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Monday, July 06, 2009

Finding Focus In The World Of Daylilies

Do you see any daylilies you’d like to have in this field?
No, maybe, yes?

How about in this field?Possibly, maybe, perhaps?

Okay, how about this field?Are you confused yet? Maybe the one you wanted is in that first field? Or in one of the fields I didn't include a picture of? Or maybe it isn't even blooming when these pictures were taken?

Now you can understand my dilemma when I visit Soules Garden in Indianapolis every summer to see the daylilies in bloom. I always leave wanting some daylilies, some good daylilies, but which ones? The choices are seemingly endless standing their gazing from one field to another.

In fact, there are an overwhelming number of named daylilies in the gardening world. If you visit the American Hemerocallis Society website and access their online database, then click on “Show All Dayliles”, you’ll find 64,382 named daylilies to browse through.

The owners of Soules Garden estimate they have only about a thousand different daylilies, but are adding more daylilies and removing a few every year to keep their collection up to date. So, among their 1,000 daylilies, surely I could find a dozen or so that I’d like to have?

Really, how hard could it be? Just pick one, or two or a dozen, right? But which ones? Chris, one of the owners, is very helpful and enthusiastic. He’ll tell you something nice about each daylily, and get you excited about nearly every daylily in bloom. Cynthia is a bit more reasonable when it comes to the daylilies -- her specialty is more the hostas and miniature plants. Oh, did I mention that they also sell a couple hundred varieties of hostas at Soules Garden? Plus they have a good selection of miniature plants, including many that have found their way home to my miniature garden.

It is hard to pick just a few daylilies with so many choices available, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

But I have overcome the overwhelming feelings of the daylily world! Finally, after years of visiting Soules Garden and never buying a daylily, I sauntered into the garden this past Friday, gave them my list and bought eighteen different varieties of daylilies.

What made this year different?

Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings is what (or who) made this year different. Truth be told, most daylilies don’t do much for me. I was bored with ‘Stella D’Oro’, who isn’t, and found that the blooms of many daylilies left me saying “that’s nice”, which is like saying “that’s nice but I’m not sure I want to lift a trowel to plant one in my garden”.

But Dee, who has quite a few daylilies of her own and belongs to a local daylily society in Oklahoma, started talking and writing about the spider and unusual form (UF) daylilies suddenly the daylily world had focus for me. I loved those flowers! I could see those flowers growing in my garden, flowers like ‘Rose Emily’.
Dee was more than happy to provide some advice via email on what to look for in a “good daylily” including:

"Good branching. Do the flowers have enough room to open? This is very important with spiders because they often have such big flowers.

High bloom. Is the bloom high enough above the foliage to display the flowers properly and let if open?

Plenty of buds. You want lots of buds to create lots of blooms. Otherwise, you won't get many flowers in the year."

Now with my new focus and Dee's advice, I combed through the Soules Garden website searching for “spider”, “unusual form”, rebloomer, and “green” (because I like green flowers), made up a list, and sent it to Dee. Dee sent back some suggestions on a couple to remove and a few to add, and I was all set!

I think they were a bit surprised at Soules that after so many visits, because I visit a couple of times every season, I actually bought some daylilies. They were very helpful. They reviewed my list, verified their stock and graciously added a few more that I found as I wandered through the fields, this time with an eye for “spider” and “unusual form” daylilies. They dug the daylilies for me, attached labels, and then carefully wrapped each one in wet newspaper for the trip home to my garden.

For now, I’ve planted my new daylilies in a few spare beds in my vegetable garden, where they each have a label so I can identify them later. I also made a map to show where they are so that if I lose a label, I can still figure out which dayliy is which. At some point, next year or maybe even later, I'll move them out to other areas of the garden.

I feel like a daylily loving gardening geek now, but realize I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available. With 25 or so types of daylilies in my garden, I have approximately .04% of all the named daylilies in the AHS database. That’s not many, but let’s humor me and call it “a good start”.


Soules Garden is hosting their annual daylily open house this weekend, July 11-12. Stop in if you are in the area and stand in those fields and see if you can pick out just one or two daylilies for your garden!


MA said...

You are such a goner. Gone over to daylilies. Very slippery slope.

Pam/Digging said...

A slippery slope indeed. I'd say you're already on the downhill side if you already have 25 varieties in your garden. ;-)

Karen said...

Oh, up late here and obviously not paying attention - when I saw the first two photos, I thought "Wow, Carol really has a big garden, more so than I realized!" Duh, sorry. I don't know how one could narrow it down, as the plethora does seem overwhelming, but thanks for explaining how you did. Having a little help from a "fancier" is obviously part of the ticket, plus a cool nursery like that (they actually dig and label plants? That's just so awesome!) must be super fun. I bet they see you back next year for more. :)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Well, I must say you went at it in the best way. A list is always helpful. Yet, it is scary to see all of those lilies up and blooming. Scary but beautiful.

Dave said...


I have the 'Stella's and agree that they are a bit boring. I've been hesitant to buy any more but I've collected a few through swaps. Of course once you buy a daylily you never need to buy another of the same kind since you can divide them so easily. Just looking at their selection I can see why you just now bought some. With so many to choose from it's hard to pick just a couple!

Sylvana said...

I look at those fields and just get lost. They just blend in with each other. Your plan of attack this year definitely is the only way that I could think of to tackle that!

Rose said...

Carol, I'm amazed you've visited this daylily farm before and have never bought any! I couldn't leave a place like this empty-handed:) Looks like you've gotten a great start to your new daylily garden. Actually, I don't have many daylilies either, unless you count the ever-multiplying Stellas, and I've had a serious case of daylily envy these past few weeks looking at all the gorgeous ones on blogs. I really need to dig up a new flowerbed!

Glad you got some much-needed rain. It postponed all the Fourth activities here, too, but my garden was very happy.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I can't wait to see photos of the Daylilies in bloom. You know, now that you have all those Daylilies, you have the perfect place to stuff some of those Globe Alliums we saw at Spring Fling. (tee hee)

Kathy said...

I'm surprised you never thought to ask the owners for help in narrowing down the choices, especially since you've been a good customer for their other plants. I just love finding specialist nurseries. They usually got into the business because they loved the plants, and they often know back stories about the plants or breeders. And they want you to love them, too, so they steer you towards the ones that are a good "fit" for you.

Cheryl said...

Your blog is one of my top 3 gardening blogs. I really enjoy your writing and photos. I'm new to gardening and hoping to learn from the experts like yourself.

Thanks for sharing.

Carolyn gail said...

I would like every single one of those daylilies but I'd need the fields to go along with them :-)

I remember what a sensation the repeat blooming 'Stella'd'oro ' was when she first came on the market at $15, a steep price in the day.

I haven't come across the spider and other unusual ones but they sure are pretty.

I still love Stella but I purchased a newer variety 'Black-eyed Stella ' this Spring , along with 'Pardon me, ' a red repeater.

I should ask Dee for a good source to order the unusual ones.

Jean said...

Wow, I can't blame you at all for not being able to decide among them. Good idea to come armed with a list. I bought a daylily this year from a big box store and it looks like it's one of the spider forms - "Crimson Pirate". I really liked it when it bloomed so now I'm wondering if I have the spider bug. Not that I need that...

VW said...

Yes, you definitely need a focus when buying daylilies! Personally I love ruffles, short scapes and very full flowers - especially in shades of pink - though Dee's spider post did open my eyes to new possibilities.

Frances said...

Ah, the allure finally got to you Carol. Thank Dee for me, we want to read about your daylily exploits and I know now I won't feel like such a record keeping nutcase, how did that word get on this comment???? You have planted well, having them all together. I believe height and bloom time are important things to keep track of as well. Tall in back, or middle if you view the bed from all sides. Love the spiders and await photos of each as they open. Hooray! This is really cause for celebration.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Carol, honey, thanks for the link love. You've made a good start in daylily madness. One thing I forgot to mention was to give the plants plenty of time to settle in. It takes a couple of seasons before they start to show their true colors and bloom well. Sorry, I just don't want you disappointed the first season.~~Dee

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

I'd have a lot more daylilies if my favorite local daylily farm were as close to me as Soules is to you! I'm becoming ever more enamored of the spider and unusual form daylilies myself!

Karen - An Artists Garden said...

Carol, so interesting to read this post and I really look forward to seeing your day lilies develop.

Last year was the first time I bought some (3 to be exact) and I have an awful feeling that this is going to be the start of a love affair with day lilies! (Especially the spider and UF ones)

Jan said...

I have just started adding daylilies to my garden in the past two or three years and am hooked on these great plants. Looks like by next summer, you will have some beauties.

Always Growing

Gail said...

I love the spiders, too Carol! Aren't we lucky to have friends who know about plants that are relatively new to us! Yea Dee! gail

Carol said...

All, thank you for the very nice comments and all the encouragement. I'm planning to go to their open house this weekend... they won't be digging daylilies, but I can still place an order and pick them up later. Oh, my! Save me!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

I think Dee's advice was very sound. You have to figure out a way to self-limit or you go crazy. I solved my daylily confusion by limiting colors (for the most part) to yellows and peaches. And most are minis and tetraploids, but no giant diploids which I find tend to fall over since mine grow in a bit of shade. I also like the Siloam series with the contrasting eyes.

Lynn said...

Carol, there are some daylilies that are very fragrant. Don't forget to add a few of these to your garden. You won't regret it!
Vanilla Fluff is one of my favorite ones.

~~Rhonda said...

Now you've done it...once you buy a bunch of daylilies, you can't stop! Watch out or you'll have a yard full in no time! We have 350+ varieties and wouldn't hesitate to buy more. In fact, we will be in Indy next weekend and now plan to stop at Soules! :-D DH is riding in RAIN, if you are familiar with that...about 1200 cyclists riding across Indiana in one day. 160 miles. I drive the support car for DH. No cycling for me. :) ~~Rhonda

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

I have never been one to be drawn to plant day lilies either, and I've never quite understood why...until reading this post. I have felt confused & overwhelmed trying to 'figure them out'. I never thought to try to narrow down a particular feature and focus on that. Perhaps that is the key. My Stella's are boring...and there are 3 other varieties that I have no names for. They grow without hesitation, annually, and just won't give up. I know I need to try more; now I'll consider doing so, with that bit of new 'focus' in mind!

Gotta Garden said...

Well, of course I had to come over and see what you bought! The spiders and unusual forms add so much to the garden...I love the way they add movement and personality. Give them some time to settle in and wow you.

Some of the best spider/ufos today are produced by Jim Murphy and Margo Reed. Check out their Woodhenge Gardens. There are other folks working on them, too (don't mean to leave anyone out), producing fabulous flowers. It's a very exciting time as these daylilies finally get their due.

Enjoy your new acquisitions and congratulations! You've entered a very interesting world that I hope will bring you pleasure for many years.

Jo Ellen Meyers said...

Coreopsis, lilies, astilbe, hosta, hydrangeas, monarda, larkspur, purple coneflowers, roses, nigella, butterfly bush, Igloo series mums, dicentra (bleeding heart), beautyberry, kerria, hibiscus, daylilies, nepeta, belamcanda (blackberry lily), sedum, honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrottii), sedum, 'Rozanne' geranium, agastache 'Blue Fortune,' yarrow, tomatoes.