Here today, gone tomorrow — Daylilies are popular plants

Posted on 29 May 2013

By JUSTIN SCHUVER
Managing Editor

It’s one of the most popular gardening plants in the world, despite only have a bloom that lasts no more than 24 hours.

The daylily, which is scientifically in the Hemerocallis genus, is an extremely diverse plant that comes in a variety of colors and shapes. Its English name comes from the fact that its flowers usually live no more than a day, opening in the early morning and then withering by nightfall. However, the dying blooms are usually immediately replaced by another the next day. Regularly removing the dead blossoms will encourage the new bloom to grow on the same stalk, which is called a “scape.”

Interestingly enough, the scientific name is similar to the English name. Hemerocallis comes from the Greek words of “hemera,” which means “day,” and “kalos,” which means beautiful.

Although daylilies are native to Asia, American growers have helped the plant flourish in the Western Hemisphere is well. Here in southwest Georgia, there is a large number of gardeners who cultivate the plants.

One such garden is “Emo’s Daylily Garden,” which is located just over the Decatur County-Grady County line, at 3208 Tired Creek Road, in Whigham, Ga. The garden is owned by Emmett and Nelda Moore, who are members of the local Southwest Georgia Daylily Society.

Emmett began growing his garden in 1998, shortly after a visit from his brother-in-law, Randy Atwater of Starkville, Miss. Atwater was an avid grower of daylilies and began a small bed of daylilies next to the puppy pen in the Moores’ yard.

Emmett, who worked for Engelhard Corporation in Attapulgus for 37 years, said he had no idea that he would ever catch the gardening bug.

“Daddy hated flowers,” he said. “I was a big hunter and fisher and I never thought I’d enjoy gardening. All the guys at Engelhard couldn’t believe that Emmett Moore would actually grow flowers.

“It’s just about enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. It’s good exercise, and it gives me the chance to just go outside and think about some things.”

As Emmett improved in his gardening skill, he not only grew flowers but also created his own blooms through a process called hybridization. By crossing different cultivars (similar to a “breed) of flowers, new colors and shapes can be created. After creating a new hybrid, the gardener can then register it with the American Hemerocallis Society. In addition to getting credit for hybridizing the plant, the gardener can also give the new bloom a unique name.

Emmett says many of his blooms are named for family members and friends. He has registered approximately 30 different varieties, many of which have won awards at daylily shows. His 2008 hybrid, “Teresa Atwater,” which he named for his sister, has won several blue ribbons including the Best Large Flower at the Wiregrass Daylily Show in Dothan, Ala., in May 2012.

Another of his hybrids, “Melvin Davis” won the Best Double Flower at the Southwest Georgia Hemerocallis Daylily Show in Bainbridge in 2009. While Emmett has hybridized most of his plants, he also has purchased many others to grow on his own. For example, he has one bed that is entirely filled with every year’s Stout Winner — the highest award a cultivar can receive each year from the American Hemerocallis Society.

Emmett continues to participate in shows when he can, and laughed when he said he has even lost to gardeners that were growing his own hybridized cultivar.

“The judges know these plants and know what they’re looking for,” he said. “There are particular requirements. It doesn’t matter whether you created the plant or not, it’s about who grows the best looking plant.”

Nelda, who recently retired from Memorial Hospital and Manor, said that Emmett does most of the gardening but she is anxious to get more involved now that she has more free time.

Emmett said that many novices believe that daylilies don’t require a lot of attention, but that’s a myth. He still waters and fertilizes them on a regular schedule, and keeps meticulous records of his plants. Most of his beds have signs showing the name of the cultivar, the gardener who created that hybrid, and the year it was created. He also has a number of “seedlings,” which is a phrase for a hybrid variety that hasn’t yet been registered.

“It’s exciting because when you breed the flowers together you can never be quite sure which genes are going to be dominant, until the bloom opens,” he said. “Some of them are prettier than others.”

Emmett sells flowers at the couple’s Whigham home, but doesn’t see much of a profit — most of the money goes right back into the garden and creating new varieties. He also gives a number of blooms away.

“It’s just exciting to see what will be blooming day to day,” he said.

Emmett especially thanks Doug Hawthorne, a local gardening enthusiast who helped him get started with his hobby. He also noted that the members of the Southwest Georgia Hemerocallis Society are very helpful.

“We meet every month and share ideas about our flowers and the ways they grow best,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun and we’ve made some good friends.”

Emmett said that he welcomes questions from gardeners who wish to get started growing their own daylilies. He can be emailed at emmettm1125@gmail.com or called at (229) 872-3487. The garden’s website is www.emosdaylilygarden.com.

Directions to Emo’s Daylily Garden

From Bainbridge, head east on U.S. Highway 84, heading toward Climax. At the caution light in Climax, turn right onto Antioch Church Road (State Route 262 South). Travel approximately five miles and turn left onto Hines Perkins Road. Travel approximately two miles and the garden is on the left.

Other nearby daylily gardens and societies

• The Southwest Georgia Daylily Society meets every other month, September through May, on the first Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Decatur County Senior Center, at 402 W. Water St. For more information, contact Claudia Miller at (229) 400-2486.

• “Simply Southern Daylily Gardens,” owned by Drew Miller. 464 Grady Cobb Road, Donalsonville, Ga. (www.simplysoutherndaylilygardens.com).

• “Farmhouse Daylily Garden,” owned by Emily Hawthorne, 591 Strickland Road, Whigham, Ga. (www.gardeneureka.com/FARMH).

• “Peace on Earth Gardens,” Jim and Mary Netherton, 113 Dothan Road, Blakely, Ga. (www.peaceonearthgardens.com).

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