Dividing the Daylilies
I’ve been invited to a friend’s house to share our perennials. Instead of waiting till the last minute like I usually do, I’ve begun to dig the perennials several days in advance. This is so unlike me that I don’t recognize myself in the mirror.
My gardens seem to specialize in red daylilies. I’ve got enormous clumps of them, all subtle variations on the theme of Red with a Yellow Throat. Out they go! Last spring I got rid of the dreaded Stella D’Oros (far too reminiscent of school-bus yellow), and with the reds gone, I can indulge my taste for clear yellows, peaches, and pastels.
It’s not that I don’t like red flowers. I do. Red cannas are glorious. I’ve got lots of crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ scattered about, and they’re staying. Red tulips? The ultimate. But my red daylilies are trying a bit too hard to be red; it doesn’t sit well on them. I remember a quote from somewhere: “There are a million different colors of daylilies, and all of them are orange.” Underneath the red of these ones is a strong orange gene pushing hard to get out. It makes for an edgy plant, and I don’t need edgy in my garden.
My favorite daylily (well, right now it’s my favorite, because it’s about the only one blooming) is ‘August Orange.’ I got it from Bob Stewart’s Arrowhead Alpines in Fowlerville. You have got to read this guy’s catalog. Here are just two entries:
Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’
Purple foliage, my muse hates plum pudding, altogether too cute, I just want to gag, how can I write a description about plum pudding; no, we will have no Dickens–Christmas Carol sickly sweet prose here.
The Abominable Heuchera, this nearly ate Sir Edmund Hillary in the western Himalaya in 1958, no wait I’m confused that was a crappy Heuchera we bought out of tissue culture that looked nothing like the photo. Hmm, that’s not quite right either this yeti is a good looking white flowered plant with nicely marbled leaves, it will enchant your garden causing fox tracks in the snow to magically sublime into yeti tracks and creating no end of panic when the local tv station runs the tape.
He is some kind of whacko, and I wish we could be best friends. Arrowhead carries rock garden and difficult-to-find plants as well as (against his will, I think) more marketable varieties. Many of them are very tricky to grow, which he freely admits. To use his parlance, I’ve croaked a bunch of them.
But ‘August Orange’ is sublime: a bright orange-yellow like a candle flame. It blooms profusely throughout August and September, continuing through October and with a few scattered blooms (sans foliage) right into late November. The plant looks like hell by then, to be sure, but I won’t argue against anything that blooms so late in arctic Michigan.
I also dug up a big mass of irises. Their corms (I think they’re corms, not rhizomes or tubers) were so layered and tangled amongst themselves that I had to work at them with a garden fork and hose for quite some time before I could tease them apart. This is such satisfying work to me. I can’t wait to go back out and replant some of them back into their refreshed bed.