Posts Tagged Daylilies

Beautiful Overindulgences

Water Witch with visitor

In 1989 when Wonder Spouse and I first moved to our current home, the fertile sandy loam of our five acres tempted us into a few acts of botanical acquisitiveness that we now mostly regret. Wonder Spouse’s big buy was daylilies — lots of them. In those early years, there was a wonderful daylily nursery just a 20-minute drive from our house that was only open to the public when the daylilies were in bloom. Customers walked the long rows of dramatic bloomers, picked out the ones they liked, and willing assistants dug them up and carried them to your vehicle.

May-May

On one visit, we made the mistake of bringing our covered pick-up truck. Wonder Spouse decided that in the mythological state known as his retirement, he would hybridize daylilies. So he bought a lot of them, enough to fill the long-bed pick-up. He bought tall spiders, miniatures, late bloomers, repeat bloomers, frilly ones, and simple ones in every color you can imagine.
 
Today, of course, I would not buy these one-season wonders. They are not native. Their flower buds are a favorite food of deer and other varmints. Their leaves are prone to a disease that turns them an unsightly rust color. And while pollinators do visit the flowers, I can now think of two dozen native flowers off the top of my head that would feed more pollinators, bloom longer, and better serve the life cycles of native insects and animals.
 

Siloam Jim Cooper

Despite horrible neglect, our fertile sandy loam has stimulated these daylilies to multiply enthusiastically. I have given away more plants than I can count, but you would never know from looking at those that remain.
Still, when their succession of blooms adorns my front garden where many of them are planted, they are quite lovely. A number of them are tucked in around our front water feature, and freshly metamorphosed froglets seem to favor the leaves and blooms of the daylilies as perches, where they practice air-breathing in dawn’s light before they retreat deeper into the foliage to escape searing summer sun.
I have lived with these daylilies for several decades now. When I planted them, I created name tags for each variety, so that Wonder Spouse and I could keep track of them. Most of the markers are long gone, but it doesn’t matter. I know each variety by sight, greeting the first blooms of each one by name as they appear. This post features many of the current bloomers, but not all of them. Vegetable tending in our growing drought and heat is a higher priority than daylily admiration.

Bertie Ferris

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Daily Daylilies — and Friends

Pink Betty

Pink Betty

We got another nine-tenths of an inch of rain just after midnight, complete with crashing thunder, vivid lightning, and torrential downpours. The frequent clouds and rain have slowed the progress of all the blooms in my yard this year, including the daylilies (Hemerocallis spp.), which have usually begun their parade of blooms by the middle of May.

Finally, their annual show is underway, and thanks to a little attention in the form of weeding and mulching (thanks, Ray!), combined with copious rain, the blooms are abundant and brilliant. I love Pink Betty because she’s a little more simple than some of my daylilies, but she’s a beauty, and for reasons no doubt having to do with a childhood full of Saturday morning cartoons, I cannot think of her name without thinking of Betty Rubble.

May-May

May-May

When the sun began flirting with the clouds this morning, I stepped out into my soggy yard and took a few pictures, which is why all of the plants in this post are adorned with rain droplets. Daylilies, as most of you know, are so called because they open one flower per day. The open flower only lasts one day, but because a happy clump of daylilies produces many scapes (flower stems), the plants still provide a daily display of multiple blooms. May-May is another relatively demure bloomer. She offers clear yellow flowers with just a hint of ruffle around the edges.

Red Toy

Red Toy

You can’t tell it from its close view above, but Red Toy’s flowers are a bit smaller than some of the showier daylilies. It produces many scapes, and I like the way its smaller cherry-red flowers float among the greenery and blooms of the plants it grows beside.

Brocaded Gown

Brocaded Gown

Brocaded Gown is one of our fancier daylily varieties. She flaunts wide, deeply ruffled recurved creamy yellow petals. I think of her as one of the great ladies of my front garden.

Siloam Jim Cooper

Siloam Jim Cooper

Siloam Jim Cooper is another of my fancier daylilies. I believe the Siloam series always features what the daylily hybridizers call an eye — that darker ring toward the center of the bloom. I have a couple of varieties in the Siloam series. Jim here is a fire engine red bloomer. The flowers are not as large as those of Brocaded Gown, but like Red Toy, they are numerous, which makes for a great display, as you can see below.

Siloam Jim Cooper blooms

Siloam Jim Cooper blooms

Many other flowers are finally opening for business too. I’m hoping they will coax the butterflies to return. After an initial population explosion of mostly Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, the butterflies mostly vanished during the recent prolonged period of clouds and rain. In fact I only caught one species — I’m not sure of its identity — enjoying the blooms of the pickerel weed today.

I'm hoping more butterflies will return soon.

I’m hoping more butterflies will return soon.

I always grow a few zinnias among the vegetables. This year, I’m trying two varieties from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. The first bloom to open was Zinnia ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame.’ I think it’s well-named.

Zinnia 'Zowie! Yellow Flame'

Zinnia ‘Zowie! Yellow Flame’

My coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are finally starting to open. They are usually big pollinator magnets, so I’m delighted to see them. The first to open is the one nestled between two large boulders. I think perhaps their warmth gave these blooms an earlier start.

Purple coneflower blooms last a long time, and their centers provide a favorite landing pad for pollinators.

Purple coneflower blooms last a long time, and their centers provide favorite landing pads for pollinators.

Also in the boulder garden, I was delighted to see that one of my butterfly weeds had finally opened some flowers. It, too, is a huge pollinator magnet. I’m hoping the sunny week we are promised (after the passage of today’s strong and potentially scary cold front) will encourage all the insects to re-emerge from wherever they’ve been hiding.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a milkweed family member.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a milkweed family member.

Here’s hoping today’s weather shift is not accompanied by dangerous weather phenomena, and that we can all enjoy our gardens during these last weeks before the summer solstice.

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Today’s Arrivals

This morning's crew newly emerged from the front water feature.

This morning’s crew newly emerged from the front water feature.

It’s too hot to garden, too hot to write, too hot to think — basically too hot for anything but drinking iced drinks and moaning softly. Still, before the sun tops the trees on my eastern border, I drag myself out for a few quick photos. I figure if the daylilies and the animals are still making an effort, I must also.  Thus, this homage to the newbies.

Water Witch

Water Witch

This one does like a bit of extra water, which is why I planted it at the base of the water feature.

Joan Senior

Joan Senior

Joan Senior is a ruffled white beauty that stands up to the heat remarkably well.

Top Banana

Top Banana

This very tall daylily is blooming profusely without the benefit of any extra water from me. Amazing.

Hesperus

Hesperus

This elegant tall spider daylily is having a great year because I actually managed to weed around it. Small victories. Baby steps.

A volunteer cross

A volunteer cross

When I stop paying attention, most of the daylilies set seed. When I really stop paying attention (say, during prolonged heat waves), those seeds actually mature, fall to the ground, and germinate. Given the location of this volunteer cross, we are guessing its parents were Red Toy —

Red Toy

Red Toy

— and Brocaded Gown.

Brocaded Gown

Brocaded Gown

A number of the other daylilies I’ve shown you previously are still pushing out blooms, but the flowers aren’t even lasting a full day, due to heat/drought stress.

The weather seers are promising dramatic relief by the weekend. Here’s hoping they get it right this time.

The Pokeweed intruding in my front garden is the favorite perch of the newly emerged froglets. Sometimes   I guess it's a good thing that my weeding tasks are postponed.

The Pokeweed intruding in my front garden is the favorite perch of the newly emerged froglets. Sometimes I guess it’s a good thing that my weeding tasks are postponed.

Stay cool, ya’ll.

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Turtle Weather

It arrives when Southern Magnolia blossoms perfume heavy, increasingly hot air.

Daylily ‘Siloam Dan Tau’

And after the succession of daylily flowers has progressed from early birds like ‘Happy Returns’ to show-offs like ‘Siloam Dan Tau.’

Zucchini ‘Raven’

We’ve usually been eating summer squash for several weeks, along with the first few celebrated tomatoes.

Tomato ‘Sweet Treats’

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.

Fortex Pole Beans with Spitfire Nasturtiums intermingled

These Fortex Pole Beans will be big enough for harvest in a day or two.

Nasturtium ‘Spitfire’ lures hummingbirds and adds visual interest to the pole bean trellis. They smell wonderful too!

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.

Turtle Weather means the onset of Black-eyed Susan Season.

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The Fleeting Flowers of Daylilies

Siloam Bo Peep

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:

Prairie Blue Eyes

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:

Little Grapette

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:

Siloam Dan Tau

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:

Luxury Lace

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.

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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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