Simple Daylily Hybridizing for Us Simple Folks- Part 2 (un-edited)

Originally published in the Summer 2001 'AHS Journal' as "Daylily Hybridizing for Everyone"

By Tom Rood, Penn Yan, NY

(All daylilies in these articles are Hemerocallis )

Making a list of good daylily parents is probably the most subjective thing any hybridizer can do. Besides being arbitrary it will be at most be incomplete. Nevertheless, many daylilies are great parents and well used which doesn't preclude anyone from using them over and over again. At times the results are predictable while other times surprises pop up. No one can ever exhaust a single parent because there are literally hundreds of thousands of genetic combinations available from any given cross. Crossing one parent to thousands of other parents available on the market is inexhaustible and means there are thousands of wonderful seedlings waiting for us to discover.

A few good parents

Pink: Take BARBARA MITCHELL (Pierce 84) for one example. It is a great pink with round recurved form and readily available. Many hybridizers were using it a few years ago and the offspring were generally pretty nice. Things to use with it are other great pinks such as JEDI DOT PIERCE (Edgeworth 88) and DELIGHT SOME (Sakes 85). Of course there is no reason why this trio could not be used back and forth as well. The latter two daylilies bloom later than BARBARA MITCHELL in our garden so freezing BARBARA MITCHELL pollen might be a good idea. More on that later.

Reds and Purples: Another good inexpensive parent is CHICAGO APACHE (Marsh 81). There are not enough great reds to suit me. Whenever I see good ones such as CHICAGO APACHE, RED GRACE (Benz 93), VINTAGE BOREAUX (Kirchhoff 86), STRUTTER'S BALL (Moldovian 84) or RUBY SENTINEL (Benz 91) I immediately start looking for what ever is open that has comparable colorization or ruffling and green throats. Our freezer full of frozen pollen comes in handy when what we want is not open that morning. The above reds are all tetraploids.

My favorite diploid red is CRANBERRY COVE (P.Stamile 85). It is the most intense consistently clear red in the garden. But it is a shy bloomer in our climate. Every year I cross it with Kennedy's CAROLINA CRANBERRY (80). CAROLINA CRANBERRY produces red blooms in profusion with good branching over an extremely long bloom period. Someday I going to win with this cross. It is all hidden in the gene pool. Other diploid reds giving good results include SILOAM SHOW GIRL (Henry 81), SILOAM PLUM TREE (78) and ROYAL OCCASION (Apps 90).

Doubles: Good double daylilies to consider are FRANCES JOINER (Joiner 88) with ALMOND PUFF (Stamile 90). PEACH MAGNOLIA (Joiner 86) is one parent of our best double. SCATTERBRAIN (Joiner 88) and SILOAM DOUBLE FRINGE (Henry 86) are also two that have proven good double parents.

Whites: In near whites WEDDING BAND (Stamile 87) and ARCTIC SNOW (Stamile 85) both tetraploid are nearly universal white parents. Diploid GENTLE SHEPHERD (Yancy 80) and WHITE TEMPTATION (Sellers 78) have given us our best clear near white seedlings. Save your money for Jeff Salter's ED BROWN (94). ED BROWN is the one expensive daylily we recommend beginning hybridizers have on their wish list. The late Ron Valente was quoted saying "ED BROWN will put an edge on a fence post."  By the way, do not be afraid to cross near whites with bold eyed, red, dark red or lavender daylilies. The results could be very interesting.

Eyes and edges: Eyes and edges are dominate genes in STRAWBERRY CANDY (Stamile 89) crosses. ALWAYS AFTERNOON (Morss 87) has been heavily used by a great many people. One of our favorite parents is Jeff Salter's MOONLIT MASQUERADE (92). Besides being one of the most prolific daylilies it is one of the most powerful parents. When crossed with Tet conversion DRAGONS EYE (E.Salter 91) the resulting seedlings are magnificent. Tet DRAGONS EYE is the number two plant to have on your want list. It is surpassing the tetraploid conversion of SILOAM VIRGINIA HANSEN (Henry 79) which opened up new vistas especially in Pat Stamile's candy series.

Spiders and UFOs: Spiders and unusual forms are difficult to breed due to the very long carpel. A few of our favorite parents are ORCHID CORSAGE (Saxton 75), MYNELLE'S STARFISH (Hayward 82), MOUNTAIN TOP EXPERIENCE (Temple 88), SPIDER MIRACLE (Hendricks 86) and WILSON SPIDER (Oakes 87).

Those baffling bouncing genes

It makes sense to match parents with like characteristics on the one hand and with parents showing features desired to be included with the offspring on the other. One very important item to keep in mind is that according to Medallian genetic theory, recessive genes usually will not surface in the first generation of off-spring. These seedlings are known as the F1 generation. Dominate genes override recessive genes in F1's. Crossing sibling seedlings of the F1 generation to make offsprings for a second generation (called F2's) should cause twenty-five percent of the F2's to show the recessive genes invisible in F1's. It may take a pretty good representative sample to confirm that twenty-five percent number but the idea is there. In other words if the F1's do not show the promise desired, do not compost them until sibling F1 crosses are made to produce F2's.

Eye zones tend to be a dominate characteristic while at times petal ruffling and edging can be a recessive characteristic especially in red daylilies. These are not rules but observations. Going backwards in time with the Hemerocallis Check List is one way to identify dominate and recessive genes in any one line of crosses. Keeping good notes is another. Probably the best way is to talk with hybridizers who have been busy breeding daylilies for long periods of time.

When it comes to dominate and recessive gene characteristics, it helps to remain focused on what specific traits we wish to see in the seedlings. The only way to make headway is to keep a large notebook listing the crosses and why we made them. What were we looking for in the F1's or F2's? Without that paper trail, every cross we make is like going to a casino. Magnificent casinos are not built with our winnings. Written notes of our desires will keep us focused and next time around we will be able to it better. Selecting daylily traits should bear heavily on plant habit including performance from frost out to frost in. Putting a brown bag over blooms to avoid being "distracted" while evaluating the total plant will help remain objective and focused. Remember, it's A what's under the hood@ that counts.

One caution is to avoid excessive line breeding. Line breeding involves backcrossing siblings onto parents and so on down the line of seedlings for successive generations. The idea originally was to avoid bringing in undesired characteristics into the breeding line. Experience has demonstrated that line breeding reduces overall plant vigor. Out crossing involves breeding with unrelated parents. Out crossing has produced some of the most significant breaks in daylily distinction.

A few breeding nitches

I think there are three nitches for the beginning hybridizer to consider. These three are early morning openers, extra early daylilies and very late daylilies. Working in these directions requires a source of frozen pollen.

Tips for freezing pollen

Freezing pollen is easy. The pollen is selected when it is fresh and then quickly dried. Remove the anthers with tweezers before bugs contaminate it. Dry in front of a small fan with the air blowing over but not on the pollen anthers. Remove the filament from the anther before drying. Once the pollen is dry, usually only a few hours or so, place it in an airtight container such as a pill box, contact lens case or 35mm film container. Any air tight container will do. The biggest failure of frozen pollen is moisture from humidity. Slip the container in a lock top bag. Label the pollen and place in the freezer. When removing the pollen from the freezer, allow it to come to room temperature before opening the container. The anther is then used just like fresh pollen. Tweezers come in handy. Keep the dry pollen out of direct sunlight. A mini picnic cooler works well and provides storage space for pollen, tweezers, notebooks, film and camera.

It's time to collect our seeds

It is time to gather ripened seeds once the seed pods start to crack open. Allow the pods to crack open naturally. As soon as a pod begins to crack, break off the pod and remove the seeds. Dry the seeds for a few hours indoors to remove surface moisture where fungi may later form. Place the seed with a good label in a lock top bag and store in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Best storage temperature appears to be 39 degrees F (4 degrees C). There are physical reasons for this temperature relationship with internal cellular moisture but we won't get into that here. Check the temperature with a good thermometer and adjust as necessary. Seeds will store for months at this temperature with minimum sprouting in storage. Most seeds that have any dormancy require a period of cold storage to break dormancy. This period reportedly runs from three to six weeks.

Seedling management

Managing seedlings can be difficult. The tendency is to overcrowd seedlings into available space. Each seedling needs room to develop. We have found that the minimum space in row planting is four inches. Six would be better if space allows. Less than four inches makes it just about impossible to remove selected seedlings without dangerously disturbing adjacent seedlings.

Ground covers greatly reduce the hated weeding chore. No one likes to hand weed. But if the seedlings are spaced in rows one foot apart with just three rows between kneeling walkways, weeds can be easily reached or hand cultivated. Walking in seedling beds causes soil compaction and should be avoided except in established walkways.

Ed. Note: In the next part of the series, Tom gets specific about how the daylily reproduction process works and looks into the research that goes in to preplanning specific daylily crosses.

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