Sunday, July 10, 2011

Garden news July 10,2011- Celebrating daylilies

This extra post this week will be all about daylilies. They are just about at their peek at the moment even though the peek should last a while.

I started growing daylilies about 1988. I had just started encroaching on the front yard at the time. A neighbor, a retired faculty person from the University named Fred McDowell, had a nationally known daylily garden over on Court Street, about two blocks from our house. He also had very little grass, and with the help of several graduate students, grew and kept meticulous several thousand daylilies that would bloom during July. He would offer most for sale. I think he had to keep selling them because otherwise they would get too crowded. He had a price list and for several years, we would go over as a family, (our children were 7 and 9 then) and everyone got to pick out one. So we started adding four lilies a year to the garden.

Daylilies provide the perfect plant for obsession. You start by keeping track of the names and dates and prices of acquisition. Then you add growth information. You count the scapes, as they are called. Most people would call them the stems or stalks. You measure growth from one year to the next. For a while I religiously logged the date of first flower.
And then of course there were photographs.
I added 10-15 plants per year at the height of the obsession. And then I flat out ran out of room. It happens.

So now I like to think I have a healthier attitude. Most of my plants are labeled. I still take photographs. I mostly deadhead the spent blooms, which can take 45 minutes at the peak season.

I have a group of 15-20 plants that are ones that I hybridized. Some of them are rather nice, but so were their parents. That was the point of the experiment. I would cross ones I liked. None of these plants have names. Some do not have labels. (Some are labeled Mears #4 for example.)

What’s to tell about daylilies?
There are very few pests. In fact I do not think I can recall any animal but deer eating daylilies.
They like sun but will grow nicely in 4-5 hours of good sun.
The flowers bloom for only one day. One plant can have 20 scapes when mature and each scape can have 10-15 buds. You can do the math. A plant can bloom for 2-3 weeks.

There are singles and doubles. They come in almost all colors- but blue. Yes there are blacks and whites. I can’t recall ones that are green, but many have green tints to their centers.

There are ones that are so big that they resemble amaryllis. There are some that are tiny, only a few inches wide.

Because they are so easy to hybridize there must be 25,000 or more named varieties.

A new, single fan plant will grow to a vigorous size in 3-4 years.

They bloom over about a six-week period, roughly July 1 to August 15, give or take a week or two depending on whether it is an early or late year.

There are a few rebloomers, and the breeders are certainly working on that. That yellow flowered one you see all over, isn’t a real daylily in my book.

Here are ones that have been blooming this last week in the garden.

First here are a few pictures of Ruby Spider. While it is not a real spider daylily it is about as impressive a single plant as can be. It grows fast too.

Here is an actual spider daylily- called Red Ribbons

Here are some with centers of a different color.

Here are more pictures.

The picture below is Primal Scream. It is a really rich orange.

I really like the picture below. It is Breed Apart. It is almost fuzzy.

That's it for now. There are many that have not even begun to bloom.
While they put on a show for only part of summer, they work as a real back bone for the high summer garden. It does make it difficult to go away during the summer. Maybe trips to Colorado should just always be in June.

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