For centuries, daylily trumpets have heralded summertime's arrival from roadside embankments all across the country. Their more cultivated hybrid cousins line flower beds, fence rows and driveways with a rainbow of color and flash of cool, hot-weather pizzazz.
At The Arboretum on Alumni Drive, a new mixed perennial border along the entry walkway features about 300 daylilies donated by two local breeders, Daylily World and Thoroughbred Daylilies.
The specimens' names — including Age of Opulence, Invitation to Immortality, Redneck Red and Lizard's Lair — suggest flights of fancy and fun. The flowers themselves are rich in unusual and inviting characteristics, with sparkling ruffled edges, chiffon tutu-type blossoms, and shocking red, yellow, orange and purple hues.
Central Kentucky is home to many daylily breeders and enthusiasts with a large and active support group in the area.
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The Blue Grass Hemerocallis Society will host regional American Hemerocallis Society summer meetings July 3 to 5.
Daylily hybridizing is "an American success story," says John Rice, who owns Thoroughbred Daylilies in Paris with his wife, Annette Rice.
Daylilies have been a garden fixture so long here that we forget they're not native to the Americas.
"About 95 percent of the top hybridizers in the world are in the United States, even though daylilies all came from Asia," Rice says.
The Rices not only work toward producing beautiful blooms, but breeding plants that are well-suited for local growing conditions and are strong, healthy plants that produce flower scapes that are sturdily shaped and in an aesthetically pleasing form.
The Arboretum also maintains two daylily beds filled with annual winners of the American Hemerocallis Society's Stout Silver Medal. The medal, given since 1950, is named for Arlow Stout, whose research work in daylily hybridization as well as on other plants at the New York Botanical Garden in the early 1900s was instrumental in expanding their popularity.
Two of the more contemporary winners were hybridized by David Kirchhoff and another one by Mort Morss, both local breeders at Daylily World in Lawrenceburg.
The new border, designed by Fayette County Cooperative Extension agent for Horticulture Jamie Dockery, is a riot of perennial texture and color, which evolves through the summer months. From late June through early August, masses of daylily blooms play starring roles amid pools of other greenery.
"The daylilies in the display were chosen because they are good bedding plants," The Arboretum's horticulturalist Jesse Dahl says. "They may not have the spider blooms, or other crazy attributes that you can find in daylilies, but they bloom over a long season, and have very few problems so they are better choice for homeowners."
Arboretum director Molly Davis adds, "The bed's large size is in keeping with the scale of the surrounding landscape. The planting design is executed so that the daylilies are the focal points, while the other plants — various sedum, amsonia, plumbago, ornamental grasses, Carolina lupines and coreopsis — provide the ground-level and backdrop support to showcase the daylilies. The varying foliage and other blooming plants add textural interest and a long season of bloom time that is very pleasing."
Daylily blossoms last only one day, however the flower scapes or stalks bear many blooms that mature sequentially. With a bit of planning and research, varieties can extend the color from June through August.