Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My favorite plant in the garden...this week: day-lilies!

Choosing a favorite this week was particularly difficult. So many things are growing and changing that I'm simply overwhelmed with fascination. No one thing has really been standing out to me. Add to that my recent glut of new plant purchases and I've got a real horticultural high going on.

In the end, though, I decided to go with one of the more colorful (besides my beloved shades of green) plants in the garden at the moment, which truly does deserve to be highlighted now while it is in bloom. That's why my favorite plant in the garden this week is my humble yet stalwart yellow day-lily (Hemerocallis sp.). It's the only day-lily I have, as I had always worried that the deer would have a hay day with them. After talking to a friend who gardens nearby, however, it seems that our local deer are not particularly interested in these forgiving yet floriferous perennials. It should be noted, though, that her garden is mostly fenced in and the only day-lilies the deer have easy access to is at the top of her driveway along the road. While our black-tailed deer on the west coast may pass on these edible flowers, I know many gardeners on the east coast who despair of ever having blooms because of their ravenous white-tailed deer.

Most of the day-lilies grow along the dry creek bed on the south end of the house in very poor soil. These plants have fairly upright foliage less than an inch wide and are loaded with flowers. A few plants were put into rich purchased soil and their leaves are twice as long and are close to 2 inches wide, arching over with tips on the ground. These plants hardly bloom at all. That's what I like, a plant that performs best in adversity.

 Unfortunately, I don't know the name of this particular day-lily, as it was a gift from a friend of my mother who also didn't know the name. Usually I prefer to know the species and/or cultivar name of a plant in my collection but, as these were to be a bit of an experiment to see if my deer would leave them alone as my gardening friend claimed, I wasn't about to refuse free plants to test out.

They do receive occasional treatments with deer repellent, but they grow so quickly that we can't really keep up with treating all the new buds as they appear. I have yet to see any evidence of the deer munching on them.

These day-lilies combine beautifully with my dark blue Siberian iris, ironically another plant with no name. Note to self: Clean the faded flowers off of the irises, maybe before snapping more pictures.

These are not the huge, polyploid monster day-lilies that are so common today, but simple and relatively small flowers in plain yellow. I happen to prefer their graceful simplicity, and they are both extremely floriferous and wonderfully fragrant. An aroma akin to honeysuckle or citrus flowers is detectable both at the source and wafting elusively several yards from the flowers. This fragrance combined with the size of the flowers and the slightly spreading growth habit leads me to believe that this may be Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus, or lemon day-lily, though it could be one of any number of hybrids as well. The growth habit also resembles lemon day-lily as it sends out slightly longer rhizomes to establish new clumps a few inches to a foot away from the original clump.

Another feature I like about these day-lilies is that the old flowers shrivel and drop cleanly, rather than wilting into a mushy mess that wraps itself around buds and new blooms and must be removed by hand like some other day-lilies.

The stats on this day-lily (based off of lemon day-lily because of the resemblance)

  • Hardy in USDA zones 4-10
  • Flowers best in lean soil
  • Very tolerant of summer drought and wet winter soils
  • Foliage 1-2 feet high, inflorescences up to 3 feet high
  • Fragrant yellow flowers are trumpet-shaped and 3-4 inches wide and long
  • Self-cleaning flowers and apparently deer-resistant (at least in my neighborhood)


Recent rains have bent a few stems down, but most of them have stayed remarkably upright, and no big mushy old flowers to clean up!

While this day-lily is in bloom it makes a lovely display from the road, coming into the driveway, and walking around that end of the house. The scent is wonderful and much needed in my mostly scentless garden (a shortcoming I am working to correct). While not particularly geek-worthy (unless your obsession is day-lilies), this plant earns its place as a practical and beautiful garden work-horse.

What garden treasure made you wet your plants this week? This week our hostess was fascinated by fasciation. Be sure to check out the favorite this week in the Danger Garden, and don't forget the comments to see what excited other gardeners this week!

12 comments:

  1. Hey common or not they're obviously earning their keep with scent, easy going flowers and no deer munching! Sounds like a winner. I've got an inherited (and thus NOID) day lily in the front garden which blooms a sort of orange rust, love it and it's foliage.

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    1. Oh, they are definitely earning their keep! I like the orange ones, too.

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  2. How could one not love those cheerful blooms!

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  3. A self-cleaning daylily is a treasure indeed, Evan! And I love the yellow-blue combination but then you already knew that. I hope the deer continue to steer clear.

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    1. Such a vibrant color combo. You and I must have good taste!

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  4. I really like these day lilies. I am not keen on the over- hybridised Hemerocallis with silly names but this is one is lovely. It looks gorgeous with your Iris sibirica.

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    1. I like the simpler ones, too. I think they have an elegance the over-hybridised ones lack.

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  5. They look terrific along the dry creek bed. What a great gift!

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  6. Odd that the deer shun day lilies, as they have been reported to be quite tasty to humans. I'll take what I can get in that department though. The deer usually break off a few flowering stems as they tromp around.

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    1. I'm still having a hard time believing it myself. I tried one of the buds, sort of like strong cauliflower, actually a bit spicy. Maybe that's why the deer don't like them. Yes, even if the deer don't eat something they'll usually stomp on it.

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