Words: Graham Rice
Although, as their name suggests, daylily flowers only open for a single day however they come in such numbers that they are among the most colourful of perennials. Adding to their impact, some are also strongly scented. Tough, resilient and easy to grow all they need is reasonable soil and at least half a day of sunshine and they bring impressive rewards for relatively little work.
Over in North America, where the daylily is the most popular of all perennials, modern varieties with relatively small numbers of very large bi-coloured or even tri-coloured flowers are often are preferred. Here we tend to grow older varieties which produce larger numbers of smaller flowers in single colours. Of these AGM daylilies, all but ‘Berlin Red’ and ‘Golden Chimes’ are considered less susceptible than most to the destructive daylily gall midge.
Hemerocallis ‘Berlin Red’
Deep red, funnel shaped flowers up to 12.5cm (5in) across; golden yellow in the throat and also feature a slender yellow steak through the centre of each petal, which is most pronounced on the inner three. ‘Berlin Red’ is a tetraploid (with double the usual number of chromosomes) and this gives the flowers extra substance and excellent resistance to poor weather. Flowers open from July onwards; deciduous; height: 90cm (3ft).
Hemerocallis ‘Burning Daylight’
Unbeatable for its vivid and intense orange colouring. Often with flashes of scarlet to create an extra spark, the three inner petals are broader and with a noticeable ripple along the edges, compared with the narrower outer petals. The fragrant blooms open from mid-July and are lovely with fiery dahlias, cannas, or a tall dark coleus such as ‘Palisandra’. Deciduous; height: 70cm (28in).
Winner of the top international award for daylilies, The Stout Medal, back in 1966. ‘Cartwheels’ has bright yellow flowers with the inner three petals rippled along their edges, and with a pale streak through the centre. The individual flowers, opening from mid-July, are unusually flat in shape with a short throat. Raised in America by Orville Fay, who also developed many fine irises. Deciduous; height: 75cm (30in).
Hemerocallis ‘Golden Chimes’
Enduringly popular, the tall and prolific ‘Golden Chimes’ features rather small, (7cm/2.75in), deep yellow flowers with mahogany backs opening from dark buds, and carried generously on branching stems over a long season from early July. An ideal, easy to find variety for the middle of mixed or herbaceous borders, or in wilder situations, fitting in well with other perennials.
Deciduous; height: 1.1m (45in).
Hemerocallis ‘Green Flutter’
Rich canary yellow, rather evenly rounded flowers feature green tints emerging from the throat and into the petals making this one of the greenest of daylilies. 7.5cm (3in) in size. Slow to establish and a little late to start blooming, but produces a long and colourful show from early August. ‘Green Flutter’ is another winner of the much coveted Stout Medal, in 1976. Semi-evergreen; height: 50cm (20in).
Hemerocallis ‘Lemon Bells’
Introduced by Buckinghamshire breeder Robert Coe in 1969. The small (6.5cm/21.2in), orange-tinted, yellow flowers with a hint of green, more than compensated for the vigorous habit of the plant; branches extensively at the tops of the flowering stems to create an impressive display. Blooms emerge early July. Good in among old roses or dark-leaved shrubs.
Evergreen; height: 85cm (34in).
Introduced from China as long ago as 1596, this highly fragrant species develops bold, spreading clumps of slender, unusually long foliage; the clumps spread well. The 10cm (4in) blooms, with their petals rolled back at the tips, are lemon yellow and open early, (middle of June) and flower over a long season. Good with blue geraniums including ‘Orion’.
Deciduous; height: 75 cm (30in).
Hemerocallis ‘Marion Vaughn’
Described by plantsman Graham Thomas as 'outstanding', ‘Marion Vaughn’ is unusually fragrant, tall and vigorous. The lemon-yellow flowers, with their pale streaks through the centre of each petal, certainly have a powerful scent. They begin to open in mid-July and the clumps spread well. Good in front of a dark buddleja such as ‘Black Knight’. Evergreen; height: 1.05m (40in).
Hemerocallis ‘Pink Damask’
One of the most frequently seen pink daylilies. A distinctive coral shade with a white midrib running along the three inner petals; the blue anthers are another telling feature. Very productive and also very vigorous. The 10cm (4in) flowers open for a long season during mid-July. Some modern pink daylilies may be a better colour, but are less prolific and less vigorous.
Deciduous; height: 90cm (36in).
One of the most beautifully scented daylilies, ‘Whichford’ is a very useful, pale lemon shade, lovely with many perennials including dark blue salvias. It is also pale enough to look well with pink penstemons such as ‘Evelyn’. Each trumpet-shaped flower opens from green buds, has a green throat and the flowers are held on bold upright stems. Deciduous; height: 70cm (28in).
Hemerocallis ‘Stoke Poges’
This fragrant daylily has coral salmon flowers up to 12.5cm (5in) across. The three inner petals have dark veins, a splash of apricot and a slim white midrib. The outer ones are smaller, paler replicas of these. Looks good alongside rudbeckias.
Deciduous; height: 70cm (28in)