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Diggin' It

Daylilies are wonderful flowers, but, oh, their names

About 1,000 new daylilies are registered every year. It's obviously not easy to come up with names for all of them. You could have a garden growing 142 daylies with some variation of the name 'plum' or 314 with 'peach.'

By Karan Davis Cutler / May 12, 2011

'My Reggae Tiger', a two-foot-tall tetraploid daylily, was released in 2006. Tetraploids have extra sets of chromosomes, which result in plants with larger, more intensely colored flowers, stronger scapes (flower stems), and greater overall plant vigor.

Courtesy of Karan Davis Cutler

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Lake Champlain, on whose bank we live, is almost three feet above flood stage, it’s still raining, and the 40-foot by 6-foot border I dug last fall is a morass. It will be weeks before I can plant.

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“Half the interest of a garden,” wrote Mrs. C.W. Earle in 1897, “is in the constant exercise of the imagination.” So as my shoreline erodes and my yard floods, I’ve been a virtual gardener, nudging my imagination with visits to the website of the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS).

A perfect perannial for all areas

Daylilies, Hemerocallis cultivars [PDF] are near-perfect plants; hardy, rugged, undemanding flowers that grow in USDA Zones 2 through 10. They’re my favorite perennial and where I begin when filling a garden.

Like potato chips, you can’t stop with one daylily.

I don’t want to limit myself to the most popular daylilies, such as ‘Stella de Oro’, the first true repeat bloomer that’s now as ubiquitous as the dandelion.

Or limit myself to bicolored daylilies or to “spider” daylilies. (Officially the longest petal of a “spider” has a 4:1 ratio, four times longer than wide. But you don’t have to measure unless you’re entering a flower show. Pretty much any daylily with long skinny petals is a “spider.”)

But after several hours looking at the AHS website, I’ve stumbled on an approach: cultivar names. Ignore height and color, ignore form and culture and habit, and plant by name.

Odd, unusual, and funny daylily names

The possibilities not only challenge my imagination but tickle my funny bone.

What about a daylily love-in? ‘Big Honking French Kisses’ alongside ‘Gaudy Kisses’, ‘Kiss My Buds’, ‘Kissy Face’, ‘Auntie’s Lipstick Kisses’, ‘Bullfrog Kisses’, ‘Vampire’s Kiss’, and ‘Kissiepoo.’

I could plant a daylily library of American classics, beginning with ‘Little Women’, ‘Look Homeward Angel,’ ‘Moby Dick’, ‘Tobacco Road’, and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Movie titles also are popular: ‘Star Wars’, ‘White Christmas’, ‘Gone With the Wind’, ‘Lion King’, ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘Wizard of Oz’, even ‘Silence of the Lambs’.

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