30 July 2007

Beauty for a day--the daylily

A fellow blogger called me an "unrepentedly happy person" recently, and I was quite tickled to think that I come across that way. I'll have to tell my longsuffering spouse, who will probably disagree--only because he's seen me cranky now and again--but he loves me in spite of that. Actually, I am generally a perennially happy person, especially when it comes to gardening and I try to write my articles, newsletters and blog postings that way. Even when I'm annoyed about something (like the evil bad Aegopodium), it's in a jocular way.

However...I'm about to have a rant. Of the gardening variety. With apologies to the real Garden Rant team.

I recently read something that really annoyed me. It was a posting by an individual who doesn't like daylilies. Fair enough, that part. Not everyone likes every plant. (I obviously am no fan of Aegopodium.) But this individual was dismissive of the idea that anyone could like daylilies, and that got my knickers in a twist.

One argument: the foliage is rather boring. True enough. It does look like grass, and sometimes it does get messy. But unless you're raising daylilies to sell, most of us incorporate other plants into our borders along with the daylilies. In that case, I think the long ribbonlike foliage makes a nice contrast to the thistle-like foliage of Echinops (Globe thistle) or Eryngium (Sea Holly) or the brilliant gold of Berberis 'Nana Aurea' (Dwarf yellow barberry) or the rich burgundy of Diabolo or Coppertina ninebark. Or any of countless other plants.

And then there are the flowers. There's way, way more to Hemerocallis than the orange on orange of H. fulva, otherwise known as the ditch lily. There are contrasting edges, and eyezones, and throats, wavy edges to petals and sepals, flower shapes from spider to darn-near-orchidlike...

And every colour except black, pure white, and blue--so far.

Watch hummingbirds zipping into the flowers looking for nectar, or fat happy bees staggering out with a load of pollen. Smell the sweet fragrance of many daylilies (including the well named Root Beer, which does smell like that drink!)
Every day there are different flowers in bloom; the individual blossoms do last only a day, hence their Latin name which means 'Beauty for a Day'. But each scape can have many flower buds on it, and each plant may put up dozens of scapes on a well-established plant, meaning that the show can go on for weeks. Some daylilies rebloom, or keep on blooming all season long.

I personally am not into crosspollinating daylilies to see what sort of colours or patterns I might get, but I know of other gardeners who really enjoy doing this. Let me introduce you to 'Pride of Canning', (above) named so because it was bred and developed here in the community of Canning, Nova Scotia--not yet registered, but a work in progress, and a happy daylily to have in any garden.

Some people maintain that daylilies are boring and overused but I reckon this is because some lazy landscaper planted seventeen dozen Stella d'oro or Catherine Woodbury or Franz Hals around a community so that all you see are waves of these particular colours--nice enough mixed in with other plants but not the be-all and end all of daylily choices, definitely.

I don't care if someone doesn't like daylilies--providing they've tried them or don't like them in their personal gardening domaine. But it's the height of arrogance to imply that anyone who likes them (or hostas, or roses, or heck even coneflowers) has no taste and is a loser to enjoy them.

Look, gardening isn't rocket science--or politics (well, ignoring some garden clubs and hort societies) or heart surgery or other deep, heady, deadly subject. It's about beautifying the world around us. (and feeding ourselves, for those who are good at growing foods in their potagers) And if your garden consists of seven pots of bright red walmart geraniums, who am *I* or anyone else to tell you it's not cool/trendy/attractive? If it gives you joy, then plant it and love it. Bloom where you're planted, fellow gardeners! I don't grow Cleomes in my own garden because I don't like the smell or their colour--but I LOVE them in other gardens.

Heck, if goutweed gives you joy, I'm glad for you--and I have a few dozen truckloads you can have to make you more joyful.

Meanwhile, if you'll excuse me--I'm going to go be unrepentedly happy while I enjoy my 60-70 different cultivars of daylilies.(I'm not entirely sure--because I can't remember what all I have where!) And the hundreds of cultivars grown by gardening friends such as Wayne and Wayne at their nursery, Nancy at Red Lane Gardens in PEI and those of other friends who are also collectors/breeders.

Here endeth the rant.


  1. You've got me trying to remember who posted that people who plant daylilies have no taste... etc.? I sort of remember reading that, it probably came across on Google Reader and I blew by without reading more of their post. (For the record, I like daylilies, and don't think I have enough of them!)

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  2. Oh my goodness, my mom and I just had somewhat of this same conversation! She hates daylilies ("They only bloom for a day and their foliage gets ugly."). I love having them in my garden! With a couple exceptions, they are scattered in amongst the other things and that really lets them shine. Most of them bloom for well over a month because of their multiple blooms and even those don't all bloom at once; they space themselves out over their total bloom time.
    I can't imagine my garden without them, even the one Stella d'Oro I have.

    I'm with you all the way on this rant, Jodi!! There's more than one way to garden!

  3. Great rant! Your daylilies are gorgeous ... I must say that, until I started reading blogs and spending time looking at individual daylilies, I mostly just cruised by them in garden centres. I think it was because I rarely ever saw daylilies in colours other than yellow or orange.

    There is so much goutweed in people's garden here that I think of you often...

  4. Thanks for a great rant! Gardening snobbiness is one of my big pet peeves.

    My next door neighbor is a wonderful woman who has been organic gardening for 30 years. She doesn't use the term organic, she just won't use chemicals or fertilizers that may harm any wildlife or the environment. She grows sweet corn and daisies side by side in her small urban plot. She sticks in a few artificial flowers here and there.

    I find her whole yard charming because she is so unpretentious, truly enjoys gardening and cares about the world around her. Artificial flowers are not something I would have but, hey, they make her happy so why not?

    Jennifer in Chicago

  5. I think this kind of thing is best dealt with like my mother (and a lot of other mothers) would. "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."


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