Friday, July 27, 2012

Holmes, Holmes on the Range

I've known Mike and Sandy Holmes via email since early in 2011, when I got involved in testing and working on the help desk for the AHS Membership Portal, a participatory web site for daylily lovers who are members of the American Hemerocallis Society.  Mike and Sandy were the keystones, if there can be more than one, on the design and technical side of the project.

Yawn, I hear you say, so here's a picture to get things rolling.  This daylily is numbered C860.  I saw it in the Holmes garden on July 12 during an added day of garden touring in the Dayton area before the AHS Convention kicked off in Columbus.  Mike and Sandy are both fine hybridizers, and I wish I could say which one of them created this beautiful seedling which was marked in the garden for awards judges' consideration for the Junior Citation Award.

The J.C. award is reserved for distinctive seedlings of exceptional merit in every observable regard.  It requires the vote of ten awards judges, who are advised in the voting rules to "walk on by" and stop evaluating if they can't say why the seedling is distinctive, meaning something that represents an advance in hybridizing daylilies.

It's not just the color, form, or pattern on the flower.  There may be distinction in the health of the plant's foliage, in the spacing and number of branches on the stem, on the apparent rate of increase, or on the "floral presentation," which is what got my eye when I took this picture.  Three flowers open in the same visual plane without crushing each other.  Good color retention on a hot day after lunch.  

I'm sure that more than ten judges saw that seedling on the day I was there, so it will be interesting to see if it pulls in the votes.  There were other fine seedlings up for J.C. votes in the Holmes garden as well as in the Polston garden earlier in the day, so we judges had a lot to remember and consider, not to mention the seedlings we see in our own regions.

Here's a look at Mike and Sandy's "plantation" as I stepped off the tour bus.

An even larger area to the left of this picture is planted even more densely with named varieties and thousands of their seedlings.  I envy photographers who are able to position themselves instinctively to get the front of people rather than the back.  I hardly ever do!  That's Keb (my wife Kathy) on the far left side of the picture in the orange top.  I can tell by her posture that she is on a mission to see as many examples as possible of the sort of daylily she started hybridizing this summer...large open forms with great color on tall scapes.

I stoped to admire the color on "C1485" and noted that it blooms in a way that gives me multiple perspectives on the form of the flower.

The one below was labeled "SD156 Best," so I suppose SD156 was the number assigned to a particular cross, and "best" means this one is the pick of the litter.  I confess I wanted to grow every marked seedling, but I doubt every one will make it to registration.  They've got so many winners here that they can be very picky.

Here's some "landscaping" to provide a break from optic overload.

I wish there had been time to savor the details of this, but there were too many good daylilies to see, and I barely scratched the surface before the bus captain blew the departure whistle.  I did happen to notice, back under a shade tree, my friend David Kirchhoff, who was offering refreshments to the visitors.  Susan Okrasinsky took this picture of David and me as he pointed to where I had to go immediately and see "the blue daylily," PIGMENT OF THE IMAGINATION by Ohio hybridizer, Richard Norris.

Here is Richard's astounding flower.  It changes color during the day, but I think I saw it at the maximum illusory moment of "blue."

Mike and Sandy sell their registered daylilies, and the garden had signs in front of what was available.  Here's IMPRESSIONIST SKY.

Here's SORCERER'S MASQUERADE.  You can see how the exceptional Midwest draught has burned the foliage on some of these plants.  I imagine untold thousands of gallons of irrigation water have been lavished on these beds to help the plants bring their seed pods to maturity as well as keep the garden attractive for visitors.

Smiles wherever you look.  Here's a tree of bottles to go with bottle bushes.  In the background, the bus is waiting, and I'm late!  Thanks Sandy and Mike!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Miracles of Water

Blooming beautifully in my garden today is Larry Grace's ANGELS GATHER AROUND.  This cultivar miraculously was internally timed to be unaffected by the shocks of a long, early spring with a hard freeze chaser in mid-April.

Angels have surely gathered around some of our new trees and shrubs, and they are all named "Treegator Junior."  We saw the "senior" style of Treegator around trees in Ohio two weeks ago during the AHS National Convention.  Didn't know the name of them, but looked up various watering devices in the online catalog of Hummert International and found them.

On Monday of last week I drove to Hummert's and bought two packs of ten at about $158 per pack.  If you buy them individually on Amazon, they run over $21 apiece.  The Junior version holds 15 gallons of water and releases it through two small valves on the under side over a period of five or six hours.  You fill each one with a garden hose.  Kathy set them around twenty shrubs that were in danger of being grown this year as "annuals," and she worked out a system to fill all of them within an hour.  That is quite a feat of planning.

All the green you see on Weigela "Wine and Roses" appeared on this shrub in the past few days, as did the flowers.  All the green on the Feathergill below appeared in the past few days.

This Tiger Eye Sumac has not looked this good since I planted it one sweaty day at the end of March.

Most in need of abundant water are our new River Birches.  Look at how the grass near the Treegators responded to all that water.

The surrounding front lawn as been baked hard.

After any normal rain, this cracked area is the bottom of a puddle.  The ground in front drains very poorly, and the low spots look like I should be raising water buffalo after a fall storm.

This greener part of the front lawn benefits from my sprinkler, which has been watering the daylily beds with regularity.  This morning in sub-90 temperatures I finished weeding, edging, and mulching this bed with a three-inch layer of leaf mold and a sprinkling of Preen to keep new weeds to a minimum.  I'd never used Preen before this year, and I don't imagine I'll ever garden without it, now that I've seen what a difference it makes.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cutting Edge Daylilies From Pleasant Valley Gardens

For years and years I have seen the name "Polston" on gorgeous daylilies in tour gardens here in Missouri, and in Kansas and Oklahoma -- "Region 11" of the American Hemerocallis Society.  I learned that Tom Polston was one of the noteworthy breeders of daylilies in Ohio, but until last week I didn't know that he and Doug Sterling also breed Cyldesdale horses.

This is the only Tom Polston daylily I grow currently, DRAGON EMPRESS, photographed in my own garden this year on June 24.  It's a fine example of one of his major breeding goals, which is to put the voluptuous form the deep-south breeders are known for onto hardy northern plants.

Tom is probably better-known these days for his daylilies with toothy edges.  I think the dragon sculpture near his seedling beds is meant to affirm that.

We saw his garden a week ago Thursday as part of an extra day of touring at the National Convention of AHS - the American Hemerocallis Society.  All the official tour gardens were in the vicinity of Columbus, where the convention took place.  The bonus day of touring took us southwest to the Dayton area.

I wonder if the metal daylily sculpture at the top of this blog was inspired by this seedling:

There were a lot of seedlings like this.  Tom had stuck blue flags in the soil next to the ones he will dig out and save for further evaluation.    I became absorbed in trying to follow his thinking as I compared the flagged ones with the unflagged.

I surmised that he is outcrossing his lines with the best toothy daylilies by other breeders.  Here is Jamie Gossard's HEAVENLY BOMB SHELL.

This is Karol Emmerich's GNASHING OF TEETH:

Here is LARRY'S OBSESSION by Ted Petit:

The seedling below was prominently displayed "under number:" 12-JTP-111T.  I'm guessing JTP is Joel Thomas Polston and that the letter T at the end designates Tetraploid genetics as opposed to Diploid, terms that only hybridizers need know about.  The fact that one daylily may have four sets of chromosomes (tetraploid) rather than two has nothing to do with whether you'd enjoy the look of the plant in your garden.

I stopped several times to look at seedlings without flags that seemed to have clearer color than more toothy seedlings with flags.  A wild guess makes me think this is from a cross involving something of Karol Emmerich's, many of which have amazing frosty edges.  I imagine this wasn't flagged for several reasons: (1) it looks like somebody else's work; (2) it doesn't have the dramatic edge the flagged ones exhibit; and/or (3) it's low-growing.

The flagged keeper below has that "southern belle" look on a northern-hardy plant.  I love the powdered salmon bisque pink color, the sculpting coming out of the lemon creme throat, and the bubbly ruffled edge.  

With thousands of daylilies calling for attention, a guy can go on optic overload fast, so after my inspection of the new keepers, I savored the landscaping around the other side of the 1848 house.

This side of the house is about beauty.  Shade is welcome on this side, and so is flowing water.  As you approach the addition to the house, you notice features of the private life (the public life is on the other side where sun in full strength feeds the daylilies).  Here in the private area is a small Japanese feature such as I'd like to put in my own back yard.  Here it is placed in perfect balance with everything else.

Up close to the addition is a really nice sculpture and water feature situated with outstanding variety and harmony.  The gentleness of this garden adds dimension to our sense of the hybridizer who is pursuing an interest in the big, bold, and jagged.

I probably spent more time in this tranquil zone than out in the blaze of color and the riot of teeth, or maybe I didn't.  I fed my mind on the sunny side and my soul here in the shade.  We all probably wished for more time at Pleasant Valley Gardens.  As it was, I never went to look at the Clydesdales close up!

As Tom bid us goodbye, I wished I'd stopped taking so many pictures and gone up to tell him how much I enjoy DRAGON EMPRESS.  There will be more of his daylilies in my garden next year.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Majestic Struggle With Draught

Last Thursday morning following a sublime visit to Bob Faulkner's garden, our bus took us to Jeff and Karen Pansing's Majestic Gardens.  The Pansings live on a "century farm," six generations in one place, and it's a beautiful place to live and raise a family and grow pumpkins and mums and daylilies.  Here is one of their pictures of the huge daylily plantation in full bloom in an average year.

Back almost twenty years ago, when I was first ordering daylily catalogs and building my garden, the Majestic Farms catalog was one that I pondered and memorized.  I knew this was a big operation, so the chance to see a farm that helped form my consciousness of daylilies loomed large in my imagination.

The bus pulled into their property, Jeff came aboard to welcome us, and we heard about his three irrigation wells and fifty thousand gallons of water per day not being any match for the draught.  I looked outside and saw his pile of pots for the mum trade.  It's hard to imagine the hours of potting that go into making a business of mums.

We walked just a little ways to the left of this scene and entered a tranquil yard that looked out onto the daylily fields.

As I snapped this picture I could hear the goats in their pen.  I turned to look at them again and saw my friend, the hybridizer Margo Reed, saying hello.  I include this picture of her with her permission.

Animals or statues of animals made for a lot of small delights at this convention.  To the right of this scene is the door into the Pansing daylily greenhouse.  I looked in there and saw a concentration of seed pods such as I've never begun to see in my own garden.

Jeff said it had been a real struggle to keep the temperature down to a safe level.  Fortunately for us tourists, this was not a scorching day.  The shade of the yard was calming.  The unrelenting sun awaited anyone who walked the rows of the daylily garden.  But that's why we came here, so walk we did.

The peak of bloom season was past, that was clear, and the water had been rationed to keep the nearest beds, the ones with seedling crops, watered adequately.

These plants were doing well, and the blooms were full-sized and colorful.  There was actually a lot to see.

The gardens were meticulously weeded and mulched, and we could walk several long rows and never think of the terrible dryness and heat that is crushing Midwest agriculture right now.

But not too far out, I found the line of demarcation between what had been watered for our visit and what had been sacrificed.  It is hard to gauge the economic impact of a draught on a daylily business like this.  Much of the business is conducted in May, when the rains are greening up the plants.  There are virtually no sales or mail-order in the month of July.  Even in the North Country, zone 4, people generally stop buying garden plants on the fourth of July.  This row of MINNIE PEARL is likely to come back to life toward the end of summer.  Right now, though, it's a sight to make you sympathize with farm families everywhere.

You can see some green in there, some remaining sign of life.  I took this picture because I remembered seeing MINNIE PEARL at the 2000 National Convention in the Delaware Valley area, in the garden of Stu Morton.  I don't think I'd ever seen such a perfect clump.  Most of the convention-goers agreed with me, because that daylily won the President's Cup for best cultivar at the convention.  Here's what I saw that day twelve years ago.  Here's what MINNIE PEARL can do when it has good soil and good water.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

America Discovers Columbus

About Bob Faulkner there is much to say, and I will make a beginning with this post.  This is one of Bob's daylily seedlings.  There will be a lot more of these seedling pictures as I get into my story.

The national daylily convention took place in Columbus, Ohio last week.  What better theme for the big event than "Discovering Columbus?"  Actually, it's more a title than a theme, as the key experience of a daylily convention is discovering people you may have known only through email or not at all.  There is plenty of opportunity for that, as conventions are built around two days of bus tours of mostly household gardens.

The owners of these gardens have spent many years working on their landscaping and garden designs to promote the utmost enjoyment and interest for the visitors, not to mention themselves!

There are so many outstanding daylily breeders in Ohio that an extra day of touring was added for anyone who wanted to arrive a day early.  Kathy and I jumped on that opportunity.  We drove to Columbus last Wednesday with our good friend, Seajay Mock, and arrived around four in the afternoon.  A little later we took our GPS and found our way to the "German Village" area of Columbus and to Schmidt's Sausage Haus and Restaurant.  The evening was gentle when we got there, the wait for a table wasn't too bad, and the Haus was bustling with munching and gulping and dessert oggling.

The point of this post is Bob Faulkner, so I will dispense with a description of the mile-high plates of food I saw leaving the buffet line.  In a sausage haus, how can you avoid sampling them all?

Thursday morning, heavy-laden, we boarded the bus for a long drive to the Dayton area.  Bob's place is on a narrow and shady country road.  A person driving that road for the first time would probably not miss Bob's property because there is a sudden and dramatic change in the view as you come upon a lush roadside garden backed by a fancy black iron fence.  A stranger to this scene might imagine some kind of artist lives here, and the bold would stop to inquire.

There's what you see from the road.  The garden does not shout "daylilies!"  It says in all simplicy, "I do it my way."  In gold lettering within the big iron circle, you can read, if you stop, "Little York Farm, Est. 1834."  To the right side of this view is another iron gate and probably the best deer fence you've ever seen.

The lettering over this gate says "Time began in a garden."  The strange thing to the left of the gate is a metal sculpture of a daylily.  Several of these were convention raffle prizes.

You can't see the daylily breeding area from here.  Daylily breeding is not a pretty sight.  The rows of black plastic weed fabric are lined with unique plants fighting for their short-term life in a nail-biting draught, hoping Bob will favor them with several years of "further evaluation" and possible registration and sale down the line.  What you see as you enter the zone of Bob's life is a beautifully designed tranquility garden featuring a collection of distinctive rocks with companion plants.

Then you walk back into Bob's breeding zone.  The crazy weather this year brought on a bloom season two or three weeks earlier than average.  Bob's daylilies were well past their peak bloom, and yet I saw scores of seedlings testifying to Bob's interest in patterns on the floral face.  I was especially drawn to this one for the huge lavender eye on a clean cream face that curves down and out again as if dancing the Limbo.

This, too, drew my complete attention. The petals curve inward in a suggestion of modesty and shyness, but the complex pattern within suggests that the modesty is concealing a spectacle of colors.  The soul of this one is decidedly "mysterioso."

This next one is outspoken and brash and probably should run for President the next go-round, if only for a week or so.  This is like a belted song on the Broadway stages, and no microphone is necessary, thank you.

You can imagine the summer days of Bob-the-Artist as he weighs the best of these and looks for the excellent plant structure beneath these dazzling and seductive faces.  His garden is chock full of distinct faces.  His cup runneth over.

You've got to have a sense of humor when the weather conspires to punish your garden just before a tour.  We all chuckled at the sign on this fence.

This was one of my favorite stops of the whole convention, and it had the fewest flowers in bloom.  Maybe it's because I was started out like all those seedlings, in a country town where my grandparents got their fresh eggs from the chicken coop.

Sooner or later on a bus tour, the captain blows the whistle and it's time to say goodbye.  So little many faces.