“Summer has set in with its usual severity.” S .Coleridge3>
Daylilies – Flowers of the Moment
It is no exaggeration to say that Daylilies are one of the premier flowering perennials. From only a handful of wild species belonging to the genus Hemerocallis, breeders have produced tens of thousands of hybrids in a dazzling array of colours, patterns, and shapes. Adding to their appeal is their hardiness, ease of care and propagation and ability to combine so well with other plants. And many are at their best right now!
Daylilies had been cultivated for thousands of years in China before being discovered by the west where they were valued as much for utilitarian purposes, as a food and medicinal plant, as for their beauty. Indeed almost all parts of the plant are edible except the leaves and flower stalks. The petals or whole flowers make excellent additions to salads.
Although species such as H. altissima (which flowers at 6ft with wonderful buttery yellow petals that fade to a soft apricot) are beautiful in their own right it is the modern hybrids that are so renowned.
Hybridising is especially popular in America where daylilies are known as ‘poor man’s orchids’ because of their exotic looks and the ease with which hybrids can be produced, making daylily hybridising a popular amateur hobby. Because of the proliferation of varieties, those who want to try this for themselves should do a little research first and make sure the varieties they want to cross are not tetraploids with double the number of chromosomes (44 instead of 22) as these do not produce viable seed easily.
Daylilies are amongst the easiest plants to cultivate in gardens and can survive in practically any climate except the very warmest so no worries there then! Daylilies will grow best in full sun although part or dappled shade will do. Indeed plants with the darkest flowers are better in full sun as the colour will intensify.
to planting, preparing the soil with a little organic matter will be beneficial. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root system and tubers. A spade or two of well-rotted manure at the bottom is as good as anything and plants will feed from it for years and require very little in the way of supplementary nourishment. Moist but well drained soil is best although plants will adapt to all but the driest or most waterlogged soils.
Daylilies are amongst the most trouble-free of garden perennials but it is worth knowing about the most common pests or diseases. Daylily rust, a coppery orange powdery substance, can disfigure leaves but it usually does not persist. It can be treated with a systemic fungicide.
A new pest and one that has reached Shropshire this season is Hemerocallis gall midge. The tiny white fly deposits its eggs on young flowers where the larvae eat the developing flowers causing them to distort and drop off. There is nothing to do but pick off the affected buds and burn them.
Daylilies are also amongst the easiest plants to propagate in the garden. Simple division with a sharp spade when dormant will suffice. What many people don’t know, or often encounter, are small plantlets that are sometimes produced on the flowering stem. These don’t always form roots except in a wet summer but they can be detached towards the end of the summer, before autumn, and put in a glass of water. Treated like a cutting they will be a copy of the mother plant.
By and large all daylilies experience some level of dormancy whether they are completely deciduous or only lose some of their foliage. The removal of old foliage in late winter will keep the plant healthy and prevent diseases or pests from re-infecting plants when the new growth emerges.
In the Vegetable garden
“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating your own home grown veg” Lewis Grizzard
Well, hopefully by now you are enjoying the fruits of your labour whilst wallowing in pleasant thoughts. As with many things there is always something to cast a shadow, we are just coming into potato blight season so I thought it may be worth while talking about it this month.
Infection of potatoes by blight (Phytophthora infestans) seems to be inevitable in this part of Shropshire, even with blight resistant cultivars (unless the crop is sprayed to prevent it). A method for dealing with the problem (without the use of chemicals) is to cut the haulms (top green growth) down to ground level at the very first signs of infection, and remove and destroy the foliage . This prevents the fungus spores from being washed into the soil down to the tubers, and stops the tubers from being spoiled.
As with all things prevention is better than cure, although some of this advice is too late for this year, if you can follow these measures infection may be avoided:-
- Use only certified seed.
- Rotate crops, try to leave a gap of at least 3 years before planting potatoes in the same plot.
- Try to harvest every tuber and destroy any infected ones. If shoots appear from previous crops then remove them immediately with the tuber if possible, as any carried-over infection will arise from the leaves.
- Avoid overhead watering which washes spores down into the soil, and earth up well to protect the tubers.
- Planting early or second early varieties may mean that they will be mature enough to harvest before the ‘infection season’.
- Plant resistant cultivars such as King Edwards, and avoid cultivars such as Maris Piper and Desiree which are very susceptible.
- Be vigilant, checking the crop at least daily when the risk is high during July and August, as the disease can appear overnight. Either dig up the tubers straight away or cut the haulms back as described above.
- There are also chemicals that can be used as a protectant or curative.
This month keep on sowing small batches of fast growing crops such as carrots, lettuce and radish. A few of you have mentioned to me about lower than normal yields on some of your soft fruit. I think that this is down to the lack of decent amounts of rain we have been experiencing since April, disappointing, but just one of those things we have to live with.
Please note: images have been removed from this pages because some of them may have been used without permission.