Family of Flowers
The Garden is Open
The sign by the drive saying "The Garden Is Open" is akin to Lucy's "The Doctor Is In" sign in Peanuts, except here advice is always free. Sam and Linda Christine of Aiken, South Carolina, are on a back-door basis with everyone and take kindly to absolute strangers happening by, especially during daylily season. That's how I found them―word of mouth through a friend's mom. In a recent interview with these Master Gardeners, I asked them for tips on growing one of the South's perennial favorites―daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrids).
Linda: They're easy, and success is sure if you follow some basic rules. Fourteen years ago, our daughter, Donna, had just bought a home, and I was looking for plants to help fill her yard. I was at Wal-Mart when a truck delivering daylilies pulled up. They were only $3 each, and I packed 25 of them into my trunk--all that would fit. What we couldn't use at her house, we planted at ours. Sam thought I was nuts, but he read up on them and was hooked. At one point, our collection included 500 daylilies, but now we have about 250.
Daylilies are best displayed in sweeping masses, as you've done along your back border, but there is one bed that's different. Tell me about it.
Linda: I noticed that many daylilies had the same names as members of our family. I thought, "Let's have a family bed." A sampling includes 'Donna's Prayer,' 'Rebecca Marie' for our granddaughter, and now 'Sam's Delight.' For years, my stand-in was 'Witch Stitchery,' which Sam bought as a joke. I'm glad to say we now have 'Linda's Magic' as its replacement.
Sam: Six to eight hours of bright sun; fertile, well-drained soil; and regular watering are key. I plant in mounded beds that are 5 to 7 inches high. They are made by mixing together compost or decomposed chicken manure and sand. Plants are spaced 2 feet apart--3 feet for really large selections. At planting I may add a little water-soluble fertilizer, such as 20-20-20. In March I feed with a slow-release product such as Osmocote Vegetable & Bedding 14-14-14. I also supplement with a water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer every other week until June and then stop feeding them when flowering ends. Each year, I add more organic matter, such as mushroom compost or cottonseed meal, to the beds and supplement with gypsum.
Divide and Conquer
Sam: You'll get more flowers if you water regularly. Soaker hoses and drip systems are good because they deliver moisture to the roots where it's needed--not on the leaves. One inch of water a week is best. Overwatering causes problems.
As flowers fade, you should deadhead. Once blooming is done, I cut the scapes (stalks the flowers bloom on) back to the ground so they don't go to seed. This encourages reblooming.
When and how often do you recommend dividing?
Sam: It really depends on the daylily―usually anywhere from two to five years. When flowers become smaller than normal, I know it's time to divide. You can do this in the spring or fall. If I divide in the spring, I replant what I can and pot some of the divisions to share.
Linda and Sam's Best Advice
Linda: Don't overbuy. Just because something is on sale or is beautiful, don't plant more than you can take care of. The first two years are important. Start slow.
Sam: Yeah, this advice comes from the same woman who just bought six roses on sale that we have no room for.
Hey, I think we're doing this interview because she overbought daylilies 14 years ago.
Linda: Yeah, but really, sales are good. Gardening can be expensive. Go to a good garden center. If you're busy with work or children, you should still garden. Don't feel bad about keeping it low-key. Just wait until you retire to go really crazy like we have.
What does it take to have an award-winning garden? Persistence. Sam and Linda grow more than just daylilies. You name it; we bet it's in their garden somewhere. In 2002, their yard was one of four first-prize winners in the All-American Lawn Contest sponsored by Lowe's and Briggs & Stratton.
Sam and Linda's Favorites
Did you know that there are more than 50,000 named daylily selections? Here are this couple's top five.
- 'Tuscawilla Tigress'―showy and vigorous
- 'Red Volunteer'―huge flowers
- 'Orange Velvet'―semievergreen rebloomer
- 'Vanilla Fluff'―wonderfully scented
- 'Strawberry Candy'―pink with rose red eye
This surefire perennial is a must for the Southern garden. Here are some tips to help you use daylilies well.
- Permanent fixture: Evergreen selections claim their spots in the garden year-round, so plant them in generous sweeps where their foliage adds texture to the border.
- Here today, gone tomorrow: Semievergreen selections may or may not keep their leaves, depending on where they are grown. Like their deciduous counterparts, they should be planted where the foliage from other plants (such as liriope) will fill in the voids when leaves disappear.
- Long and short of it: Heights range from 1 to 4 feet. While the shorties do well as front-of-the-border plants, tall guys such as 'Hyperion' are better in the back.
- Timing is everything: With early, mid-, and late-season bloomers, you can have flowers filling your garden from May through frost. For easy nonstop color, plant one of the repeat bloomers such as 'Happy Returns.'
"Family of Flowers" is from the May 2008 issue of Southern Living.