Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Charlie Brown's Daylilies

I think just about everyone is aware of the iconic cultural image in the Peanut's cartoon strip where Charlie Brown cannot resist trying to kick the football held by Lucy, who pulls it away from him every time.  From now on, when you think of Charlie Brown with footballs, think of me with daylilies.

'Lady Betty Fritz'
 I am well aware that most daylilies are some shade of orange, despite what we want them to be.  Years ago, I read and took to heart the excellent summary of daylily colors by Cassandra Danz in Mrs. Greenthumbs, where she translates daylily color terminology for neophytes from "melon," "peach," and "deep red" to "orange", "light orange", and "looks like orange from a few feet away" respectively.  I don't really mind orange daylilies.  And I do believe that the red daylilies are starting to really look red, and there are some excellent purple daylilies out there, even though they do not stand out well in a dark green border in the garden. But, unlike the 200+ roses in my garden and numerous irises that I can identify on sight, there are very few daylilies I can differentiate.  The whites all look alike, the purples look similar, and I have no hope for the apricot-melon-oranges.

Yet, I cannot resist some naive impulse that allows me to believe the fantastically colored pictures on daylily plant tags.  Yesterday, Hemerocallis 'Lady Betty Fritz', pictured at the upper right, bloomed for the first time in my garden..   Although admittedly it is a first bloom on a small plant, it bears little resemblance to the fantastic coloring on the plant tag, as reproduced to the left, nor to pictures one the web.  Nor to the description on the back of the tag; "flowers ivory with a red eye and double-red gold edge above a green throat."  Now, I don't know about you, but I would call the eye "maroon" or "deep purple-rust", not "red."  And the "double red-gold" edge is barely present.  And there is no ivory that I can see.  I purchased this one at a reputable nursery, so I don't think it is merely mislabeled.  And I don't think that I've misplaced the plant;  it is one of only three new daylilies I've planted this year.  The bloom size WAS very large.  But I can only conclude that daylily describers are all just imaginative Lucy's.

I've been taken in again and again, long enough that I suppose I'm beyond hope for learning the lesson.  At least the local annual Hemerocallis Society sale, where I buy most of my daylilies at cut-rate prices, throws the fans on tables labeled "orange", "yellow" and "pink", and so I'm less likely to be disappointed.  I just need to stay away from catalogues and fanciful plant tags.  Perhaps a local Daylilies Anonymous would be helpful.  Anyone else care to join?


  1. Lady Betty Fritz may not wind up being exactly as billed (I have a Blueberry Frost that's nowhere near blue whereas her photo was), but I'm sure you'll end up liking her. Daylilies have a way of weedling themselves into our hearts no matter how great the initial disappointment. At least for me they do. Take heart, she'll be a beautiful something.

  2. This is by far my biggest pet peeve with almost all the flowering plants advertised via the internet. It sometimes makes you wonder if people are colourblind who describe these things, never mind the more understandable multiple difficulties with colour matching the pictures. I have become quite cynical and won't buy something until I can see the colour with my own eyes. I can't afford to fill my garden with "maybe" plants.

  3. Have to agree with "Unknown" above as probably do many, if not most garden collectors. It happens with other plants but for some reason the colour description issue seems far worse with daylilies. I want to see that sucker in bloom before I put down my money and invest my time...or at least see a description from a private grower rather than some highly imaginative marketer who has apparently never actually laid eyes on the flower being described. Very frustrating.


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