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Divine flowers

Unique hybrids cultivated by men of the cloth.

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He often named his cultivars after notable Poles or events in Polish history. One example is Jan Pawell II, sometimes sold as John Paul II, a cream-flowered cultivar with pink stripes named for the late pope, who was Archbishop of Krakow before his elevation to the papacy.

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Though hampered at times by both his own order and the Polish government, Brother Stefan worked with English nurseryman Jim Fisk, who introduced the Franczak clematis into commerce.

While the clematis have flourished in the international marketplace, the same cannot be said of Brother Stefan’s garden. Since 1996, authorities at the Jesuit college have reduced its size, first to accommodate the construction of a new church and then to increase the amount of lawn space.

Fortunately, his countrymen can now purchase his clematis from Polish nurseries.

Brother Charles Reckamp, also a Catholic monk, was a renowned daylily breeder. Raised on a Missouri farm, he decided as a young man to join a missionary order: the Society of the Divine Word, based in Techny, Ill.

The order maintained a retail nursery business to help fund its missionary activities, and, because he had farm experience, Brother Charles was drafted to help with this operation.

He learned how to hybridize irises and later, when his interest turned to daylilies, he mastered the art of producing desirable genetic mutations by treating the seeds with colchicine, a plant-derived chemical.

The treatment doubled the number of chromosomes for a particular plant, thereby allowing many more variations of flower form, color, growth habit, and hardiness.

Klehm, of Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery, whose father and grandfather had known Brother Charles, has introduced and marketed his daylilies for more than 30 years.

“In his mind’s eye he could see ruffles,” says Klehm, referring to ruffled petal edges – a characteristic trait of Reckamp daylilies that Brother Charles is credited with introducing into the hybrid daylily world.

The Reckamp varieties are also noted for their complex, luminous, pastel colors and flat, round petals. The latter trait gives them a more open appearance, which Klehm likens to “smiling faces.”

One of Brother Charles’s favorite daylilies is characteristic of his hybrids: Golden peach in color with heavily ruffled petals, it was appropriately named Charlie’s Dream, and introduced in 1993.

The monk’s  daylilies still sell well, and there is even a dedicated “underground” group of daylily fanciers who collect and cultivate all of them, says Klehm of Brother Charles’s daylilies. “They have the most inner beauty and the best garden value.”

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