With a name like ‘Daylily’ you might take some convincing that these particular flowers make a worthwhile and long-lasting impact in the garden. Even their scientific name of ‘Hemerocallis’ in translation tells the same story- ‘Beautiful for a day.’ There is certainly some truth in this title through the short lived nature of the flowers. Each individual bloom opens at dawn and is done for by dusk. But fortunately for us, there are always plenty more ready to open the next day, and they continue to put on a good show for just as long as their neighbours.
These lily relatives have the exotic looking, large trumpet shaped flowers of the family and are available in a huge range of colours. My favourites are the often sweetly scented lemon yellows, though we also have the double flowered peachy orange sorts and deeper, richer mahogany reds. Originally from the far east, a few forms have been grown in European gardens for centuries. Early settlers then spread them across America, where their ease and adaptability has made them hugely popular. In recent years enthusiastic U.S. nurserymen have gone on to hybridise a staggering sixty thousand registered variants for the avid collector to crave.
Their main period of flower is through the summer months of July and August, though their beauty is apparent long before that. The arching, grassy foliage is one of their finest features, bubbling up in low lime green fountains along the borders in early spring. Perfectly contrasting with dark soil and the more run of the mill, rounder leaved plants around them.
Tough, hardy perennials, growing two to three feet high, they cope happily just about anywhere that is not completely waterlogged or in deepest shade. The dense fleshy rooted clumps, when congested do however benefit from slicing up with a spade, spacing and re-setting every few years. A daily dead-heading would be a counsel of perfection, but for the most part the faded flowers drop off on their own and do little to detract from the main display. When the last one has passed, tired leaves can be sheared right back encouraging a fresh flush to revive good looks until autumn.
Although individual flowers may be ‘one day wonders,’ Daylilies have longer-lasting appeal and earn their place in any garden...