Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dazzling Daylilies!

As reported in the Washington Post last week, Oklahoma won the dubious honor of having the hottest summer of all time last year. Our summer heat beat the former 1934 record, also held by Oklahoma… we had triple digits for days on end and as one farmer stated ‘going outside was like opening an oven door while baking bread‘. However daunting 2011 was for the gardener, we did survive and this year has been delightfully merciful with spontaneous downpours and showers on a regular basis. The dazzling daylilies have begun their annual show and they are truly something to behold. Daylilies are mentioned in Chinese script in 2697 BC and by the 1500’s had traveled to Europe where they became popular with herbalists. In 1735 Swedish botanist Carl Linneaus introduced his system of dividing living organisms into classes. At the time there were only 6,000 species of plants and the daylily was among them. He gave them their Latin name which translates into ‘beauty for a day’. In the early 1900’s Albert Steward lived in China and discovered daylilies to send his colleague Dr. Arlow Stout at the New York Botanical Institute. They became his passion and although he died in 1957 Dr. Stout is still considered the foremost authority on daylilies. It is through his 30 years of dedication and tireless efforts that we have the daylilies we adore today. Daylilies are a hardy lot who withstand our hot and dusty conditions very well since they detest having their feet wet. In my Grandmother’s garden daylilies had a bed of their own as they tend to travel and may overpower lesser perennial flowers. Not that they are bullies, but each year they will send forth numerous fledgling bulbs who grow quickly and send forth more. If left unattended they will easily naturalize and over time may be seen peeking from beneath trees in a woodland setting. Daylilies today are far beyond the heirloom orange and selection is unbelievable with each year introducing a new and fresh face. Many daylilies have ruffles and textures in a magnificent combination of colors and the fact they appear in such abundance in early summer makes them a ‘must have‘ for the garden. The ambitious gardener may choose to remove the spent flower each evening to increase blooming. The heads give a quirky ’pop’ as they are removed making the process an interesting twilight game for the children. Photo Courtesy of Hugh and Jennifer Stout of Dancingtree in Oklahoma City. They have received both national and international acclaim for their work in hybridizing Daylilies and Iris. http://www.stoutgardens.com