By Shirley Speed, Franklin Garden Club
The scientific name for daylily is Hemerocallis. The word Hemerocallis is derived from two Greek words meaning “beauty” and “day,” referring to the fact that each flower lasts only one day. To make up for this, there are many flower buds on each daylily flower stalk, and many stalks in each clump of plants. Many cultivars have more than one flowering period.
According to history, daylilies originated in Asia and became popular in the American South because tending them didn’t take time away from farm or household chores demanded of women.
The use of the daylily by the ancient Chinese people began before the development of written language: the earliest records report the plant’s use for food. The flower buds were palatable, digestible and nutritious.
As a medicine the root and crown were found to be a good pain reliever. The utilization of the daylily for food and medicine became a part of the tradition of the Chinese people.
Many species of the daylily have been found in China and Japan. They are rarely found in today’s gardens as the new hybrids have far surpassed them in beauty but they were certainty valuable as they are the ancestors of our beautiful hybrids. It was through the efforts of hybridizers in the United States and England that great improvements in the daylilies have taken place during the last 75 years.
The daylily is referred to as the perfect perennial because it is available in a rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes. They are able to survive with very little care and suitable for all types of landscapes. Drought tolerant when necessary and adaptable to various soils.
Originally, the only colors were yellow, orange, and fulvous red. Today, we have colors ranging from near-whites, pastels, yellows, oranges, pinks. Vivid reds, crimson, purple, nearly true blue and fabulous blends. Hybridizers are avidly pursuing pure white and pure blue colors. When I start hybridizing I hope I’m the one to find at least one of these colors. The AHS officially recognizes the following forms for exhibition purposes: single, double, spider, unusual form and polymerous flowers.
Doubles and spiders have become my favorites — the larger the bloom the better I like them. Daylily prices range from as low as $3 to as much as $500 for a single plant. Some friends and I recently visited a hybridizer for Westbourne Daylilies in Tennessee. She shared with us that her brother taught her how to hybridize daylilies when they were teenagers. I asked her where in the world they got the first daylilies they used and she said her brother ordered them from Sears and Roebuck.
Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Dr. Bob Gilbert and reprinted with permission by the Franklin Press. “In the Squares” is an occasional column written by members of the Franklin Garden Club, which maintains the city squares in Franklin, NC with their hard work and dues. This article is by member Shirley Speed.