Daylily Season

Hemerocallis ‘Siloam Jim Cooper’

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:

Hemerocallis ‘Kindly Light’

That one really glows in evening twilight.

Here’s another spider — much taller:

Hemerocallis ‘Winsome Lady’

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.

Hemerocallis ‘MayMay’

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.

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  1. #1 by Karen on June 15, 2011 - 4:26 pm

    Your day lilies are just beautiful. I have about five varieties at our New Hampshire home but I don’t get to see them in bloom since we send most of the summer in Maine. I think I must be very lucky that the deer don’t bother them. I think it is because there is so much grass in our orchard and of course they munch on the apple trees all the time. Having 300 trees, I have learned to share as there isn’t too much you can do to keep them out.

  2. #2 by piedmontgardener on June 15, 2011 - 5:52 pm

    Thanks, Karen. They are pretty flowers. I need to take more pictures, because more cultivars have started to bloom. Deer munching does seem to be a fact of gardening life these days. Deer fencing — the only solution I’ve found that works — obviously won’t work when you’ve got 300 trees to protect. I’ve been told that certain breeds of dogs can be trained to protect areas from deer, but I’ve never confirmed this.

    I try to ensure they have plenty of native food plants in the hope that they’ll leave my fancier plants alone. Sometimes it works … sometimes it doesn’t.

    Enjoy your summer in Maine. Sounds wonderful!

  1. The Fleeting Flowers of Daylilies « Piedmont Gardener

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