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Smitten By Daylily Love

June 29, 2017

dumortieri groupingLast week, while on a garden tour sponsored by the Garden Club Federation of Maine, I met a new daylily and fell hard. As regular readers know, falling head over heels in love with a daylily is not a new experience for me. Indeed, one of the first posts I wrote for this blog was entitled I Love Daylilies.

I don’t love all daylilies equally. I’m not particularly attracted to ruffles or picotees or tortured, twisted petals. And I find doubling in daylily flowers downright ugly. What I love most are simple trumpet forms, vigorous plants with lots of flowers, and old-fashioned daylily fragrance.

dumortieri close-upWhen I saw big drifts of yellow daylilies blooming at two adjacent waterfront gardens, I thought they must be the early blooming daylily species known in this part of the country as “lemon lilies” (Hemerocallis lilio-asphodelus). These are relatively small yellow daylilies with a sweet lemony fragrance that often form big clumps and bloom about a month before other daylilies begin to flower. But the daylilies in front of me were distinctive in having copper-colored sepals that glowed in the sun, a feature I had never before seen on lemon lilies. I entertained the hypothesis that this was a local genetic variation in H. lilio-asphodelus; but my friend Harriet was unconvinced, and it was she who eventually identified these flowers as another early-blooming daylily species,  H. dumortieri.

Whatever its identity, I was smitten. I loved the form of these flowers, the copper glow of their sepals, and the way they provided a splash of bright yellow at a time of year when pastels dominate my garden. In one garden, they were providing a lovely contrast with white and yellow Siberian irises and with the blue spikes of Baptisia australis (both plants that I have growing in my garden). The icing on the cake is that Hemerocallis dumortieri is, like many daylily species, fragrant.

dumortieri vignetteThe problem with falling in love with with species daylilies  is that they are often not available from nurseries, even specialized daylily nurseries. As Allan Armitage put it in his 3rd edition of Herbaceous Perennial Plants (Stipes, 2008), “Unfortunately, in our pursuit of hybrid hipness, the old folks got left behind.” I have found a happy exception, however, at the Olallie Daylily Garden in Vermont. They currently have twelve different Hemerocallis species (including H. dumortieri) for sale both on site and by mail order. Next year, I intend to buy two or three clumps of my new daylily love for my garden.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2017 11:24 am

    Jean, I too love daylillies! Although I have to admit I have a couple of varieties with ruffles. I love the variety of colors and blooming times. They keep the color coming in my garden from spring into fall. What’s not to love?

    • June 30, 2017 7:44 pm

      LOL, Kathy, I have some varieties with ruffles, too — and even one with “tortured, twisted petals.” And I love them all. But I will confess to loving some more than others.

  2. June 30, 2017 3:17 pm

    I fell hard for daylilies when we moved into our current garden and, although mine are far less vigorous than I’d hoped (too little spring/summer water for strong bloom output perhaps), I refreshed my ardor during the recent Garden Bloggers’ Fling back east. I discovered I photographed an inordinate number of those flowers, which seemed to be everywhere we toured.

    • June 30, 2017 7:47 pm

      Kris, It says a lot about daylilies that they grow in both your climate and mine. While mine love my sandy well-drained soil in winter, it keeps them from getting quite as large or flowering quite as profusely in summer as they might with more moisture. In any given year, I’ll have a few varieties that don’t make flowers at all.

  3. July 1, 2017 11:27 am

    I am not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination but I do have a thing for daylilies. They are so easy! The daylily society sells bulbs at the farmer’s market and my favorite purchase was lilies that get five feet high. They look great along my elevated deck.

    • July 17, 2017 8:30 pm

      Jean, I agree; for most of us, daylilies are easy and therefore oh-so-gratifying! I have one daylily called ‘Autumn Minaret’ that grows to the top of my 6′ fence. When it flowers in late August, its delicate flowers seem to float in the air high above the foliage.

  4. July 5, 2017 9:29 pm

    Hi Jean, thanks for coming over again i was reminded of your blog, as i don’t anymore look at at my followed blog, haha! I fully agree with how you described your condition in being smitten by your daylily, that is exactly how i felt when i stumbled on hoyas. My hippeastrum are just secondary to hoyas, i hope they don’t get jealous.

    Enjoy your daylilies, and best regards!

    • July 17, 2017 8:32 pm

      Andrea, I don’t know how people who don’t garden live without the romance of plant love 😉

  5. July 6, 2017 11:36 am

    Wonderful find! I like the color, shape, and the fragrance sounds heavenly.

    • July 17, 2017 8:33 pm

      Jason, I’m looking forward to adding these to my garden next year.

  6. July 7, 2017 2:51 pm

    I completely agree with you, the doubles are painful to look at. I hope to try the lemon-scented species soon, as it sounds lovely. Citrus scent–it’s a wonderful thing.

    • July 17, 2017 8:34 pm

      hb, The doubles always make me think of Katharine White’s complaint that plant breeders were trying to make all flowers look like chrysanthemums.

  7. July 11, 2017 2:55 pm

    Thanks for commenting on my blog post, Jean! Dumortier’s daylily is a favorite in our garden. I’m glad that you were able to locate them online.

    • July 17, 2017 8:36 pm

      Sandi, I was so happy to discover a nursery that is selling species daylilies.

  8. July 13, 2017 9:22 am

    I share your admiration for this daylily – I bought a clump several years ago and it has performed well, been divided and pleased me every year since.

    • July 17, 2017 8:40 pm

      Eliza, I can’t figure out how I got to this stage of my gardening life without knowing about this plant!

      • July 17, 2017 9:16 pm

        It’s a great one, but tends to be overwhelming – best when given a place all its own.

  9. July 13, 2017 4:12 pm

    Hello Jean, I’ve previously cleared a large area of daylily to make way for a new border and I was at the back of the garden, clearing rubbish and dug out a another smaller stand of them that we inherited. There was one daylily that was in flower and I dug it up and threw it in the wheelbarrow as rubbish but for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to throw this one flowering plant away, it was growing in the harshest conditions in the garden and yet still thriving. Guilt got the better of me and I topped and tailed it and put it in a pot to re-establish. Next year it will join the nomadic patio pots and will eventually make its way back into the garden in a newly created border.

    • July 17, 2017 8:43 pm

      Sunil, I always have trouble throwing plants away. I can dig up and thin plants if I have another home for them to go to, but I struggle when that’s not the case. I hope your reprieved daylily rewards your kindness by looking beautiful for you in its new home.

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