Saturday, July 14, 2012

Danged daylily snobs

If there's anything that makes me madder than Terry Branstad, it's those danged daylily snobs --- you know the type. They're always badmouthing the old-fashioned Hemerocallis fulva --- "too" orange, "too" common, "too" invasive.

Around here, and nearly everywhere else that isn't entirely arid, common daylilies flourish not only outside my back door (below; looking a little pale because they were in the shade when photographed) and in old-fashioned flower gardens, but also in grader ditches, in the edges of fields and woodland, wherever they've been swept when farmsteads were buldozed away.

The somewhat more exotic (because it appears to be double- or even triple-petaled) variety (top), Hemerocallis fulva Kwanso, is less frequent --- but I spotted two stands Thursday after entertaining tourists out at Douglass Cemetery --- one at the edge of the wooded draw where brush was pushed when the cemetery first was cleared and another, thriving right alongside the road a little farther north.

There seems to be a degree of debate about whether Kwanso is a naturally occuring variety of Hemerocallis fulva or an intentionally developed (or selected) one. Whatever the case, I've been thinking I'd like to start some in town --- and now know where to go with shovel and bucket when the time is right.

Hemerocallis translates from the Greek to mean, roughly, "beautiful for a day," referring to the blossoms, which last only a day (although multiple buds per stem result in weeks of bloom). The Kwansos generally begin to bloom just as their simpler sisters' bloom cycle is ending, and are approaching the end for this season about now.

Although their roots are in Asia, Hemerocallis fulva arrived in America from England in the 17th century and has been merrily naturalizing itself since. The Kwansos may have arrived at the same time. Whatever the case, old-fashioned daylilies are about as heirloom as heirloom gets when you're talking about garden plans. The drive to hybridize, creating the exotics popular now, began in the 1920s.

Hybrids may come and hybrids may go, but it's likely that Hererocallis fulva will be flourishing here when we've gone  and --- perhaps --- the prairie has returned.

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