Updated 26 March 2017
We've been growing daylilies other than the orange “tiger lilies” since about 1994, just a few years after moving to our previous home in Goffstown, NH, a zone 5 hardiness location. Every year Reglindis and I increased our collection of different cultivars by a few new plants from relatively nearby sources, and eventually found out about the AHS (American Hemerocallis Society) and ultimately the late Ron Valente's gardens in Maine. What we saw at Ron's began to change our perspective. By about the third summer of trips to Maine, we got hooked and began to pay more than $15 for a daylily (CHANCE ENCOUNTER comes to mind). That was in 2000, the summer we made two (or three) trips to Ron's, and the last time we saw Ron in his garden.
In that last summer, I asked enough questions of Ron about his plants that Ron would take us around to show us even more. After a while Ron asked if we hybridize, and when we said we didn't, he said to us with clear certainty that, "You will!" Yeah right, I thought -- who has time for that? -- not knowing that free time would begin to appear in 2002 when a certain employer moved from NH to the Midwest. Ron pressed on with hybridizing advice, like getting out to see other hybridizers' work, even in faraway places, and he and his wife Cindy spoke of having traveled to the Florida "Mecca" in May of some year. Seeing fabulous daylilies in May sounded intriguing to both of us.
That led me to do a lot of research that winter, spending untold hours on the internet, often saying things like, "Holy cow, look at this!" What resulted were full blown symptoms of daylily addiction, including the ordering of 150 plants and 25 brand new seedlings from a number of hybridizers and growers the next spring (2001), the creation of new beds to accommodate the plants, the rather unexpected invasion of 30 "bonus plants" into our no-longer-a-vegetable garden, and a fantastic trip to Florida in May -- what a spring! And what a show those beds provided and continued to provide every summer until our move to Prior Lake, MN in 2011.
The flower of one of the purchased seedlings (now with a garden name of #PRIME DIRECTIVE) intrigued me enough that by the summer of 2003 I began to spread its pollen around -- advanced daylily addiction, no doubt. I started making all sorts of crosses, and thus began the transformation of those two beds into white-tag beds. By 2010, those two beds had spawned three additional beds for seedlings, containing crops of 1000 to 5000 seedlings each.
The earliest real hybridizing goal that I settled upon was bringing all the bells and whistles (edges, bagel form, pattern eyes, etc.) to oranges, a color that appears little in the yearly introductions from most other hybridizers. And besides, Reglindis really likes the oranges! Getting northern hardiness into all sorts of other colors is a side interest. For now, we're working only with tetraploids.
You'll see relatively few spiders and UFO's in our gardens, with a number of those types we bought having proved too tender for us. They all did at least okay, if not very well, over 3 winters when we had lots of snow cover in Goffstown, but the 2 light-snow winters of 2006 & 2007 weeded out the tender ones. Over time, we hope to get more of those forms back into our gardens.
While I do almost all the pollinating, Reglindis helps out with collecting and storing pollen for freezing. Back in Goffstown, squirrels and chipmunks helped with soil aeration (sigh...), and one minor obstacle we faced when pollinating was that ants sometimes chewed off the pistils at their base, although it did not occur at all in 2009. My solution was to put a few drops of insecticide each morning inside every flower that was going to be pollinated later on (at the base of the pistil).
Our favorite plants here in Prior Lake include the following because of their scapes and vigor as seen to date: EYEPOD, KENORA WILDFIRE, QUODDY HEAD, PAULA HEISEN, VERTICAL HORIZON, FOX POINT, LORD TRICKSTER, and our own seedlings 07-15 and 07-40. The following are our favorite "pretty faces" as seen to date: DAVID WHITE, CAROL JEAN PARDOE, SPACECOAST SEA SHELLS (just 1 year), ASHWOOD SUMMER SUNSHINE, ALPHA AND OMEGA, and our own seedlings 06-02, 07-09B, 07-12, 08-01, 08-13, and a seedling from Nancy Britz we call #BRITZ ORANGE.
Our favorite flowers and plants back in Goffstown included LAVENDER ARROWHEAD (super individual flowers, too “busy” when lots are blooming), SPACECOAST STARBURST (love that vertical edge and color), SHORES OF TIME (incredible saturated pink), JANET BENZ (great, wide pink), SCOTTISH FANTASY (very good branching, great bud count, late-ish season pink), BELA LUGOSI (superior branching), "#BRITZ ORANGE" (our garden name for an orange seedling from Nancy Britz -- color is about identical to PRIMAL SCREAM when PS is a little muted), SOUTHERN SUNSHINE and SWEET SOUTHERN SUNSHINE (smallish, yellow cream blends with ruffles and lots of flowers), SMUGGLERS GOLD (incredible clump display for tightly packed, top-branched scapes), MOONLIT MASQUERADE (great contrast of 2 colors, tons of flowers), and UNENDING MELODY (purple curly edge and overall performance). Alas, our former favorite, FORBIDDEN FANTASY (silver-edged, tiny-toothed purple that's uncommonly rainfast), finally showed its tenderness and barely survived the winter of 2007.