Alex Burnett (1922-2012)
Alex Burnett hybridized the infamous Night Flyer asiatic lily, right here in sunny Alberta. The year Alex passed away (2012) was the year this same lily was mass produced in the Netherlands, making it readily available around the world. Although I am sure he would have had something derogatory to say about the lack of royalties paid to him by these big companies for this stunning hybrid, I'm certain he still would have been very pleased to know it achieved such popularity.
- Blackberry Intrigue - 1989 (2001 E. Fox) Stunning inflorescence of deep blackberry red, numerous outfacing flowers. Grows to 1.4M tall under good conditions. [Ib/d]
- Contrails - 1991 (2000) Stunning white lily has large flowers with a lime star in the throat, and a few red spots in the nectaries. What a show stem! High bud count with nicely spaced florets. Grows to 1.1M tall, blooming mid July. Slow to multiply. [Ia/b]
- High Flight - (1995) Dark, black-red with slightly lighter tips. Margins narrowly ruffled, 3 foot stems bloom in July. [Ia]
- Night Flyer -(1995) Black scarlet with an external red tinge. Dark buds and black stems, growing to 4 feet tall, blooming in July. [Ib-c]
- Night Squadron -
- Overlooked - (2005 Valley K Greenhouses) Fat petals are orange in center and deeper orange at the tips, with faint spots and papillae. Loads of buds. Somewhat Botrytis resistant. Grows to 1M tall, blooms mid July. [Ia]
- Ruby Glow - 1989 (2001 E. Fox) Vivid red with an orange-yellow throat and fine dark red spots. Grows to 1M tall, blooms late July with up to 20 flowers per stem. [Ib/c]
- Wing Commander - (1995 E. Fox) Dark red/black inside and out, spotted black with almost black stems. 4 feet tall, blooms July-August. [Ia]
Below are images of unregistered hybrids from Mr. Burnett's breeding program, which have grown on our farm at one point or another. Not all hybrids may be found any longer as they may have been culled, destroyed or lost to things such as flooding over the years. More images of each variety can be viewed in our extensive lily photo gallery.
Alex was born at East Kildonan, Manitoba, in 1922. In 1942 Mr. Burnett joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), becoming a pilot, and later in WWII he became a flying instructor. In 1951 he was commissioned as an Air Traffic Control Officer, during the Korean War. 21 years later, he retired to an acreage 5 miles south of Vermilion, Alberta.
Now you understand the naming influences on his lilies, right? His background with the RCAF shines through each name clearly. You'll also notice many of Alex's list of registered lilies are dark red/black asiatics bred from his crosses. Alex says 'it should be the ultimate goal of every lily breeder to produce the finest lily for the enjoyment of all flower lovers in the world'. How can we disagree with that, and he has certainly done his part by providing us with these and other fine hybrids from his breeding program!
Alex began breeding in 1985, after visiting Fred Fellners' sumptuous lily fields. Alex received guidance and encouragement from breeders such as Fred Fellner, Fred Tarlton, and Dick Thomas, also from the North American Lily Society and many of it's publications. There is a great article about Alex in the 1994 NALS Yearbook, which I used as a reference for this article, on direction from Alex. (these guys are much too modest to talk about themselves, but ask them about lilies and watch out!)
Alex grew lilies in a difficult part of Alberta, where they seem to have their own little microclimate, and it is NOT a zone warmer for sure! In 2002 Alex left his farm home in favour of a home within town limits, and has since retired from lily breeding. Sadly, on February 1, 2012 Alex passed away while in hospital, at the age of 89 years.