Thankfully both flowers were very upright which boded well for them staying out of reach of any passing slug and so I grabbed a couple of plastic coated garden rings and secured both flowers.
This morning, first thing, I popped outside to open up the greenhouses, grabbed my paintbrush and went to check on my flowers.
Both were intact and the female was virtually bursting with its’ attempts to open its’ petals but I left it tightly fastened and went to retrieve the male, snipping it off the plant and carrying it, still fastened as there were a lot of interested bees and hover flies about, back to the female.
Finally I was ready to unfasten the male flower and prepare it for the pollination process. The petals burst open as I removed the ring and revealed a huge amount of pollen which was a promising sight. I still hadn’t opened the female at this point as I needed to be sure that it was pollen from a male of the species which caused a squash to grow, if indeed one did, and I couldn’t risk a bee of hover fly bobbing in, with pollen from another squash variety or pumpkin, before I had time to prepare the male.
My plan was to use a two pronged approach by first using my paintbrush to apply a load of pollen direct and then I intended placing the centre part of the male flower into the female before closing the petals up again. Obviously, the huge petals of the male would need to be removed first, to enable it to fit into the female flower and the petals of the female to be drawn back over and secured. Careful not to lose any of the pollen, I pulled back the male petals, gently removing them before using the paintbrush to gather some of the pollen.
Next job was to quickly release the female and dust the center of the flower with the pollen laden paint brush, before placing the centre portion of the male into the flower, making sure it made contact with the stigma of the female and then I refastened the petals, leaving the male in place.
Only time will tell if pollination has been successful but I will be leaving the female secured until the flower has died back, at which point I will mark any resultant squash with a piece of brightly coloured wool, so that I remember which fruit has the ‘true’ seeds in it.
I plan to perform the whole procedure on another Hubbard female, in case this one fails or rots at a later date, as well as a couple of pumpkin flowers, although the Cheyenne Bush female flowers are a little harder to read and seem to open prior to the petals turning yellow which is odd. However, I shall give it my best shot and keep my fingers crossed for success.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, although this squash appeared to pollinate and grew to the size of a small orange, as is often the way with squash and pumpkins, it stopped at that point and has since rotted on the vine. I suspect that this is due to the fact that the plant was also host to the enormous squash that is now residing on my kitchen windowsill. Sadly, I have been unable to hand pollinate another squash for seed saving purposes but there is always next year 🙂