Daylil­lies are for­giv­ing and colour­ful treats

The Herald - The Herald Magazine - - Outdoors: Gardening -

HEMEROCALL­IS, Daylil­lies, are one of the most grace­ful mem­bers of any flower bor­der. Ev­ery in­di­vid­ual daylilly flower only blooms for a day. But each plant flow­ers for up to two months with each of the many flower stems crammed with buds.

Hemerocall­is is such an apt name for the plant since the Greek ‘hemera’ means ‘day’ and ‘cal­los’, ‘beauty’. Like many of our plants, Hemerocall­is hails from the far east, ar­riv­ing here in Europe in the 15th cen­tury. Four cen­turies later, breed­ers, es­pe­cially in North Amer­ica, started work­ing se­ri­ously on de­vel­op­ing the genus.

The US has been the driv­ing force be­hind cre­at­ing most of the 80,000 va­ri­eties now avail­able and an early Amer­i­can pioneer, Doreen Bowet, brought this en­thu­si­asm to Europe in 1950.

She started amass­ing a col­lec­tion at Château de Vul­lierens in Switzer­land. I was com­pletely spell-bound by the charm and beauty of this un­for­get­table feast of 13,500 va­ri­eties.

Sadly a few breed­ers have spawned some mon­strously gar­ish forms, but speed past them and look out for the real beau­ties.

Take the re­cently re­leased ‘Aaron Brown’, with red­dish brown petals and pale yel­low throat, or gaze de­light­edly at the pure lemony petals of ‘Altissima’. I know I’m be­sot­ted with this shade in flow­ers which is why I can’t walk on past my ‘Lemon Bells’.

Flower forms such as star­shaped, cir­cu­lar, tri­an­gu­lar or spi­der ap­pear in cat­a­logues. But be warned, the cat­a­logues don’t al­ways agree and a va­ri­ety name can con­fuse. The long, slim yel­low tepals of ‘Cat’s Cra­dle’ are cer­tainly spi­der-like, but the va­ri­ety ‘Spi­der Man’ ac­tu­ally refers to Spi­der man’s clothes, not the flower form, which is star-shaped.

Breed­ers have also catered for dif­fer­ent height and flow­er­ing times to let you ex­tend the sea­son a lit­tle. In­clud­ing flow­er­ing stems, most are around 75cm, but tiny 25cm forms like ridicu­lous­sound­ing ‘Ee­nie Wee­nie’ or slightly larger ‘Cream Drop’ are also pos­si­ble for lim­ited space or a con­tainer.

Plant­ing new Hemerocall­is from re­cently re­opened gar­den cen­tres is easy as they’re the most for­giv­ing plants. Sun is pre­ferred, but par­tial shade is ac­cepted.

They also tol­er­ate most soil types from slightly acidic to al­ka­line. My ground is al­most too al­ka­line but, like roses, they take it in their stride.

But Daylil­lies do in­sist on free-drainage so clay ground is more chal­leng­ing and needs im­prove­ment with com­post, prefer­ably your own.

Hemerocall­is re­quire some fer­til­ity but sur­vive with sur­pris­ingly lit­tle. My H. fulva, with delightful soft, dusty or­ange flow­ers, man­ages to sur­vive de­spite the vo­ra­cious ap­petite of my nearby ‘Ram­bling Rec­tor’ rose and green­gage.

Fairly deep-rooted, the flower can scav­enge just enough mois­ture. But newly planted spec­i­mens do need fairly fre­quent wa­ter­ing.

If plant­ing bare-rooted Daylil­lies in the au­tumn or next spring, first check they’re firm and if not, re­hy­drate in a bucket for a few min­utes. Dig a 30cm deep hole, water and plant, gen­tly sur­round­ing the tu­ber with soil. Make sure the top is only just be­low soil level as deep sink­ing can cause rot. Then water.

For best ef­fect, plant in clumps – they look silly and mea­gre oth­er­wise. But Hemerocall­is do spread and need di­vid­ing af­ter 4-5 years. This is easy. Sim­ply use a fork to dig right round the outer, re­mem­ber­ing to prise the fork for­wards as well as back­wards to loosen the clump.

Chop ver­ti­cally through the clump or use a sharp knife to cut 15-20cm sec­tions of root. Re­plant in 30cm deep holes and water. You can’t have enough clumps of these charmers!

Gor­geous Hemerocall­is will al­ways re­mind me of our beau­ti­ful lit­tle grand­daugh­ter, Ne­feli, who was born as I wrote this col­umn.

Visit asko­r­ganic.co. uk. Follow Dave on Twit­ter @bod­dave

The gar­dens at Chateau de Vul­lierens

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