Monday, February 1, 2021

 Daylilies Part II

As July moves on, different daylilies come and go in flower.  Some will bloom for a very long time, others concentrate all their efforts into two or three weeks, but I will have flowers straight into September with the varieties I grow.  I like to think of daylilies as "happy flowers", they don't ask for much but always seem eager to please.   As a plant nerd who will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to grow challenging plants that I really like, it is quite nice to grow some plants that give so much for minimal effort on my part.  


This seedling from Marietta has a great big polychrome flower with nice ruffling.  Its not the most floriferous plant but each bloom is eagerly anticipated.   Smells good too. 


Galactic Explosion is from Obannon Springs as are most of the plants in the front section of the older bed.  It is one I brought sight unseen and am glad I did.  It produces lots of colorful small/medium sized "spider"/star shaped dark centered burnt orange flowers over a very long period of time.  Flowers well above the foliage, another plus. It could make a good plant in the right spot in a perennial border. 


Small Gesture has lots of double pink flowers with a darker center. 


Brown Witch is one of the few brown flowered daylilies. Brown would seem to be an ugly color for a flower but in person it actually is pretty nice, at least the sort of golden browns that daylilies come in.  A good performer and fairly tall. 


Grey Witch is similar in form, height and bloom period to Brown Witch.  Also a sort of indescribable color, more of a muted purple shade.   These spider flowered sorts do blend better in a garden with other plants than the daylilies with big round ("bagel") flowers or ones with extreme ruffled edges ("chicken fat").  Both of the witches are in the newer main bed near the deck.  Many plants in that bed are late bloomers I got from Manatawny but when I extended the bed I added quite a few more from mail orders including both of the above. 


Ok this is not in my garden, but at a nursery, CT Daylilies, that I paid a visit to in July.   It is an example of a "bearded" or "sculpted" daylily.  Not my cup of tea at all but I do find it fascinating how much human selection can change a simple wildflower in a few generations.  And its good that there are folks breeding all kinds of new flower forms.  Who knows what this flower form might lead to in the future?  People go nuts over cristate growing succulents so why not a flower with such an odd form?   There's lots of room for different preferences, diversity is one of the things that makes gardens interesting. 


There were a lot of really cutting edge newer sorts of daylilies at CT daylilies and they were not inexpensive.  But when I later compared prices to other online nurseries, and also considered the fact that the owner put a lot of extra effort into growing them in pots (which means less transplant shock) and that they were robust plants I realized they were actually priced quite fairly for what they are.   So naturally I left with four new ones for my gardens.   As can be seen they all have some unusual features.  One has a huge flat red flower (Greatful Red) , two others have patterns (Pattern Master-bitone, Nick of Time (purple) that are hard to find (and an active area of breeding at CT daylilies and among other breeders--we can expect daylilies that have kaleidoscope like patterns in coming years) and one is stippled (Spots Before My Eyes-tiny dots of color on a lighter background) and a tetraploid (even less tetraploid stippled sorts than the few diploid ones). 


This gorgeous monster at CT daylilies was one of their seedlings and was going home with one of the workers.   Now this is something different and indicative of some rather far out daylilies to come in future years.  Many, if not all, with this kind of concentric ring pattern have crimped petals but this one is relatively flat and is definitely an advancement from the first ones with this kind of pattern.  Not a perfect form yet but certainly nice enough that I would happily grow it if I could. 


Miss Jessie is an old spider form. I've had it for years and it came from the old house to this one in 2012.   Tough and reliable, its a good and inexpensive one. 


One of my better seedlings, this one has nicely shaped purple flowers with darker veining.  It blooms for a long time too. If I were to change anything about it, I'd like the flowers to be on taller stems.    


 This old classic, Lullaby Baby, looks even better in person.   Its a polychrome tending towards white, but each flower is perfectly shaped and the smallish size is well proportioned to the plant. 


Muffet's Little Friend is an odd sort, and is shown here at Grace Gardens.  Its a smaller one with a wildflower look to it.  I got it and was warned it does spread a bit like H fulva, the common orange daylily one sees everywhere.  I like the small flowers and plant, though the flowers could be a little higher above the leaves.  I put it in a location where it has some Iris fulva nearby (another spreader) and a walkway and the pool to keep it in bounds if that does become an issue. 


Grace Gardens is quite a sight to behold when their large daylily field in in full bloom.   


Santa's Pants at Grace Gardens. Of course I had to get this to bring home.   What a pretty flower and quite distinctive too. 


Our big three day getaway this past summer was to Ithaca when the virus was at a very low ebb and we got to see friends on Cayuga Lake for an outdoor distanced dinner.  The most amazing rainbow we have ever seen appeared over the lake. So it was an amazing trip even though we did not dare eat in restaurants or other usual things we might do.  But between the daylilies, stopping by at our friends place, walking the Cornell Botanical Gardens, and picking up Purity ice cream to eat elsewhere it was a good if short getaway, our only one during the pandemic. 


Rainbow Radiance was looking pretty good at Grace Gardens in spite of a thundershower that sent us scurrying back into the car for a bit.  Got a division to take home. 


The haul from Grace Gardens and another smaller daylily grower in nearby Cortland.  They always look a little ragged after the ride and for a bit after planting as they focus on new root growth.  Next growing season they will really take off. 


This one I got as Athalone seedling from Manatawny.  It definitely has a more of a species look with its grassy foliage and simple but bright flowers. 

Another Manatawny no name seedling from my first of three visits out there so far.  This one I call "Dusky Rose".  Its an odd one, interesting pattern and not that tall   Sets seeds readily. 


Ernest is my name so of course I have a daylily named as such.  I cant say that I would have purchased it otherwise as the color is a bit washed out to me.  But it does have lots of buds per stalk and is a good seed setter so it probably has value in breeding.  And like most of them, almost no effort to take care of. 

Yet another no name Manatawny seedling, this one I call "Glow".  One of the oddest ones I have, small grower with lots of flowers of an unusual shape and with a big eye that really does seem to glow. 


Masses of bloom on July 13, 2020. 



A popular cultivar called Lavender Blue Baby.  It has been used a lot in breeding and is worth growing on its own.  It has taken time to clump up and put on a good display here. 


In its first year after the year I planted it, One Above You is living up to its name.  Tall and with big bright yellow flowers.  I really this one so far.  Came from Willow Creek Garden via mailorder. 

I think I have had Outrageous from my days at NYBG, but it really took off when we moved here and i planted it next to a compost pile.   Guess it likes all those good nutrients.  Its well named too, it one of the more distinctive ones that is easily recognized.  Its also a fine example of a good showy garden plant that is an older variety, readily found, and inexpensive.  
A Manatawny seedling I call "Pink".   It is a compact plant with good habits.  I can only guess it didn't get registered because it isn't distinctive enough?  It closely resembles Janice Brown in flower and plant size, and in my garden I don't have anything else exactly like it so far. 
I had to really hunt for Poinsettia, an old Stout cultivar. I have seen it in the perennial gardens at NYBG where several clumps of it are very impressive in full bloom with many flowers open at once.  It is unaccountably scare for reasons I don't understand. It has fantastic color and blooms for a long time.  Perhaps it isn't the fastest to multiply for growers (?) or maybe everyone wants "bagels", but it is definitely worth having.  I got a plant with four fans from Willow Creek and planted each fan in different spots in my back gardens.  Three decided to bloom this year, this one being the most vigorous as it is right by the compost pile in full sun.  I had to keep the gem squash leaves (I grow this South African squash variety right in the compost pile) from overrunning Poinsettia's foliage.  

This is what Poinsettia looks like in a garden when its happy.  I took this photo at NYBG some years ago and have been on the hunt for it since.  In coming years I hope my Poinsettia daylilies clump up like this.  It also sets seeds readily and I put quite a few things pollen on them and will grow out seeds this coming year.  


Rocket City is another oldie but it is still grown in many gardens because its tough and very colorful.  Not a plant for pastel borders, lol.  I got mine from my friend Andrew who also worked at NYBG and also got plants from Greg and Mike.  The white one in front of it is a seedling of mine. 

Salmon Sheen is a very old variety.  It is pretty compact, the flowers are nice and have an slight twist to the petals that works in its case.  More folks should grow some of the older varieties so we don't lose them, both to preserve genetic diversity and to reduce the risk that we lose them forever. Not all are worthy of preservation but there are some unique and interesting sorts that really are easy going plants that are no trouble to care for.   And reliable bloomers too. 
This rather nice seedling of mine must have No Where to Hide in its background, the deeply colored veins is strongly suggestive of that. Very pretty flower but I need to move it to a spot with less competition to see what its full potential is.  It certainly has a pretty face. 


Pretty sure this big pink flower is a seedling from my random pollinations (or was it a bee?).  I like what I see so far, so I will keep an eye on this one. 
In another garden near a patio Swallowtail Kite (foreground) and Up Against the Sun are growing into nice clumps.  Both are good plants by a breeder (C Hanson) who appears to have a reputation for producing plants with good foliage habits and lots of flowers.   I'd say he hit it right with these two.  If I had to pick between them I would say Up Against the Sun is the better one as its a bit taller and the color attracts attention from far away.  Swallowtail Kite might be the better choice for a garden with lots of pastel colored flowers though.  

Up Against the Sun is a good name for these big bright orange flowers.

A white flowered seedling of mine.  I like it and its been a decent performer so far. 








Friday, January 29, 2021

 Daylilies in the Gardens Part I

I find that daylilies (Hemerocallis) are sometimes looked down upon by some fellow plant nerds as they are almost too easy to grow, the foliage doesn't really look that great nor plays well with neighbors (other than more daylilies), and the flowers can be garishly loud in color.  But in my view, points 1 and 3 are pluses and I don't really mind the foliage.   Admittedly I also used to not think much of them until I worked at the New York Botanical Garden.  Two fellow employees, Mike Ruggerio and Greg Piotrowski, gave me a few extras from their daylily breeding program.  At first I only wanted ones that were fragrant, but over the years I have come to appreciate just about every kind of daylily form that is out there.  Well I might need a few more years before I appreciate "bearded" daylilies, though I think its great that there are folks working on this new flower form. I do have a soft spot for some of the older cultivars, especially some of the ones bred by Arlow Stout.  He worked at NYBG long before I did and is responsible for the bulk of early foundational breeding of hemerocallis from original species material.  These older ones are often quite tall with many flowers of moderate size.   They do look good in the back of a mixed perennial border as they are more subtle than the bold large flowered sorts. 

Daylilies are easy to grow provided one can give them a lot of full sun, the more the better. Rust is a serious issue down south but not here where winter cold makes it survival impossible for more than a single season.  There are some annoying insects that can trouble them, such as daylily leaf miners, daylily bud flies, and the ever miserable thrips.  But the first two are easily controlled/exterminated with pesticides and the latter isn't a major problem most years.  The biggest threat are the deer which have ruined so many gardens in the eastern US in recent years.  They also are so numerous that they impact the very forests themselves, exterminating large numbers of native wildflowers such as trilliums, lilies, and native orchids and disrupting tree regeneration by eating tree seedlings.  They will eat daylily foliage in spring when it emerges and also feast on the buds and flowers.  The best defense is a fence (no shooting deer allowed in my area of NY) and that is what I put up around our back yard to deter them from my gardens.  In the front gardens I use repellants (Liquid Fence) and plant less tasty things.  However I did plant a lot of small daylily seedlings from crosses I made last year so I may end up putting a fence around at least part of the front yard where they are located so I can see the first flowers appear next summer. 

Over the years I have acquired ever more daylilies, mainly from visits to local daylily nurseries or mail orders from other daylily nurseries further away. Visiting actual daylily nurseries is one of my favorite pastimes as there is no better way to select what you like than by seeing it in their fields.  Hemerocallis colors often don't photograph particularly well, especially the pastel sorts, so seeing in the field is almost essential.   When I order online, I do a lot of research first to see what people say about certain cultivars as well as if those cultivars have won any awards from the AHS (American Hemerocallis Society).  Sometimes I will see a plant on a nursery visit that is not available or is a bit too expensive that I like.  Those also can usually be found online if I decide I really have to have them.   I also grow a number of unnamed seedlings from one of the nurseries I visit, Manatawny Creek, where they sell them for 5 dollars.  Even though I know they are culls from a breeding program I have been quite happy with what I have purchased so far.   Sometimes I think I can figure out what the "fault" might be but there are some that I cannot figure out why they were culled.  Perhaps it is because there are so many registered named cultivars out there that it is really hard to come up with something truly distinctive these days worthy of registering.  That doesn't stop a lot of folks from breeding daylilies though, nor registering many more each year.  Its just too easy to breed them since the parts are obvious (no need for tiny paintbrushes nor tweezers here, fingers work just fine) and the seeds large and easy to germinate. I too have seedlings of my own that I keep, and a few are not even from seeds that I purposely set but from seeds that dropped and came up on their own.   Sooner or later I will have to remove some to make room for others, as all serious daylily growers have to do.   One simply cannot have the space, energy, nor lifespan required to grow them all.  

Perhaps my favorite gardening activity is going outside on a summer morning, cup of tea in hand, to inspect the gardens. I thrive on surprises, and the daylilies don't disappoint.  Each flower lasts but a day, but new ones open each morning and they usually are at their finest at that time.  Seeing the first flower of a variety I have grown for a long time feels a bit like greeting an old friend, and watching the number of flowers build up over that particular plant's bloom period of anywhere from three weeks to three months is also satisfying.  Some are bold in color, others come in quiet pastel shades, some are solid colors, others have bitones or patterns with multiple colors, some are small and graceful, some really large, some fragrant, some not, but all are welcome in my gardens.  My smallest one is Pennysworth, an old cv with dainty simple yellow flowers borne over a long blooming period.  The entire plant isn't much over a foot tall in my gardens and it would look perfectly at home in a rock garden.  I have quite a few really tall ones too, some of which grow taller than myself (I am 5 foot 10, maybe 9 nowadays due to spine shrinkage that occurs in everyone as we get older--don't laugh it really is a thing according to my doctors).  One of the tallest, and a fantastic back of the border plant, is the old Stout cv Autumn Minaret.  It grows at least 6 feet tall and is a plant that gets better with the years.  It forms clouds of simple soft toned bicolored flowers over several weeks on well branched flower stalks.  It is one that I would definitely recommend for a large cottage garden or back of the border in a full sun situation. 



A daylily haul after a visit to a daylily nursery.  Usually they dig "liners" which are extra fans that are planted out and allowed to multiply to two or more fans. Sometimes a division is sliced off of a larger plant when liners arent available.  Either way these are the quicker to establish in my garden than mail ordered ones which are vigorously washed of soil to meet agricultural inspection requirements.  Both fresh dug plants/divisions and mail ordered plants will tend to sulk a bit their first season but that becomes a distant memory by their second year of establishment.  



This big yellow flowered seedling from Manatawny Creek was purchased the summer before.  Although it was blooming late in the season when I brought it, it turned out to be an early bloomer this year in my garden. Pluses that I see are nice huge flower on a pretty tall plant, flowers are borne well above the foliage, good fragrance, and good flower form.  I am guessing the reasons for not registering it include the fact that it doesn't have a lot of buds per flower stem (a big thing among serious daylily addicts) and that there are already too many good yellow daylilies out there.  Plus they rarely look as good in the seedling sales bed as they dont get additional watering nor coddling as they would in a regular garde, so in my experience they often get taller and better in my gardens. I have to factor that in when choosing plants.  That takes a bit of guesswork, especially this past summer when most of the daylilies at Manatawny Creek were shorter than usual due to the very dry summer we had in the northeast.   In my gardens however they do get some supplemental water if we get a prolonged dry spell. 

This one is Early and Often, a registered one I ordered online.   It comes out of breeding with the (in)famous Stella de Oro.  The latter is overused in landscapes across the US but actually is a good performer with nicely shaped golden flowers.  It never quits blooming and Early and Often did inherit the reblooming trait.  I like the flower shape and the fact it does throw flowers at odd times as well as during the main daylily bloom season here (July).  

Hemerocallis Whatchamacallit is an interesting one. I got it as a bonus plant from the breeder when I ordered a bunch of rather inexpensive daylilies from their site a few years ago.  It is common practice among most daylily growers to include bonus plants of their choosing (though one can make a suggestions list) based on the amount of the order.  I like surprises so I am always willing to try out something new.  If I like it is stays, if not there will always be someone who is willing to take it off my hands for their gardens. I like Whatchamacallit a lot, its extremely floriferous, the orange color is bright, and it starts early in the season but blooms for a very long period of time.  Its only fault is that the flowers don't open very wide.  For some daylilies that are taller, a lily like flower form might not be a bad thing but for a fairly compact plant like this one with many flower that open at once a slightly flatter flower would be an improvement.  Still Whatchamacallit is a keeper in my gardens as it can't be beat for reliability and generosity of flowers. 


I have two main daylily patches in the back gardens plus many more in rows or scattered among the various gardens.  This is the older of the two, and here we see it early in the daylily season, June 27, 2020 to be specific.  Early and Often and Whatchamacallit are already in full bloom but many others are also starting.  


This bright red one came from a daylily grower at a farmers market in Connecticut.  I got it a long time ago and have lost track of its name.  Its one of the older, simpler flower form ones.   I keep it because  of its color, a very bright cranberry red.   Its not a large growing plant nor does it have an especially long bloom period.   But it is very attractive when in peak flower. 


Merlin's Moth has a spectacularly colored flower.  I got a division from Grace Gardens near Penn Yann NY.  Whenever we go to visit Ithaca (where I spent 10 years at Cornell University) we make sure to visit Seneca Lake (for the wineries) and Grace Gardens.  Its about an hour west of Ithaca and the drive is lovely in summer as one cruises up the western side of Seneca Lake, stopping at some of the numerous wineries to sample their wares.   Grace Gardens is just north of Fox Run winery which is a good place to have a quick lunch as well as to get some wine to take home.  Tom and Kathy Rood are the owners of Grace Gardens and are fun to chat with and walking among the hundreds (thousands) of daylilies is a real treat.  Merlins' Moth is an older one that will need another year to get to clump size in the spot I put it in but the flower is pretty distinctive and borne well above the foliage. 


This pretty thing is  a self sown seedling in the older daylily patch.  I suspect one parent might be Fooled Me.  I like it and will watch to see if it blooms again next year before moving it to a spot of its own. 


This is a seedling of a cross with God Save the Queen.  I didn't make the cross, I brought the seeds from T's Flowers and Things some years ago and what resulted was this nice plant which appears to closely resemble GSTQ.  Nice fancy flowers and plenty of them, but it does not bloom as long a period as some others.  


This is a seedling at Manatawny Creek in Oley, Pennsylvania.  I really like this one even though the flowers are an odd color.  There is something about the pattern and color combination that appeals to me.  Plus the plant is vigorous (it already was a clump of several fans) and had many flower stalks on it.  So for 5 dollars how could I resist?  No name of course but my garden name for it is "Photogenic" as it does look good in photos as in life. I can't wait to see what it will look like next year when it is fully established.  This past summer's daylily hauls necessitated creating a daylily strip along the back walkway to accommodate many of them.  "Photogenic" is close to the deck where I can enjoy as I sip my tea and eat breakfast on a nice summer day. 


Most likely this is a sibling of "Photogenic" and it was also a huge clump.  I was not going to buy it initially but Grace really liked it so of course I got it.  Happy wife happy life as they say.  It still kept blooming for quite some time after it was planted near the deck so I imagine it will have many more flowers next year when its well established.  


This is another no name Manatawny special.  It was a very small plant but as you can see its living a rough life in the seedling patch competing with weeds and enduring a prolonged drought at the nursery.  But for five dollars I decided to give it a chance as the flower was a beautiful bright orange reddish color.  Given the good spot I put it in, I anticipate the plant will look much better next year, and I already know the flower is top notch in form and color. 


Whenever I go out to Manatawny, be it with my wife Grace or my friend Andrew, it always seems to be sunny and hotter than Hades.  So Grace was smart to bring an umbrella for shade as her slightly obsessed husband roamed around the daylily field like a kid in the candy store.  2020 is not going to be a favorite year on anyone's list for an obvious reason but walking around a daylily field was one of the few fun and safe public activities one could engage in that summer.   There are always some other folks there too but never a huge crowd so it was safe and everyone had their masks on hand just in case someone got too close.  


Daylilies can come with memories as is often the case with plants in one's garden.  When I took my first trip out to Manatawny. I realized it was close to a facebook plant friend's place and I arranged to visit their place after leaving the nursery.  Of course it was great fun to meet Bridget and her husband and tour the wonderful gardens.  Bridget is one of those special generous folks that don't like to let their garden visitors leave empty handed.  One of the plant treasures she insisted I take was a division of her darkest flowered daylily. She didn't recall the name at that time and I still don't know what it is but she wasn't kidding, it has a really dark flower. This photo was taken in my garden the year after I planted it on a damp morning.  A wonderful example of the time honored tradition of "passalong" plants, I always remember that visit whenever I see it bloom.  


One of my seedlings, no doubt with the distinctly veined flower of Nowhere To Hide in its ancestry. Real serious daylily hybridizers make deliberate crosses and use tags to keep track of their efforts, but I just play bumble bee between plants I like and often pollinate flower with pollen from more than one parent.  This one came out rather nice but it does bloom lower down in the foliage than I like. 


Milk Chocolate is one of the strangest colored daylilies. Its an old one and not the most vigorous grower in my gardens--but then again it has some serious competition right next to it.   I grow it for its flower, which really does look like milk chocolate with a golden overlay of sorts. I really can't describe it any better and it also can vary a bit as the flower ages or temperatures change.  Photos also can't quite capture it either so you just have to see it in person to understand.  


Despite being divided from the mother plant when I purchased it at Manatawny Creek, Forever Redeemed managed to still pump out a few gorgeous flowers after planting in its new spot along the back walkway. It is the closest daylily to the deck on that side of the walk for obvious reasons.  Its pretty tall, big, loud, and has great flower form.  Can't wait to see it next year when it will look even better. 


"Photogenic" (my garden name for this unnamed Manatawny seedling).  Here one can see how nice and big the clump was shortly after I planted it.  It kept blooming for a while despite transplant shock.  It will be awesome next summer.  Grace's favorite seedling is right next to it. 


Another Manatawny no name seedling shortly after being planted in my garden. Nice pattern and flower shape. 


This seedling wasn't the most vigorous unnamed seedling I got at Manatawny but it did have the most amazing blue eye.  So "Blue Eye" is my garden name for now. 


The large purple spider is a tall one I got from Marietta Gardens from a visit down south.  I have family in Charlotte so one of my sisters and Grace came along on a ride out to Marietta.  John Shooter was the only one there on that last visit and he apparently passed not very long after we visited, though his wife and daughter continue running the nursery from what I read. . I got some named sorts a a mix he put together of some seedlings.  This is the best bloomer of all of them. Its only real fault is that it stems aren't the strongest in heavy winds, nor is it good pod setter if one wants seeds.  Nonetheless it performs well and is really noticeable in bloom. 


By July 7th this past summer many more daylilies were in bloom in the older bed, providing a riot of color to look forward to each morning for weeks to come. 

In a different location behind the waterlily pool the aptly named Primal Scream, well, screams for attention.   Its a well known and popular cultivar among daylily lovers and deservedly so. 


The bright orange seedling from Manatawny shows her appreciation in my garden for being rescued from the weeds and drought this past summer.  Five dollars and a dream....

Pale flowers with purple and yellow eyes of Escape Into Fantasy look wonderful in peak bloom.  Got this one from O'bannon Springs via mail order.  

Not sure of this seedlings origin. Its either one of mine or from T's flowers and Things. Its  got the ruffled edges that many daylily folks like. I prefer gentle ruffling but this one is still pretty cool. 

Trooper is one I have had for many years. I got it from Marietta gardens in North Carolina.  It moved with us to our present house from our former residence in 2012 and is one I would never be without.  It's a good example of the need to see a daylily in the field to appreciate its virtues as I don't think it is particularly famous nor especially popular.  But it is a bold plant, good reliable bloomer, and the big flowers are really beautiful.  Its one I would highly recommend for a beginning daylily grower. 


Got this unnamed seedling from Greg when we worked at the NYBG.  I can't say its got any amazing traits other than a nice fragrance.  But its reliable, vigorous, and pleasant to look at.  And its one of the first ones I grew so there is the sentimental value factor to consider as well.