Saturday, November 8, 2008

Despicable Daylilies

For anyone who is overly fond of daylilies (Hemerocallis), I am taking this opportunity to express my dislike. I know this may be downright immoral with many gardeners. Feel free to look away.

It's not that I am entirely blind to the the limited niceties of daylilies, a few varieties have the momentary worth to catch my eye, but even when I do rarely admire them my interest quickly wanes and I find myself seeking superior garden plants.

Trouble is, too many gardeners fail to surround their daylilies with more interesting companions, instead massing them by the dozens, hundreds, thousands. The result of this is anything but beguiling. A few well-selected daylilies tucked amongst fairer neighbors I may approve of but over and above, well, it becomes just another crop, like onions or potatoes.

When daylilies are finished, they are finished - yellowing, spotted foliage that hogs otherwise valuable garden space, their yucky brown flower stalks hanging around forever, offering nothing. The messy clumps seem to wither and decay endlessly. What for five minutes of garden glory was a bit of splashy color is now for the remaining 55 minutes of the garden hour an eyesore, a regretful decision, a dreary post-orgasm.

In the country, where I live, the daylily is frequently bedded at the end of a long private drive, visible to the homeowner with only a pair of high-powered binoculars.
The curiousness of this unfortunate habit is one I can scarcely fathom. Provincial daylilies are also also crowded around barns and outbuildings, almost always facing the road, where they cannot be seen by anyone but speeding passers-by. I have yet to understand why such a popular flower is planted where the gardener never visits. Perhaps it is to irritate people like me.

In the city, where I work, daylilies are planted in strict rows outside bank drive-throughs, around street lamp-posts and in medians. No-one pays much attention to them when they are blooming because it is inevitably ninety degrees outside. Don't try to convince me that a row of Stella d'Oro makes an urban heat island more attractive. I will be in my air-conditioned car thinking of my own garden, mostly unscathed by daylilies.

I, too, once succumbed to a momentary lapse of daylily planting (though not with any degree of fervor). I even installed an enormous bed of them...alongside my driveway! But I came to my senses - I observed them, I thought about them, and I formed an opinion from which I have not since strayed: daylilies are vastly overrated. Learning from my mistake, I dug up each clump and hauled them to the compost pile. Along the way, however, my wagon struck a small boulder and tipped, spilling them in a heap. I suppose I felt a twinge of guilt over tossing out "good" perennials, and so I salvaged a dozen, mixing them into other flower beds, wondering if I might appreciate them more if I could disguise all anatomy but the blooms.

The next year I resented them even more. When they showed up in their new locations I could only only hang my head in shame. What was I thinking? Before, when they were appropriately segregated, I could easily imagine eradicating them, efficiently, all at once. Now they were everywhere, spreading like a virus, and I had the same feverish, sinking that one has at the doctor's office when he authoritatively states that antibiotics do not cure a cold. Cover your mouth, wash your hands. You should know better than to spread this thing around.


Wayne Stratz said...

Now here is a case where my opinion has changed. A flower garden I took over at school/work had a patch of those orange ones that pop up. I tolerated it, barely for years and just kept it from spreading. Then a dear friend got ill and I went over to help out at his garden. Found out his wife needed a large variety of day lilies divided (they are all over his yard not clumped together). She told me they were his favorite flower. I took them to work and added them to our flower garden. Now, sadly it is a memorial garden for my friend. Now I will see beauty where I used to be annoyed.

Shane VanOosterhout said...

Wayne, I have a client who has a very fine day lily in her garden. I have not yet been able to identify the variety, but I won't deny, this girl is an absolute beauty. And, between us, I have a soft spot for the orange tigers that grow wild along the roadsides; for me the official beginning of summer.