By planting seed of this plant and again selecting seed the following season from plants conforming to the original "break," a new strain may be born. This method is called selection, and it is the simplest and oldest way of producing new varieties.
Other ways of producing new characteristics in plants are by cross-pollination, or hybridizing, and by the use of a chemical called colchicine to produce mutations.
Working with colchicine, it must be emphatically stated, should definitely be restricted to those few older boys and girls who are natural chemistry geniuses, capable of and experienced in handling dangerous materials. For colchicine is a deadly poison. If you have a born chemist in the family this material offers fascinating possibilities for experimentation, and there is available to the gardener a colchicine kit with full directions. But, by no means is this recommended for the ordinary youngster.
Cross-pollination-where pollen from one plant is transferred to another by hand, instead of leaving it to the bees-is something that can be learned by any interested youngster. Seed houses often employ boys and girls during the summer to hand-pollinate certain plants for them.
Hybridizing has become enough of an amateur hobby so that at least one iris specialist puts out a hybridizer's kit, with full instructions for the novice.
A child interested in any phase of plant breeding should get all the authoritative information he can. There are quite detailed instructions in many garden books and special books on the subject.
Grafting is another technical process a child might like to master. Tell him that a rosebush can be made to bear several different kinds of roses, a lilac bush be decked out in blossoms of several different colors, or that a dwarf apple tree may produce four or five varieties of apples, and he may be eager to try his luck. Grafting is a relatively simple matter, and here again you will find the rudiments explained in many garden books. Waiting for results, of course, is something else. Whether the child's imagination would be struck hard enough to make the waiting worth the effort depends entirely on his temperament and degree of interest.
Working with some of the new chemicals now at the
service of the gardener, and comparing the results with untreated subjects, could mean a field day for a young chemistry student. Let him experiment, for instance, with some of the miraculous garden hormone products, testing, checking, and drawing his own conclusions. One such product prevents the dropping off of early blossoms, and thus produces earlier than normal and practically seedless tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplant. Another stimulates root growth, and is used in transplanting seedlings and making cuttings. Another prevents fruit dropping before it is ripe.