Monday, July 20, 2015

Royalty in the Midsummer Garden: Daylily Days

           Among the things I like about daylilies: there are a lot of them. I quote Wikipedia here: "There are over 60,000 registered cultivars." Apparently that's a number that grows every year.
           Daylilies grow in colonies, or clumps, happily making more of themselves.
            They are hardy and reliable.
            They've been with us from the start.
           Our perennial garden began with the variety that every garden in New England begins with: orange native daylilies technically known as "orange daylilies." They're also commonly called "ditch lilies" because they will grow wild at the side of the world. In rural, small town Massachusetts, any kind of road that's allowed to do its own thing because nobody is cultivating a lawn right up to the edge of pavement is likely to attract them somewhere along its length.That's what we must mean by calling the plant (technically hemerocallis) 'native' because the reference sites say they're "native to Eurasia." They've been here long enough to feel like they belong.
            We had them growing at our house in Plymouth. I don't  believe we stole some from the Berkshires, but I may have forgotten. I wouldn't put it past me.
            Some orange natives (third photo down) were found in the backyard (to use the term loosely) here in Quincy, growing against the wire fence. I divided them and they began to multiply, producing more flowers every year.
            I also bought some Stella d'oro daylilies (fourth photo down) for variety; they're smaller, the blooms are a buttery yellow. That was the only other variety of daylily I knew existed.
             Then I visited Stephen and Janet Tooker's registered American Hemerocallis Society Display Garden, called Collamore Garden, in the shoreline town Scituate, a town about 20 miles away along the coast, but somehow occupying another geographical/metaphysical time zone: beaches, marshes, woods. Quincy has some of these features too (its 'woods' though are part of the Blue Hills state park), but the difference is Quincy has a population of 90,000. Scituate population as of the last national census is 5,245.
            The Tookers' garden pretty much evens the score in daylilies alone. They grow about 700 varieties.

          They also belong to a regional organization for daylily growers, the Southeastern Massachusetts Daylily Society, that meets in Wareham. The organization held a plant sale in early May. (Spring is the best time for planting daylilies.) Somehow I missed it.
            I'm sorry now. Various kinds of daylilies bloom throughout the growing season. But for me this mid to late July period is the high point. I've bought some different varieties in the last couple of years, but almost most immediately lost track of their names.
            I think of them as the reddish one, the pure yellow one, the light orange one, and the really big yellow ones with the brown markings, throwing up so many scapes their blossoms last for a month.
            I have taken photos of various blooms this year, but can offer no names to match up to them. It would help me keep track of how the plants were doing, if I knew by name what I was growing.
            I've got to get better at this. Daylilies are the queens of mid-summer.