we get to the fun part of picking new plants, it's important to answer some basic
questions about yourself. What style of gardening do you prefer? Think
back to your favorite garden (or imagine one). Is it a grand bed with perfectly
straight rows of one type of plant, or a winding path through an area so natural
that you'd think the occasional blooming treasure grew there on its own, or is
it a mixed bed of all your favorite perennials in pastels shades tumbling over
each other? Whatever your choice, keep this image in mind. It will guide you with
other decisions. Remember, you are designing a daylily garden for yourself, so
make it what you want.
The next question
is probably the hardest to answer, but also the most important. What do you
hope to accomplish? What could be improved in your yard? This will give you
somewhere to start with your planning. Do you want to make your house look better
from the street? Consider adding a row of daylilies in front of foundation plantings,
or a split rail fence and daylilies along the sidewalk. Do you want something
pretty to look at out the window from the kitchen sink? Consider a bed of daylilies
on the far side of the lawn with masses of bright colors that show up well from
a distance. Do you want to extend the bloom season of your perennial bed? Consider
adding a few mid and late season daylilies behind earlier blooming plants.
you've come up with some ideas for areas of your yard where you would enjoy adding
daylilies, the next step is evaluating the conditions. Will daylilies grow
well here? As flowers go, they are very flexible. They require at least 4
hours of direct light, enough drainage so water never puddles in the area, and
any decent garden soil. If your soil is lacking, as most of ours are, you can
improve it by mixing in compost or a peat/manure mixture. If your native soil
is acidic (oaks and pines are a good clue, or a pH test will tell you), you should
also add lime. Dappled light is acceptable for daylilies, but they won't bloom
as much as the ones in more sun. If you're not sure about the light, try a few
and see how they do.
Now for the fun part: Which plants shall I add to my garden? There are
two considerations: how daylilies will fit in with other plants, and which daylilies
to select. There are so many good choices; these are the three principles I use
as a guide in plant selection.
time of bloom. We tend to think of gardens as a
picture, at one point in time, but they are always changing. Designing with the
time dimension included is a bit more complicated, but it makes a huge difference.
Probably my favorite combination is daylilies interplanted with daffodils. The
timing is perfect. The daffodils shine early with the new daylily foliage providing
no more than a promise that summer is coming, then as the daffodil foliage yellows,
the daylily greens rise just high enough to hide them, then by July when the garden
is in its glory all over again, the daffodils are cozily hidden below getting
ready for their next show. Other good time-related companions for daylilies are
spring blooming shrubs like rhododendrons, or fall/winter features such as Sedum
'Autumn Joy' and clumps of Miscanthus grass. Another good plan is to mix two varieties
of daylilies: one early-mid season and one mid-late season bloomer. This will
give you a spectacular show covering the whole bed for at least two months.
Use contrasting foliage.
To provide interest both while the daylilies are blooming and while they aren't,
it's important to vary the form, texture, and color of foliage in a garden. Some
ideas are: a low border of purple Sedum 'Vera Jameson' or silver Stachys byzantina
(lamb's ear) in front of daylilies; clumps of variegated Miscanthus grass or the
shiny deep blue-green leaves of any holly as a backdrop; the delicate lacy look
of Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
billowing around the narrow arching leaves of a daylily.
Colors. Resist the temptation to collect one of
every daylily that's ever caught your eye (unless of course you are planning to
start a daylily farm). The one lesson I've learned over and over again in planning
gardens is that fewer varieties with more plants of each variety will provide
greater impact of bloom and a better overall sense of harmony. If you can't bear
to select just a few varieties, then consider limiting the
color range to something like pinks, peaches
You can still vary the height, shape, size, pattern,
and time of bloom.
Leave the lemons, purples and lavenders for another area. If
you want excitement not tranquility from your garden, then contrast a few colors
such as red, gold, and white rather than mixing all the colors of the rainbow
Layout. Now for the details of your design, keep in mind the reality of maintenance and
the changes over time. Plan for access. You'll want to clean out the old
foliage in the fall, fertilize in the spring, and remove the old bloom stalks
after summer. Make sure you can get into the garden and bring a cart or wheelbarrow
nearby. Are the beds too deep? Is the path wide enough? Do you need a few stepping
stones within the garden, or an edge to keep the grass from spreading in?
The last, but far from least, suggestion I have is to give them room to grow.
Daylilies are so vigorous that the new plant you put in will look nothing like
the clump of five years later. So if you don't want to be dividing them every
few years, place them 18-30" apart. It may look sparse at first, but have faith.
With a little TLC to get them started, your new daylilies will quickly fill in.
One exception to this would be a trick I call clumping. For the look of big established
clumps, without the wait, you might put 3 to 5 of one variety as close as 12"
apart with at least 24" between plants of different types.
Daylilies are fun to design with. Try new things, observe,
and learn what you like. Daylilies are easily moved (early spring and early fall
are the best times), so don't feel you need to figure it all out at once. I try
to remember that gardening is a process to be enjoyed, not a result to be achieved.