Old House Gardens
From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
Here’s a wealth of information about DAYLILY bulbs from our email Gazette and past catalogs, starting with the most recently published. For other topics, please see our main Newsletter Archives page.
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AHS Seeks Photos of Heirloom Daylilies: Can You Help?

“A treasure hunt is on,” writes Debbie Monbeck in the spring issue of The Daylily Journal. “The hunt is for missing photos of historic cultivars to post with their descriptions” in the Daylily Database at the American Hemerocallis Society website. “Of the nearly 1,200 cultivars registered prior to 1965, only a handful have a photo” there, and Debbie, who chairs the Historic Daylilies Subcommittee, wants to change that. “Your help is needed,” she writes, “before it is too late, and the photos are gone. . . . The photos are crucial to help identify some of these older gems, and to preserve the knowledge base for generations to come.”
We’ve answered the call, and we hope you will, too. Of the 62 daylilies we’re growing, all of which date to the 1950s or before, the Daylily Database lacks photos for almost half of them. We’re currently putting together our best photos of those varieties for Debbie who will then have them vetted by a group of AHS experts before they’re posted online. 1980 is the surprisingly recent cut-off date for this project, so if you’re growing any daylilies introduced before then, why not take a minute and type their names into the Daylily Database. If any of them don’t have a photo, Debbie would love to hear from you at dmonbeck@aol.com. (June 2014)

Meet the Spiderman: The Colorado Father of ‘Kindly Light’ Daylily

With its long, curling, ribbon-like petals, ‘Kindly Light’ is both strikingly beautiful and a ground-breaking daylily. In her fine A Passion for Daylilies (1992), Sydney Eddison tells of its breeder, a man who saw the possibilities for beauty in a form that everyone else at that time was scorning. She writes:
“To daylily people, a spider is a flower style, originated in the early forties by LeMoine J. Bechtold on his Colorado property nine miles south of Denver. He had chosen this location for its beautiful setting with a view of the Rockies and for the stream which would provide water for his numerous horticultural enthusiasms and experiments.
“Bechtold’s Christian name was the inspiration of a plant-loving mother who insisted on calling him after French horticulturist Victor Lemoine. As a boy, young LeMoine may have found the name a burden, but it proved suitable after all. He grew up to love plants and soon became involved in hybridizing. His earliest love affair was with dahlias. Later, he embraced gladioli, peonies, irises, and even lilacs, and then he discovered daylilies. In fact, he found so much pleasure in this new hobby that it often took precedence over his music business, and for this, fanciers of the spider daylily can be grateful. . . . LeMoine Bechtold’s ‘Kindly Light’, registered in 1949 and introduced by the Wilds in 1952, is still the standard for spider daylilies.” (Feb. 2014)

“Pack a Vertical Punch” with Unfloppable ‘Autumn Minaret’ Daylily

In the Jan.-Feb. issue of Fine Gardening, Nashville garden designer Troy Marden praises one of our most distinctive daylilies in his article “Pack a Vertical Punch.”
“Visitors to my garden always ask about ‘Autumn Minaret’ daylily,” Troy writes, “partly because of its late season of bloom in July, August, and early September [and even later further north] but mostly because of its towering height. Its foliage remains in a neat and tidy mound only 2 feet tall and wide, but its bloom stalks rise above almost everything else in the garden, standing at least 6 feet tall. Strong and sturdy, these stalks remain firmly upright and do not flop, bearing a seemingly endless succession of golden flowers for almost two months.” (Jan. 2014)

Who’s Growing in Your Garden: Uncle Theron Returns Home

Every now and then we’re reminded of the very real people in the mostly forgotten past of our heirloom flowers. Recently, for example, first-time customer Amy Turner of Wainscott, NY, added this note to her order for 25 ‘Theron’: “My great grandmother, Martha Prentice Strong, a great gardener and friend of A.B. Stout [the pioneering daylily hybridizer], selected and named this daylily after her husband, Theron Strong. I look forward to a garden of Therons!”
Intrigued, we turned to Google and discovered an obituary for the remarkable Mrs. Strong published in the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden where Stout worked. One paragraph explained that the daylily was actually named for her son rather than her husband: “Another of her absorbing horticultural interests was the daylilies developed by Dr. A. B. Stout. From the first, she was enthusiastic over them, and for more than twenty years she maintained a collection of named varieties at [her home] ‘The Dolphins.’ In 1941, this collection of more than 100 kinds was transplanted to the old Clinton Academy (now a museum) in East Hampton, where it will be maintained by the Garden Club of the town. The name ‘Theron’ in memory of her son, was given by her to the first dark red clone of Hemerocallis developed by Dr. Stout, at his invitation.”
“Oh, Uncle Theron!” Amy said when I called with the news. Her father’s uncle, Theron Roundell Strong was a lawyer, head of Manhattan’s homicide bureau, and a lieutenant in the artillery during World War I. Amy’s family still has the diary he kept during the war, and she especially remembers his entry on Armistice Day, 1918: “The guns are silent. I’m heading to Paris to marry May” — and a week later they were wed. As for Mrs. Strong’s daylily collection, Amy says it survived until recently when the garden club ripped it out to plant wildflowers, a painful example of how historic plants are often lost to whatever’s currently in vogue in the garden.
Here in Ann Arbor this year, ‘Theron’ opened its first flowers on Independence Day, and I think Theron Strong would have appreciated that. Check out our photos here — or order it now for delivery in April and enjoy it in your own garden next summer. (July 2013)

Protect Your Daylilies with Vick’s Vapo-Rub

Got deer? Here’s a tip from our friend Diana Bristol of Bloomingfields Farm, deep in the deer-infested wilds of Connecticut, who swears by it to protect her hundreds of hostas and daylilies: Put a little Vick’s Vapo-Rub on your thumb and index finger and then touch bud or leaf with it here and there. Diana says touching the smallest buds on a stalk is especially effective because the Vapo-Rub will remain on them for a long time before they get big enough to bloom and drop. (March 2013)

Staff Pick: Josh’s Favorite ‘Caballero’

Josh Myers has earned a reputation here as the hardest-working guy in the history of the world. If you’ve ordered daylilies or iris grown in our micro-farms, Josh not only planted, weeded, and nurtured them, he dug and washed them for shipping, too — often in weather that’s barely above freezing. Yet Josh says he loves daylilies because they’re so easy. “They’re low-maintenance,” he says, “and resilient. They multiply quickly, they’re drought AND flood resistant, pests don’t bother them, their bloom season lasts a long time,” and if that’s not enough, “they’re easy to divide if you want to spread them around or give some to a friend.”
Josh has planted many of our heirloom daylilies in a small park that he’s taken under his wing as part of Ann Arbor’s Adopt-a-Park program. From late May on, he says, something is always blooming there. When pressed to name a favorite, Josh picks one that Kelly, our Micro-Farms Manager, loves too ‘Caballero’. Our photo doesn’t do it justice, he says. (Did we mention Josh also takes photos for us, often sprawled on his belly in the cold, wet mud of spring?) He likes ‘Caballero’s distinctive pattern of narrow yellow petals alternating with wider petals of red-brown marked with a racing stripe down the middle. “It’s beguiling,” Kelly pipes up from across the room, but Josh says simply “it’s just cool.” March 2013)

‘Challenger’ Daylily Proves Its Worth to Arty in Atlanta

Arty Schronce lives in the historic Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta and writes a column called “Arty’s Garden” for the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s 95-year-old Market Bulletin. With a philosophical outlook, a sense of humor, and an appreciation for heirloom plants, Arty is our kind of guy — as you can see in this excerpt about a daylily we’re offering for the first time this spring:
“Sometimes a plant grows on you. Not literally, of course. For example, several years ago I purchased a ‘Challenger’ daylily [Ed. Note: Not from us!] because it was taller and bloomed later than other daylilies. When it bloomed I was disappointed. The flowers were not as intensely red as the photograph in the catalog, and the petals were not as thin and ‘spidery’ as I had hoped.
“It was tall, however, rising to five feet or more, and extended my daylily season by beginning to bloom weeks after my other daylilies. I decided to keep it around a while longer instead of immediately casting it out of my little Eden.
“I am glad I did; ‘Challenger’ has proven its worth. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but now I am quite fond of it. . . . Have you done this with plants as well, dismissing them without taking the time to learn their virtues? Unfortunately, I’ve also treated people that way. I’m trying to do a better job giving plants and people a fair chance.”
In another column Arty praises “Oxblood/Schoolhouse Lilies,” calling them “as refreshing as a glass of pomegranate juice” and wisely warning gardeners to keep them away from red spider lilies because “the oxblood lily undercuts the drama of the spider lily, and the spider overshadows the shorter, simpler oxblood.” Other columns of his we especially liked are “The Tulip Teacher,” “The Tawny Daylily,” and “The People Who Live in My Garden” — and once you get started, you may find yourself reading them all. (Dec. 2012)

Combining Fall-Planted Bulbs with Daylilies, Peonies, and Other Perennials

Mass plantings of tulips or daffodils can be thrilling — be they at Keukenhof or your local mall — but at home few of us plant our bulbs like that. In A Patchwork Garden (1990), Sydney Eddison offers some good advice for integrating bulbs into mixed plantings:
“One of the most valuable lessons I learned from studying the Gills’ spring garden was that by combining bulbs with even a few early-flowering perennials you can have a wonderful display without sacrificing too much precious space. Their use of tulips was particularly striking. Planting them in masses of one color had tremendous impact. The tulips bloomed at the same time as a wealth of herbaceous plants . . . [and] later, their ripening foliage . . . was hidden by their perennial partners and by the emerging foliage of later-blooming perennials. . . .”
“ As I didn’t have that much space, I adopted the idea of pairing bulbs and perennials with a . . . much more limited selection of plants. I began planting tall [Single Late] tulips — cream to white only — in the middle and at the back of the border, always behind or in association with a clump of daylilies or a peony, to provide cover later for the bulbs’ dying foliage. In addition to hiding the ripening tulip leaves, the foliage of the perennials provides an attractive filler among the flowering bulbs. The daylily leaves are fresh and green and the immature peony foliage is dark green to deep red.” (August 2012)

Tasty Beauty: Eating Daylily Buds

In Asia where daylilies grow wild, people have been eating their roots, flowers, and buds for millennia. Today the dried buds known as “golden needles” are often found in the Asian food section of American supermarkets. They’re even tastier, though, when fresh picked from your own garden.
In his award-winning blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, Hank Shaw recommends a very simple saute: “Just lily buds, butter and salt. Delicious. Briefly cooked, the buds have a bit of knacken, a German expression meaning a ‘pop’. Yet the insides reminded me of squash blossoms. The taste? Green, with a whiff of radish and a dash of green bean. Honestly, I’d eat this as a side dish any day, any place. It needs nothing else.” Shaw isn’t as enthusiastic about the flowers (“okay”) and leaves (“not terrible”) but calls daylily roots “quite possibly the best tubers I’ve ever eaten.”
For a slightly more complicated recipe, try this Daylily Bud Saute with a hint of nutmeg from Golden Harvest Organics:
24 daylily buds
1 clove garlic, finely minced
olive oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 tsp milk, as needed
Cut the base off the buds. Saute the garlic in olive oil. Beat eggs and mix in enough flour to make a thin batter. Add the sauteed garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. If the batter is too thick, add a teaspoon or so of milk. Dip the buds in the batter and saute until golden brown.
Enjoy! (June 2012)

“Slow Gardener” Felder Rushing’s Favorite Daylily

I’ve been reading and savoring Slow Gardening, Felder Rushing’s new book in which he promotes — in his typically humorous, down-to-earth style — a “no-stress philosophy” of gardening that’s meant to help you follow your bliss in the garden and not worry so much about what the experts and your neighbors might say. Felder has always been a big fan of heirloom plants “rescued from the compost heap of fashion,” and in a chapter titled “Plants — The Real Deal” he sings the praises of one of our best-selling daylilies: “My all-time favorite daylily is the old double orange ‘Kwanso’, grown for eons as a nutritious food (more vitamins than broccoli!) and actually mass-planted outside the royal gardens at Kew in London. Though nearly impossible to find in a daylily-society display, it grows for me, you, anybody, anywhere, with absolutely no demands. None.” You don’t have to be a slow gardener to appreciate a plant like that! (Oct. 2011)

‘Luxury Lace’ and Edna Spalding’s Kitchen Knife

Great garden plants come from all sorts of people, including this Louisiana housewife who John Peat and Ted Petit profile in The Daily: A Guide for Gardeners (2004):
“Edna Spalding of Iowa, Louisiana, was an early breeder of daylilies (including ‘Luxury Lace’) who made formidable contributions..... Daylilies shared space in the vegetable garden of this housekeeper..... She had the strong, silent, self-assured appearance of an early pioneer woman in her cloth bonnet..... She had a magnificent eye for quality and beauty as well as a great intuitive breeding sense. Her standards were the highest. She always carried a large kitchen knife as she walked in the garden, and if a new seedling displeased her, out it would go, cut below the crown, never more to plague her with its short-comings.” (2010-11 catalog)

A Master’s Advice for Choosing Daylilies

Christopher Lloyd grew thousands of plants in his world-famous gardens at Great Dixter, and he evaluated them all with the discriminating eye of an artist. For choosing daylilies that look great in your garden — not just in a catalog close-up — he offered this advice in Christopher Lloyd’s Garden Flowers:
“Don’t be carried away by a single bloom seen out of context....
“While being dazzled by large blooms, remember that small-flowered Hemerocallis are the most prolific. Furthermore, their individual flowers tend to die off discreetly, whereas large-flowered kinds really need dead-heading every morning, to prevent the colony from becoming slovenly....
“As with so many ‘improved’ plants, enlarged flowers are often matched by an increase in leaf size and coarseness. Watch out for this. Then again, the naked flowering stem should present its blooms well above the foliage, this being the graceful effect that gives the flowers style....”
To see exactly what he’s recommending, try a couple of our graceful, prolific, Christopher-Lloyd-style daylilies in your garden this spring. (March 2011)

Eating Flowers: “Scrunchy” ‘Kwanso’ Daylily

From Christopher Lloyd’s Garden Flowers (2000), here’s another good reason to plant double orange ‘Kwanso’ daylily this spring:
H. x fulva, [the common orange daylily, is] a strapping triploid with tawny-coloured flowers and no scent. It naturalizes easily in quite rough places and is a common sight in India, by the roadside. No doubt it was planted in the first instance, because it cannot seed, but once there it spreads by rhizomes to form a colony. The day before the blooms open, the flower buds are habitually gathered to eat raw or stir-fried, and they are even more scrunchy in the double-flowered variety, ‘Kwanso’. A friend, who at one time gardened in Hong Kong, could for a long while not make out why his daylilies seemed always on the point of flowering, but never flowered. His Chinese cook was responsible. I can recommend the flavor, which resembles that of green figs.” (April 2010)

Daylilies Unfazed by Sidewalk Salt

“Sidewalk salt has a way of killing almost everything it touches,” writes Diane Selly of Minnesota’s Earthworks Gardens, and “with the extra snow and ice this year, you may be using more than usual.” Diane recommends switching to sand whenever possible, and adds that “some plants are salt tolerant and work great as edging plants along sidewalks or driveways: most daylilies, some hostas, some roses, some heucheras, and some ornamental grasses.” (Feb. 2010)

For articles on other topics, see our main Newsletter Archives page.

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