Master Gardener Laura Ross aims for a garden with seasonal interest. Daffodils and tulips brighten the landscape in spring, and natives take over in the heat of summer. Taking center-stage in June and July is her collection of daylilies with a supporting cast of asiatic lilies, trumpet lilies and martagons. “I’ve always been interested in daylilies,” said Ross. “I like them because there are so many sizes, colors and shapes.” Ross joined the Master Gardener program in 2017 and learned that another master gardener was a member of the National Hosta Society. “I wondered if there was a national society for daylilies. When I found it, the floodgates opened.” Whereas Ross was previously limited to shopping nurseries for daylily cultivars, she now accessed catalogs, online sales, and auctions. “Prior to joining the National Daylily Society and the Topeka Daylily Society, I had around fifteen daylily cultivars,” explained Ross. “Now I have two hundred thirty.”
Rather than having daylilies stand alone, Ross mixes them throughout her garden beds to achieve visual interest.
In addition to accessing more cultivars, she also gained mentors through the clubs who helped further her knowledge. “I read to educate myself,” said Ross. “But I also get tips from others in the clubs I belong to.” What are Ross’s top suggestions for successfully growing daylilies? “They will tolerate drought, but they do best with regular water,” she explained. “They like full sun to part shade, and darker colors do best with shade in the afternoon to avoid bleaching. And don’t cut back the foliage after they finish blooming. The leaves gather energy to produce blooms for the next year.”
Ross’s interest in daylilies has led to a variety of novel experiences. Her number and variety of daylilies qualified her garden to be listed as a display garden on the National Daylily Society website (www.daylily.org). Ross recently became a certified garden judge, and visits five gardens each year to judge individual daylilies that are in contention for various awards. Ross focuses not only on the bloom, but also on foliage, scapes, and the quality of the plant at different points in the growing season. In addition to enjoying daylilies in her own garden, Ross is creating a display garden at the Master Gardener gardens located at the Douglas County Fairgrounds at 2110 Harper Street, Lawrence, Kansas. To qualify, she must plant one hundred different varieties, including some of each type (mini, small, double, sculpted, unusual form), and the garden must be well-maintained. Once she achieves this, she can apply to have the garden listed as a display garden. (Ross’s etiquette for visiting display gardens: Be sure to ask the homeowner first as most gardens are on private property. The Fairgrounds garden is open to the public year round. Don’t cut blooms or deadhead, and don’t leave the pathways.)
When asked to name her favorite daylily cultivar, Ross explained, “I can’t do it! It’s impossible to choose, but I like the unusual form daylilies best.”
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