We were joined on 16th April by Paula Dyason and her husband Chris. They are the owners of the Strictly Daylilies Nursery in the village of Histon, just north of Cambridge. Paula grew up in America where hemerocallis, to give them their proper name, are very popular. Paula’s mother was an enthusiastic collector of daylilies and when Paula moved to England she wanted to cultivate a typical English garden but populate it with these plants.
Soon the opportunity arose to turn a hobby into a business and the nursery was started 5 years ago with 300 cultivars. Strictly Daylilies now has 1,700 cultivars, their display garden has 600 varieties and they show at Chelsea and RHS Hampton Court. The nursery has 5 acres and is one of the largest growers of daylilies in the U.K. Paula has begun a significant breeding programme and produces about 8,000 seedlings a year. The emphasis is on producing clear bright colours and patterned unusual forms with habits which are suited to the UK climate.
The genus hemerocallis translates as “Beauty for a Day”. However it is not a true lily, it has a fibrous root and no bulb. The species are native to Asia where they are farmed as a food source. Hybridising started in the 1930s using around 20 species. There are now over 88,000 registered varieties of daylilies. Paula took us through the classification of daylilies. This includes colour – some are just one colour. Colour patterns where two or more colours are blended and petals and sepals may have different intensity of colour. Blooms can be single, double, polymerous (4, 5 or 6 petals and sepals), or spider (long and thin). Bloom diameter ranges from less than 3 inches to greater than 7.5 inches. Height can range from 6-24 inches to over 36 inches. Bloom times range from extra early May-June to very late September-October. So there are very many hemerocallis to choose from to suit all aspects and taste. However, the biggest advance in the modern daylily is the ability to re-bloom.
Paula talked us through caring for our daylilies. They are quite hardy, are not fussy about soil type or situation, although a sunny spot is best, and are drought tolerant. Their main pest is the gall midge which seems to only affect the early varieties; so these are best avoided. Grubs feast on the buds which are then recognised by their bulbous shape. These buds should be picked off and destroyed. Dividing is best done after the plant has flowered. Dig up the clump, rinse off the soil and twist apart, plant the crown no more than an inch below the surface of the soil.
It was pleasure to listen to someone who is so passionate about what they grow and we were given a wealth of information. The nursery is open for visits on specific days and there is a comprehensive website giving all the details. As Paula says on her website she is on a mission to convince the world that daylilies should be in every garden. They have certainly come a long way from the orange hemerocallis many of us remember in our grandparents’ gardens.
Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 21st May when Anne Luder will be talking to us about Capel Manor College and Gardens. Please do join us – just come along to the Village Hall for a 7.30 pm start – you will be made very welcome.
New members and visitors are always welcome. For more information contact
Linda Truscott on 01234 270747