Monday, July 26, 2010

Daylily Phase

The daylily phase of the garden started in full-force when Gaby, a frequent (and it's all relative, folks) Cats and Catts commenter and noted Hemerocallis pusher, moved to the East Coast.  The good news was that her husband had an amazing job to look forward to, and they both had a path of happiness stretching before them.  The other bit of good news, from my perspective, was Gaby's need to unload a number of daylilies and irises before the big move.


The prospect of a fresh set of plants in the garden was exciting and it gave the place a new focus.  There was a reason that the pink daylily that we planted years ago was one the few survivors.  Daylilies are, indeed, the perfect perennial.  


I could leave the soil alone and they would thrive, but the new additions inspired me to improve the garden in a number of ways.  First, I got rid of that succulent and threw it the corner of our fence to die.  Now, the plant's healthier and bigger than ever.  Just like my hollyhocks, singling them out for death only put a bounce in their step.  I also renewed my vigilance against weeds and took greater care to improve the dirt.  I added a (very unscientific) home-made mix of potting soil, peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, Back to Nature cotton burr compost, and mulch.  A little garden work in October, November, February, and March paid huge dividends this year.  I found weeds easier to control and no one could argue with the brilliant flower show.


Like orchids, daylilies offer multiple layers of pleasure.  One thing I especially like about them is the way they quickly change the "portrait" of the garden every eight hours or so.  For instance, prominently displayed reds in the morning might fade back by early evening to allow a mass of orange daylilies to spread out. The garden becomes a slow-moving fireworks show.  There's also something meditative about removing the spent blooms.  Finally, the social world of daylilies is almost (almost) as crazy and obsessive as the orchid world, and the history of daylily hybridizing is equally fascinating.  As Gaby explained early on in my daylily education, the American Hemerocallis Society hosts a daylily database full of cultivar names that stretch back in time.  Unlike orchids, daylily breeding and hybridizing is pretty easy.  You don't need agar, a sterile box, and the patience of a turtle to appreciate your own creations. 


This has me thinking.  What would be my ideal daylily?  What's the perfect perfect perennial?  I love whites and creams (remember, at Cats and Cattswe're big fans of Brassavolas and porcelain-colored Paphs.).  Maybe it should have diamond-dusting and a reddish edge -- something subtle.  I'll get Riley working on it.

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