Daylilies: the fireworks in your garden


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On Line, Curly Cinnamon Windmill, Heavenly Snow White, Topguns Fire Ball -- They sound like the names of fireworks. And that is what daylilies look like to Linda Herhold.

“I look out my kitchen window and think of daylilies as fireworks in my garden. People think that it is a flower that grows along the road. No way! There are a zillion different colors, and you can have blooms all summer,” she says.

The McMurray woman is co-chairperson of the 45th Daylily Show set for 1-6 p.m. today at Trax Farm Market in Finleyville.

The free show is sponsored by the Pittsburgh Iris and Daylily Society and draws entries from many of its members. But anyone can enter a daylily in the show, and there are no entry fees, says Ms. Herhold, who teaches workshops in how to choose, groom, and transport daylilies for exhibition. Scapes -- flowers on stalks -- must be dropped off by 10 a.m. today.

“All you need to do is to go into your garden and pick out a scape of a registered lily that has a flower in its prime. Cut it off at the ground, get it to us and we will help you with the rest,” she said.

You must know the variety name so it can be placed in one of dozens of categories, which include miniature, small, large, extra large, doubles, spiders (long petals) and unusual forms. First- through third-place ribbons are awarded in each category.

Daylilies—not to be confused with Asiatic and other lilies grown from bulbs—are in the Hemerocallis family. Its Latin name means “beautiful” and “one day” because its blooms last a single day. But it makes up for that short life by producing multiple scapes with many buds. Breeders have created multicolored flowers ranging from white to burgundy whose ruffled petals are described by daylily lovers with terms like popcorn, pie crust and chicken fat.

Judges are looking for a firm, healthy scape that supports at least one flower in the prime stage of blooming. First-time exhibitors and novices are sometimes winners at the shows. That happened six years ago when Dan and Bernadette Taylor of Indiana Township entered only the second show they had attended. The previous year they came as spectators.

“We were amazed to see the large variety,” said Mr. Taylor, who is now the club’s co-president.

The first year, the Taylors bought a few plants sold by club members at the show. One of those plants -- ‘‍Lady Fingers,’‍ an older breed from the 1960's -- won “Best in Show” the following year.

The Taylors now grow more than 700 varieties purchased through catalogs, independent growers, club auctions “and many more given by friends,” he said.The couple’s steeply sloped backyard, which they call “Heavenly Sunset,” is now an official display garden of the American Hemerocallis Society.

Ms. Herhold took a more gradual route to competition. Nearly 25 years ago, while looking for instant landscaping for her home, she became enchanted with the “perfect perennial” that blooms even in a drought. Last month, she received the AHS Region 3 Service Award for her work in the region that includes six states and Washington D.C. She has been an accredited regional judge for more than 10 years.

Ms. Herhold said one of the trickiest parts of showing daylilies is transporting them.

“You have to make it through the potholes and all the stops and starts of traffic. The petals are delicate,” she said.

Favorite containers for transporting the scapes range from 5-gallon buckets covered with chicken wire to wine boxes with dividers for each one.

Preparing plants for sale is much easier. Earlier this week, club members cleaned the roots and prepared the plants that will be sold today.

“We always have beautiful daylilies for sale,” Ms. Herhold said. “Although some plants, when new, sell for hundreds of dollars, you’ll find quality plants for $10.

“We hope people in our area learn how simple and easy it is to grow and get hooked on the idea of growing daylilies.”

To enter the Daylily Show, bring scapes of registered daylilies by 10 a.m. today to Trax Farms Market, 528 Trax Road, Finleyville (15332). The show runs from 1 to 6 p.m. Information: www.pidsweb.org or 412-486-0109. The website for the American Hemerocallis Society is www.daylilies.org.


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