers are ripe. Ripeness is indicated by the anthers turning white with pollen which will rub off onto your finger quite easily. Rather than use a brush, which has to be cleaned with each change of variety, to transfer pollen we simply remove the flower containing the ripe pollen from the plant, carefully take off the bee petals, and simply apply the exposed pollen to the stigma of the receiving plant's florets. A point to note about pollen is that the younger the pollen on the ripening anthers is, the less likelyhood there is that it has been contaminated by foreign pollen transfered by bees or other insects and the more likely it is to live long enough to grow.
That's all there is to it. Simply harvest the seed when the pod is ripe. That is when, or just before it is splitting, and before the seeds start to spill out.
Have a look below!!
(click any image to see a larger version)