Lily breeding was perhaps the most creative, original, and personally rewarding of all of Virgil's many strong interest and hobbies over the years. The fun he had breeding lilies was contagious.
Virgil got his MS degree in Soil Science at the U of VT in 1935; served as a soil scientist and district conservationist in VA, MN SD and ND in the USDA Soils Conservation Service which was established after the dust bowl years. He then served as USDA's first ND State Range Specialist before returning to NDSU in 1953 as statewide Soils Specialist. He retired in 1967 at age 60 to 14 acres on Pleasant Lake near Hackensack MN. For the next 20 years his lily breeding became a major activity and the source of much pleasure for the whole family. Virgil's wife Ruth was an enthusiastic helper in Virgil's lily breeding efforts. They particularly enjoyed checking the newly opened first blooms of seedlings each day to decide which to save for further observations. Each summer vacation at the lake revealed expanded lily plantings and dozens of new selections for further evaluation as potential new cultivars. The naming and release of Chippewa Star, Warpaint, Virgil, and several other varieties was done with encouragement from Julius Wadekamper.
Virgil's informed interest in beauty, science, and the natural world left a strong imprint on his extended family that included gardeners, educators, poets, artists, authors, archaeologists, architects, builders and scientists.
Thoughts from Virgil's son, Bud:
My Oregon garden has a few survivors of Dad's advanced selections, and variety names he had chosen for them before he died in 1987. Many of those names reflect Native American themes and cultures that he respected. A breeder from Holland has twice collected pollen from the most robust of these survivors. Perhaps someday Virgil's germplasm will give rise to future new lily varieties?
Many thanks for tracking down brother Jim and me. We are honored that the NSLS is recognizing lily breeders including Virgil--and it is great to see the names of many old friends and colleagues from my 13 years on the U of MN Horticulture Department faculty (1960-73) including Merv Eisel and Leon Snyder who was my first boss in academia and a great role model!