Hemerocallis Autumn Minaret
August 25, 2011
Allan in Autumn Minaret, Garden Design, Perennial Plants, day lilies, flowers, hemerocallis, perennials

Three years ago, I ordered a large assortment of hemerocallis for my test garden. I needed to determine if the ones offered as “pink” and “peach” would successfully blend into the English style gardening idiom. In addition, I selected several unusual varieties that caught my eye, even though they were neither peach nor pink.  

All of the plants were booked with mail order growers, who shipped  bare-root plants, wrapped in shredded paper. By the time they arrived, the moist newsprint had dried and the fans were in the initial stages of dehydration. Although I followed the growers’ instructions and soaked them in water before planting, they still took longer to become established, as compared to the nursery-bought potted ones. This season, three years after planting, the fans finally blossomed, making it possible for me to evaluate their color.

The first five varieties that bloomed in early July became immediate casualties of my strict color criteria. The catalogue had described them as being either “pink” or “peach” and the accompanying photos were convincing. Much to my disappointment, they blossomed in various shades of pure orange. I dug them up as soon as they flowered and gave them to less finicky gardener friends who are not put off by orange day lilies. However, I kept those that bloomed in tropical or iridescent shades of orange because I am certain that, when properly combined with other perennials, they will become traffic stoppers.

Other varieties that I ordered flowered with stripes, brushstrokes, or soft blotches of blending shades, tones, and hues of peaches, pinks, light oranges, bronzes, and mellow-yellows. They actually resembled their catalog photos and survived the cut because they were attractive. After all, selecting a plant for a flowerbed should not be only about color; visual interest is equally important.

When they first opened, many of these surprisingly attractive day lilies required transplanting because their colors did not suit their location. Since I grow too many hemerocallis varieties to remember all of their names, descriptions, and planting spots, it was imperative to move them while they were still in bloom. That way, I was able to see exactly how they would combine with other perennials that bloom at the same time. Because I cavalierly moved them around to suit my creative whims, most went into shock and lost all of their blooms overnight. Who else but this obsessive gardener would have dared transplant flowering day lilies in the searing heat of July? 

 Autumn Minaret is one hemerocallis variety that was spared the trauma of lifting and moving because its coloration turned out to be neither offensive nor impressive. Viewed from a distance, as are all flowers in my garden, it appeared to be just there, as the colloquial phrase is used. In truth, I am unable to appreciate this variety for a very unusual reason. In the morning, before I head out to visit a client, its trumpet are not completely open. When I return in the late afternoon, the trumpets have turned westward to follow the moving sun. All I see is the backside of a flower.

The back lit close up of the petals of Autumn Minaret was achieved by climbing into the flowerbed; not an easy task, considering how congested the test garden can be at this time of year.

I believe that its appearance will improve when transplanted up against a southern-facing brown fence, in another part of the garden. I expect that a brown background will enrich the golden/orange tones of its petals while the southern exposure will allow me to see the trumpets all day long.

Tall plants, even when they are not elegant, add critical verticality to a garden’s design. The appearance of this variety is less than majestic because its petals are slim. Unlike the broad and velvety petals of other day lilies, those of Autumn Minaret are almost spider-like. Consequently, the density of flowers that open at any one time appears sparse. Nevertheless, this plant is a keeper. In spite of the fact that its colors are tepid from afar and that its form is not substantial, this day lily merits serious consideration. First, it is a very-late blooming variety; here in USDA Zone 4b, one can never have enough perennials blooming in early autumn. Second, it is a very tall plant. In its first flowering season, it grew to a height of five feet and some gardeners report that it reaches six feet tall. For a day lily, that’s impressive! 

Article originally appeared on Garden Design, Montreal, Perennial Flower Gardens, Gardening Tips, Gardening Advice, Gardening Book Reviews (http://allanbecker-gardenguru.squarespace.com/).
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