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I Love Daylilies

August 26, 2009

Drift of Furnace of Babylon daylilies at Montreal Botanical Garden. Photo credit: Jean Potuchek In a recent post in his “garden guru” blog, Allan Becker offered this advice: “When in doubt, plant a day lily.”

I couldn’t agree more! Daylilies are tough, versatile plants that will grow in a wide variety of conditions, come in a dizzying array of sizes, colors, and characteristics, and can provide blooms for several months. Small wonder that the American Hemerocallis Society refers to them as “perfect perennials.”

For those unfamiliar with them, daylilies are the lily-like flowers of the genus Hemerocallis. They are called daylilies because each bloom opens for just one day; thus daylily hybridizers emphasize high bud counts. From a few species native to Asia, the hybridizers have developed many tens of thousands of different cultivars. The American Hemerocallis Society lists over sixty thousand named cultivars, and this doesn’t include varieties that were never named or registered with the society.

I have more than forty varieties of daylilies, and they are at the heart of my garden in the months of July and August.  I don’t have room for big drifts of daylilies like those at the Montreal Botanical Gardens (pictured above), but I do like to grow them in groups of three with similar colors but varying heights and bloom times.  In the blue and yellow border, the very early blooming lemon lily (Hemerocallis flava)  blooms in June, and as it is finishing its bloom period, Mary Todd begins to bloom nearby. Mary Todd is later joined by the huge yellow blooms of Yellow Pinwheel. You can check out some of my favorite daylilies in this photo album:

When I first began to garden, I used to buy my daylilies in pots from garden centers; but that was before I learned about the specialty daylily nurseries.  These nurseries sell field-grown plants, and they often dig them for you while you wait.  Moreover, where garden centers usually carry a few currently popular varieties, the specialty nurseries grow hundreds of cultivars, including older varieties that are hard to find.  During the years that I was digging and planting my two biggest flower beds, I was fortunate to have a daylily grower named Don Celler doing business just 15 miles from my home. Don had “dig your own” sales every weekend. You went into his daylily fields, dug up big healthy divisions of the plants you wanted, and paid $5 each for them! I made some great impulse purchases in this way; if I saw a plant I liked, I just dug it up and took it home. There were also some happy accidents. One time, I bought a division of Mary Todd that had buds on it, but no blooms. When the buds began to open a few days later, it was immediately apparent that this wasn’t Mary Todd; I had mistakenly dug up the plant growing next to it in the row. The following weekend, I went back to get Mary Todd, but I also kept the happy accident, Margaret Seawright (see the photo album above). Don Celler is now retired, but some other great sources of field-grown daylilies in New England are Tranquil Lake Nursery, Fieldstone Gardens, and DeerWood Farm. When I’m buying daylilies for my Gettysburg, PA garden, I get them from Diane Kendig at Perfect Perennials.
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2009 5:07 am

    Hi Jean, a great daylily post and wonderful daylilies.
    Love them. On “threemonkeys Today’s Flowers I have posted a few of mine.)

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      August 27, 2009 12:55 pm

      Titania, Thank you for being the first person to comment on my new blog. It’s lovely to have a reader who didn’t learn about the blog from me! -Jean

  2. Martha permalink
    August 27, 2009 11:24 pm

    Hi Jean,
    Cool blog! Excellent way to relieve stress. There is also a good daylily place in Unity, Maine – Ellie’s Daylilies. http://www.elliesdaylilies.com/

    –Martha

    • Jean Potuchek permalink*
      August 28, 2009 7:52 am

      Thanks for the tip, Martha. I’m always happy to learn about a new daylily source!

  3. Wendy permalink
    August 29, 2009 8:45 pm

    I never would have thought you would write a garden blog, although I don’t know why I should be surprised. Your garden is certainly beautiful! We are cutting all the plant material down on the side toward the chaparrel this time of the year. Lots of brush fires but nothing close. I’ll email you soon to tell you about our latest flower, Serena Bernard Fisch.

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