Posts Tagged Daylilies
It arrives when Southern Magnolia blossoms perfume heavy, increasingly hot air.
And after the succession of daylily flowers has progressed from early birds like ‘Happy Returns’ to show-offs like ‘Siloam Dan Tau.’
We’ve usually been eating summer squash for several weeks, along with the first few celebrated tomatoes.
Turtle Weather arrived last week — unusually late for the Piedmont region of North Carolina. It’s Turtle Weather when humid air begins to generate random afternoon thunderstorms, fireflies dance nightly in treetops, and the distant “Bob White” calls of quail from nearby fields punctuate sweltering high-noon sunshine.
That’s when I see them: Eastern Box Turtles in the middle of roads — little country roads and even four-laned roads. Hormonal urges to mate make them recklessly trudge into traffic.
Turtle Weather is really reptile weather. When I see the intrepid Eastern Box Turtles lumbering in search of love, I also begin to see Black Rat Snakes everywhere. I often see them flattened on roads; too many ignorant drivers go out of their way to kill snakes.
But I saw a healthy live one yesterday. It wiggled out onto the road just as I approached in my car. I slowed, and it wisely chose to reverse course, returning to the safety of vegetation growing along the shoulder.
Most startling this week, I came face-to-face with a smaller Black Rat Snake (maybe 2 feet long) at my front door. It was hunting mice that lurk around the built-in bench by the entry just as I opened that door. After two or three seconds of eyeball-to-eyeball frozen staring, we both fled in opposite directions.
Turtle Weather usually lasts a few weeks past the Summer Solstice, which this year arrives next Wednesday. After that, summer heat usually bakes the ground so hot that reptiles only emerge at dusk and dawn, when I usually remain indoors due to the voracious hordes of mosquitoes that own the air during those times.
When Turtle Weather arrives, I know I’ll be spending daily hours in the vegetable garden harvesting the fruits of my labor. Today, I harvested the first beans — enough for a celebratory feast tonight.
The Jade Bush Beans will also be contributing to this evening’s first-harvest bean feast. Here’s the modest row of Jades:
Only the large plant in the foreground had produced harvestable-sized beans, but the others are full of smaller fruits.
Turtle Weather means the wild blackberry thickets will soon be filled with raucous birds feeding on ripened fruits. Cicada thrumming should start up any minute. Weekends are filled with the scents of freshly mown lawns and meat grilling in backyards.
Turtle Weather takes me back to childhood treks through Piedmont woods, neighborhood kickball games on the dead-end street in front of my house, blackberry-picking expeditions from which I returned so covered in red juice and bloody thorn scratches that one could not be distinguished from the other until after a good washing.
Turtle Weather is finite and therefore precious. Reptiles know they must brave busy roads before the time is past. Children know they must play until full dark descends, so as not to waste a single night of no-school-tomorrow freedom. Gardeners know harvests don’t last forever. Fresh fruits must be celebrated, savored, and the excess stored for dark winter feasts.
Turtle Weather is the best Summer brings us. I encourage you to grab it while you can.
I showed you a few of my earlier blooming daylilies a few days ago here. For those who may not know, daylilies are so named because each day one flower bud on the bloom stalk (scape) opens to reveal itself for one day of glory. By day’s end, the flower withers; the next day, a new bud opens, until all the buds are gone. Most daylily flowers open at dawn, but a few varieties open in late afternoon, which is nice for gardeners who work away from home all day. For many years, I rarely saw my daylily flowers at their freshly open best, because most of mine open as soon as the sun tops the trees.
It is a true pleasure to catch them just opened for business. My daylilies are suffering from insufficient water. The drought deepens daily here; sparse, errant thunderstorms are routinely snubbing my garden, and my well can’t be risked on mere flowers. Consequently, bloom scapes are not as numerous as they would otherwise be, so the few flowers I’m seeing are coming and going in an eye’s blink.
I wanted to share a few more pictures with you before they’re all gone. The one above, Siloam Bo Peep, is a medium-height fancy ruffled beauty. Don’t ask me about its name. I’ve noticed that the folks who breed daylilies and hostas in particular seem to go for, well, rather creative names.
Here’s a name that puzzles me:
The flower is a bit blue-ish, but the eye isn’t. And why Prairie? I’ve no idea, but it is lovely.
Here’s one that actually makes sense to me:
This purply-red beauty grows on shorter scapes than some of the others, and the flowers are smaller, so you get a delicate petite ruffled effect that I enjoy. Plus, Little Grapette seems more resilient than the bigger daylilies, blooming longer and more abundantly than its bigger siblings most years.
Here’s a more subtle beauty:
I assume this is either named after the breeder or someone the breeder wanted to honor. Its pale peach color benefits from a bit of shade, so that the petals don’t bleach out as quickly during their day of bloom.
And finally, here’s an even more subtle beauty:
You can see its ruffles are not as dramatic as some of the others, but its rich pink petals and deep yellow-green eye are quite striking. It’s also a smaller daylily in height and width.
More are still blooming — some big spider daylilies are just getting going, and the Autumn Daffodil daylilies are only now sending up scapes. These yellow-flowered beauties don’t actually wait until autumn to bloom, but they do wait until much later than most of the others to open for business.
It’s easy to fall in love with these perennials, because of the diversity of flower colors, sizes, shapes, and even fragrances. But they’re not perfect. Their grass-like leaves are pretty boring when the flowers aren’t blooming, so you need to be sure to mix them in with perennials that can take over for the daylilies when they’re not showing off. There’s a fungal rust disease that can make the leaves look brown and ugly. And — the biggest issue — the flower buds are irresistible to deer. If they find your daylilies, you’ll only get flowers if you spray noxious repellents on the buds or fence them inside deer-proof enclosures.
When we planted our daylilies some fifteen years ago, the deer were not nearly as numerous. They didn’t start devouring the buds routinely until about seven years ago. Unless I sprayed repellent religiously on the buds, we lost every single flower. Now that we’ve added deer fencing to parts of our yard, the paths the antlered hogs follow through our property have changed. They no longer routinely pass the daylily beds, and we are once again enjoying flowers — without even spraying repellent! I doubt this change will last, but I’m enjoying the show of colors, ruffles, and shapes while I can. And now, through these photos, you can too.
Daylily season has arrived at my house. These non-native perennials have many attractive assets. In my Piedmont garden, they thrive on neglect. In fact, my biggest issue with them most of the time is their propensity to multiply. Their fleshy tubers like our sandy loam soils, and without fertilizer or even — most years — supplementary water, the tubers multiply. If I were on top of things, I’d be dividing them every three years. I don’t do that, because, well, I’m not on top of things (infinite to-do list), and because I’ve run out of places to put them.
Oh sure, on five acres, I still have sunny spots that could be enhanced with a few daylilies, but if I can’t provide at least a bit of deer protection, the flowers will never see the light of day. Deer love daylily flower buds. As soon as the buds grow to finger size, they are gobbled.
Some years are worse than others for daylily devouring by deer. This year so far (knock wood) has not been too bad. In fact, I’m not even seeing as many deer tracks on the floodplain as I usually do. I don’t know where they’ve gone, and I don’t care. But I’m pretty sure they’ll be back, so I’m not going to plant daylilies in places I know will invite deer dining.
I grow many different cultivars. I think there may be at least a zillion Hemerocallis cultivars. Many breeders hybridize them. Daylily collectors can be quite avid. Some cultivars sell for hundreds of dollars. I think obsession is not too strong a word for those afflicted with daylily dementia.
About fifteen years ago, Wonder Spouse was briefly afflicted with this condition. A nearby local daylily grower holds open houses during blooming season, so that you can see what you’re buying. Daylilies come in all sizes and colors and shapes. Bloom stalks are called scapes, and scape height is one of the variables that impacts the overall look of the flowers. Some are early bloomers, some late, and reblooming cultivars are increasingly popular and in demand.
The leaves of daylilies look like a wide-bladed grass — they’re lilies, after all. But when the scapes shoot up and the flowers open, the colors and shapes dance like butterflies in a mixed perennial bed.
Here’s a relatively short-scaped spider form that Wonder Spouse bought:
That one really glows in evening twilight.
Here’s another spider — much taller:
See how the color of the stamens varies? And the interior area color changes too, as does the amount of ruffling on the petals. Variations are nearly infinite, which explains the number of available cultivars.
Here’s one last, more subtle beauty that is blooming with my Spanish Lavender. This one is a rebloomer, which is why Wonder Spouse chose it. He had big plans for becoming a hybridizer, so he wanted variable stock to work with.
This is just the beginning of daylily season in our yard. I’ll show you more as they open for business. They are fantastically photogenic, as I think you must agree. Give them light, loamy soil, and a bit of water — keep the deer away — and you will be rewarded with summer-long blooms — if you pick the right cultivars.