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Are You a Collector of Day Lilies or Do You Grow Them for Pleasure?

H. Angels Gather Round, (Smth 08 ) Tetraploid, Evergreen, Mid Season bloomer, 30 inch scapes, flowers 5.5 inches diameter, smooth peachy-pink self and green throat with ruffled iceberg lettuce-green edge. Image:-daylilyfans.comThe new day lily mail order catalog that arrived this week contains more technical information than I will ever require. Based upon the list of newly introduced varieties, and by paying attention to the details that accompany each plant, one comes to realize that day lily growers target several kinds of gardeners.

First is the nursery owner who is prepared to nurture a plant until it matures to make an impressive display, second is the gardener wishing to add a very specific perennial to the flowerbed, and third is the collector.

Acquiring new and unusual varieties of day lilies is a serious hobby similar to collecting orchids or antiques. It differs from conventional gardening in many respects because it places greater emphasis on the thrill of the hunt for the rare and the unknown, the excitement of discovery, the satisfaction of exclusive ownership, the pleasure of the new and different, an eternal sense of incompleteness - because collecting never ends, and the now-rarely observed trait of one-upmanship.

Collectors also assign a higher market value to desirable plants than traditional gardeners do. Such plants might be difficult to propagate, they may differ dramatically from previously introduced cultivars, or they may combine, in one plant, superlatives of all of the desired traits of the species.

H. Stella d'Oro, (Jablonski '75), diploid, Dormant foliage, Early-Medium-Late bloomer, scapes are 17 inches high, blooms are 3.5 inches diameter, Repeat [continuous] bloomer, gold-yellow trumpets, compact habit. Images:- only has to study the cost of the unusual cultivars to realize that the traditional gardener is not the intended market for many of the newly introduced plants. The prices confirm that collectors are prepared to pay a premium for one that is out of the ordinary. For example, in the above-mentioned catalog, the supplier charges only $4.00 for a clump of several fans of H. Stella d’Oro, but quotes $75 for a single fan of H. Angels Gather Round. I have seen Angels listed as high as $125 from other sources.

While some weekend gardeners may select a day lily based upon a few details such as color and price, here are some of the characteristics that collectors consider when choosing a new cultivar:

Number of Chromosomes  Tetraploid plants have twenty-two pairs of chromosomes while diploids have only eleven.

A.H.S.  Some cultivars are registered with the American Hemerocallis Society, while others are not. For some collectors, registration is important.

 Foliage   A plant may be classified as evergreen, semi-evergreen, or dormant. This designation refers to the hardiness of a plant in colder climates and the sustainability of foliage in warmer areas. Dormant varieties are the hardiest and evergreens may require mulch where winters are severe.

 Bloom Time   In my growing zone of USDA 4, early varieties (E) bloom from June to beginning of July, mid-season plants (M) bloom from mid-July to mid-August, and late varieties (L) bloom in August and September.

 Double   This adjective describes a variety with a higher number of flower petals than others have. Some double blooms will resemble miniature old roses or tiny azaleas.

High Bud Count Some cultivars have a greater number of buds per scape than others. [A scape is a stalk that shoots up from within the clump of leaves and holds the flower buds at its top.] This designation indicates the intensity of the color output (multiple blooms per day) during a plant's bloom period. Because beauty is subjective, a high bud count is no guarantee that a day lily will be appreciated. The gardener must first be attracted to the flower’s overall appearance for the high bud count to have any value.

Reblooming  A variety that will send up new scapes after its first blooming period

Repeat Blooms A variety that sends up new scapes continuously beyond its first blooming period. When designing flowerbeds, most of my focus is on this group of day lilies. If the color is suitable for the composition, it is sheer pleasure having a plant that sustains flowers over an extended period.

Sculpting  A variety with petals that are pleated or covered with relief either at the base of the petals or anywhere on the petals’ surface. One can appreciate this feature when the lily grows at close proximity. From a distance, this characteristic is hardly noticeable.

Spider A variety with long, thin petals – like skinny pinwheels - with a ratio of at least 4:1, that is, the petals are at least 4 times longer than they are wide. Flowers in this group lack the velvety beauty of traditional day lilies and do not project from afar as powerfully as the trumpet varieties do. Spiders compensate for their scraggliness with bold colors, long bloom periods, and tall scapes.

Unusual Form  A variety, usually Spider, whose thin petals are spatula-shaped, or pinched, or twisted, or cascading, or crispate.

Collectors are also interested in knowing if a day lily is very fragrant, if it will bloom in the early morning, if it remains open late into the evening, the name of the hybridizer, the year the plant was registered, the height of the scape, and the diameter of the flower.

 A large day lily flower is a beautiful sight and tall lilies that loom and bloom over other perennials can be very effective in the perennial flowerbed.

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Reader Comments (8)

Oh dear, Allan, does this have to be an either/or question? I would say that I grow daylilies for the pleasure they give me, but I definitely have some of your "collector" characteristics -- I like to know the name of the cultivar and who the breeder was. And I definitely want to know if they're fragrant, because I love the fragrance of daylilies and especially want the fragrant ones in my garden.

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I just received a message, via Facebook, from a colleague who shares your point of view. She is a collector because she grows many day lilies for the pleasure they bring her.
I am beginning to think that my arbitrary classification is unrealistic. However, it was the inspiration to compose the blog in the first place and it will probably spawn a sequel to be posted at a later date..

January 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterAllan

I have never been a fan of day lilies. However, I am beginning to appreciate them, and if I had to do it over again ( and I might yet do it over) I would plant day lilies instead on a hill side that is now covered with untidy wildflowers. I am not a collector or plant snob. I will plant the newest exotic cultivars as well as old passalongs, as long as they appeal to me.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdebsgarden

I have seen day lilies growing on a slope and it is a magnificent sight; far richer and more elegant than wildflowers.

January 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterAllan

I love daylilies, both because they're so beautiful and also because they taste really good! I'm growing "Wine Delight" right now ... the shoots taste like the best lettuce ever. Amazing.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPat

Interesting perspective. I do collect, sell, & hybridize (breed) daylilies (note it is properly spelled as one word) and yes, I've spent some of those big bucks on the newest releases- though not usually to "add to my collection". I spend the big $ for plants that have genetics I want in my breeding programs and for those that are likely to hold a premium price for several years in the resale & seed-selling niches. I also buy and collect historic daylilies (those $4 plants) for preservation & breeding.

I think you'll find that the high price of introductions is most influenced by hybridizers & business buyers and to a lesser degree by pure collectors.

Given the number of years it takes to get a new daylily from seed to market quantity, the cost of growing the thousands that are culled for each one introduced, and the cost of maintaining a collection of the newest genetic material that the price of most new introductions is actually quite reasonable. Like everything it is a supply and demand proposition. Once a daylily has been on the market 3-6 years the available quantity is much higher and the price drops drastically.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebra

Thank you for adding perspective to the subject of newly- introduced daylilies and for the correct spelling of that word.
Some of us are at the mercy of spelling correctors built into our software The program that governs the host of this site spells the word day lilies, while the Word program in my personal computer spells it daylilies. I have a similar problem with the plural of the word cultivar. Some programs accept the "s" for plural while others believe that, as it is a Latin word, "s" is not required.

February 6, 2012 | Registered CommenterAllan

Entering into the second year as a homeowner, I have decided to make my gardens reflect my style instead of its previous owners. As a novice, I find myself confused by the planting and care directions for plants that I may want in my garden. I have started making notes on sun conditions of my home. The season has just started and I have already had to move a few plants. With my experience established, I clearly use flowers that give me pleasure when selecting what will go in my garden.
Daylilies have been selected for my garden because I love the texture of the stalk and the exotic look of the blooms. The plant looks as if it has some weight to it and the dominance of the green meets my appeal requirement. The daylilies arrived in the mail this week and I quickly looked over the instructions and into the ground they went. The daylilies have been planted on both sides of the walkway to the front door. My expectation is that they generate enough fragrance for friends and family to enjoy but the biggest bonus will be the smile that I experience as I walk through the door.
As my garden grows I too expect my knowledge to increase on my selections. I do know that I may experience some species of plants that fail but I hope that I will have more successes than failures. With the help of your advice and your blog community insight, I feel as if I’m already moving in the right direction.

March 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNewGirlOnTheBlock

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