Dear Joe, Given the number of possible creations from Tet parents it would seem that the number is almost infinite. Therefore would I not be able to use the parents of a registered Tet cultivar to see if there are additional good daylilies that could be created?
Jack: The answer to your question is yes, but that depends on what it is you are trying to achieve. Sometimes in might be desirable to go back and use the parents of newer and often expensive daylilies. Sometimes you would be better off buying the expensive new introduction. It depends to some extent on your time table, how much money you have for buying newer plants and the particular value of the daylily in question.
If your intention is to be on or close to the cutting edge of daylily hybridizing, then it might be better to just buy the newer introductions. For example, Pat Stamile recently introduced Bas Relief ($200) and the Salters introduced Empire Returns ($150). If you wanted to breed the 3-D textured trait into your lines as quickly as possible, it would probably be a lot easier to just buy either or both of these parents, assuming you can find a plant for sale. However, if you look at the parentage of Empire Returns you will see that you can purchase Empire Strikes Back, the pod parent, for $35 and Childhood Treasure, the pollen parent, for $100. If buying a $100 daylily is beyond what you want to pay, then Empire Strikes Back at $35 might be a good choice for you to work with. It might take a generation or two longer to achieve your goal then if you started out with Empire Returns, but then you might make a fortuitous cross with Empire Strikes Back that produces something even better then Empire Returns. You really won't know until you try it. In a case like this where a new trait is showing up in a dramatic form and it is next to impossible or beyond your cost to acquire the plant, then going back to the parent that carries the trait in question might be a worthwhile effort.
You might also want to consider purchasing the two parents and repeating the cross in the hopes of getting something similar or even better. I don't know how many seedlings Pat Stamile or the Slaters had to grow to get Bas Relief and Empire Returns. If it was a 1,000 seedlings, then your chance of coming up with a Empire Returns is limited. The question you have to ask, is the time and effort worth it. It's probably going to take you about three years to find out. In the mean time you could have purchased Empire Returns and Bas Relief and been making crosses with them. On the other hand, if your intention is only to have some fun and also not spend a lot of money and the parents are inexpensive, then repeating the cross may be something that you will enjoy doing. However, going back to the grandparents in an attempt to duplicate an existing daylily is probably a waste of time because you don't have any idea of the seedlings that were selected to produce the final introduction.
While sometimes it may be desirable to buy the newest introduction, it may also be a waste of time and money. If you look at the daylily catalogs you will see a lot of lavender colored daylilies with gold edges, many of which have rather poor lavender/purple color. If your goal is to breed a lavender or purple daylily with a gold edge there would be no reason to buy any of the newer and expensive introductions when you can buy Ida's Magic, the parent involved in almost all these daylilies, for $15. Crossing your favorite daylily with Ida's Magic is no worse then crossing it to one of the $100 Ida's Magic look-a-like introductions. The reason is very simple - the gold edge is an easy trait to breed into your lines, and the Ida's Magic look-a-likes don't offer much more that you can't get from using Ida's Magic.
There is no hard and fast rule for deciding whether to buy the new expensive introduction or one of it's parents that seems to be carrying the trait. Many years ago I searched through the parentage of many of Elizabeth Salter's eyed diploids and saw some daylilies that kept showing up in the parentages. I purchased a few of these because they were much lower in price then the newer introductions, but I never did get anything useful from them. The last few years she has introduced some really nice wide eyed diploids and I just went ahead and bought them to use for hybridizing because it was just easier and the trait I was looking for was already there. But then, they were only $50 introductions.
However, I think we also need to ask how much of the current hybridizing is being driven by what I like to call hybridizer envy. There seems to be an impression among many people that you have to have the newest and most expensive parents to be successful. What you really want from any daylilies you buy for hybridizing is certain traits. It really doesn't make too much difference just which parent provides the trait you are looking for. However, to be realistic, many of the most desirable traits are in the newer and often more expensive daylilies. Whether or not you really need these plants is questionable.
Consider, for example, that you want to breed very clean, clear reds. There are some very nice clear reds being introduced at $100 or better. You might think that you really need these clear reds to breed additional clean reds. However, you really need to ask what is it that makes a clean red daylily so impressive. The answer is really quite simple. Look at the older reds and you see a muddy or brick red where there is anthocyanidin pigment over a yellow or orange carotene base. What makes the newest reds clean is a lack of the carotene pigments and purity of the cyanidin pigment. Thus, if you want to bred clean reds, the way to go is to use older reds and cross them to white or pastels with the idea of using the whites and pastels to eliminate the carotene pigments. Also, you shouldn't dismiss using clear purples for breeding reds as reds will produce purples and purples will produce reds.
You specifically referred to tetraploid daylilies. Tetraploid daylilies have two sets of chromosomes. However, tetraploid daylilies that are fertile behave like they are diploids with 22 pairs of chromosomes. We call these types of tetraploids amphidiploids because when you look at them during meiosis they behave like diploids with normal diploid like bivalent pairing. However, this creates a condition called fixed heterozygosity where, for example, chromosome one of the first genome is homozygous dominant (say AA) and chromosome number one of the second genome is homozygous recessive, aa. If you self pollinate this plant or cross it to another similar plant you will never get the recessive phenotype, which may be the desired phenotype, because chromosomes number one of the first genome do not pair with chromosomes number one of the second genome. This is also referred to as phenotypic buffering.
If you want to bring certain traits into your lines, or are just making some tet x tet crosses in hopes of getting something interesting based on the parentage of the plants, you may be surprised to discover that you are not getting the results you expected, because of various degrees of fixed heterozygosity in the parents or fixed heterozygosity that develops in the progenies that you use for further crosses. Fixed heterozygosity is desirable when it results in hybrid vigor, but is undesirable when you are looking for the recessive phenotype. Some years ago I made a cross between H. fulva producing unreduced gametes and a pink tetraploid and the F1's were very fertile. I planted out a large number of F2 seedlings expecting to get some nice, spidery pinks. Of over 300 seedlings there was only 2 or 3 that were close to pink, almost all of them were fulvous like the F1 hybrids and there was almost no segregation for the major genes I was expecting.
When deciding on which parents to use you need to be aware of problems that can develop from fixed heterozygosity and phenotypic buffering in tetraploids. That newest introduction may look like just what you need, but it could be the result of a lot of recessive genes that may be very difficult to recover in future generations. On the other hand, a newer and expensive introduction might be worth while when you consider how much time you will need to spend to get back to that level if you start out with one of the parents. You might need to grow out thousands of seedlings and spend several years to get back to where you could have started out from had you used the new introduction in the first place.
A lot depends on how you want to balance time and financial resources with your overall goals in mind. Let's go back to the example of the clear red tetraploids. You could start out with James Marsh as the source for the red color, cross it to some nice whites or genetic melons and spend several generations getting rid of the carotene under layer. Then, you can also spend several hundred dollars to buy some of the newest reds that are very clean and end up saving yourself maybe 6 to 10 years of time. If you look at all the daylilies currently being introduced you won't see much that is really new. You might see some daylilies were some of the newer traits are intensified or new combinations of traits are showing up, but the traits themselves are present in older cultivars that can be obtained a lot easier and for a lot less then the newer introductions. Besides looking at the parents of prospective purchases that you can buy for a lot less that may be just as useful, you should also consider some of the older introductions within the last 5 to 10 years that may be a lot less expensive and still have the traits you are interested in.
When using older cultivars or the parents of newer daylilies you should consider a two track approach because basically you are starting a race by taking a few steps backwards while your opponent is already several steps ahead of you. First, try self-pollinating the daylily to see if you can intensify the desired trait. Also, by looking at the phenotypes of the resulting progenies you should be able to get some idea of how well the trait is passed along to its progenies. If the trait doesn't show up in the selfed progenies or is greatly diminished, then you know that it is going to be difficult to breed that trait into your lines. However, you might find some progenies were the trait is stronger or otherwise more to your liking. You might then find that these seedlings are even better parents then the original parent. If the daylily is not self fertile, then you should try crossing it to other daylilies that also exhibit the trait in the hopes of further developing the trait. Secondly, cross the desired daylily to a wide array of different parents to see what develops. Sometimes that cross that you think is going to be the one that brings you fame and fortune turns out to be a bust while a cross that you don't expect much from produces outstanding progenies. This comes about because daylilies are highly heterozygous and because at the tet level you have a high degree of gene interaction and dosage effects that is difficult to predict. Also, don't be afraid to make very wide crosses that at first glance appear to be counterproductive. For example, if you are breeding tet spiders, don't be afraid to cross your spidery tets with the wide and round Florida type tets. By a combination of backcrossing and sib mating you can bring new genes into your tet spider lines that will later produce traits not yet seen in tet spiders.